It has been a very interesting season for Ilkay Gundogan, who has endured a career with ups and downs at Manchester City. But since the departure of David Silva to Real Sociedad, the former Borussia Dortmund man has gained a much more central role and has become a very important cog in the Citizens’ machinery, thus explaining the quality of their recent performances and also a new role for Gundogan in terms of goals scored.
Replacing David Silva was always going to be a very complicated situation for Manchester City. The former Valencia man had been at the club for almost a decade and he had been arguably the best player in their entire history, often providing the kind of skills, technique and creativity that makes great players so appealing for fans all over the world.
So when he went to Spain to sign for Real Sociedad, City manager Pep Guardiola didn’t try to go for a like-for-like replacement. Instead, he decided to reshape his midfield, going from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 with a very established double pivot and Kevin De Bruyne in the number ten role. And a player that has benefitted greatly by this new system is the German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.
Even though Gundogan has been mostly positive for City throughout the years, this new role in a double pivot next to Rodri has helped him reach far greater heights, having scored nine goals in 17 league games, which is a career best for him and has been cemented with the double he scored today against Liverpool in a sound 4-1 victory for the Citizens.
This system has given Gundogan a lot more freedom to roam and also make use of his great football IQ and technique, which has often been underrated compared to other City players throughout the years. This is something worth keeping in mind because it is the combination of technique and movement that has allowed the former Borussia Dortmund man to be so effective for City so far this season.
Another factor worth taking into account is that Gundogan is the one that makes this team tick. Truth be told, there is no other Manchester City player that can do what he does in this system because he is the central midfielder that can keep balance in the double pivot and also bomb forward, which is a combination of factors that makes him a very unique player in a very balanced squad.
In that particular situation we have to point that the current success of Manchester City is the combination of defensive solidity, highlighted by the great leadership of defender Ruben Dias, but also because of the high quality in all the lines and Ilkay Gundogan’s resurrection might be a grand example of that.