Men's Team

Ilkay Gundogan: Champions in focus

Ilkay Gundogan is the subject of the latest piece in our series reflecting on the contributions of our players in last season’s league success.

It was a true collaborative effort to lift our sixth Premier League title.

Here we’re aiming to shed light on the moments in which each player stuck their hand up and made their mark on the campaign.

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The German midfielder, who was Pep Guardiola’s first signing at the Etihad Stadium back in 2016, is under the microscope today.

SEASON STATS

Total appearances (all competitions): 43

Total goals: 10

Assists: 6

Premier League appearances: 27

Total cumulative minutes: 3,021

SEASON HIGHLIGHT

There can only be one!

While Gundogan has had a knack for scoring goals throughout his City career – he has 49 to his name in sky blue – he was still an unlikely hero in the final day turnaround against Aston Villa.

Needing a victory to win the Premier League, City were 2-0 down with 20 minutes remaining. Our number eight had just replaced Bernardo Silva before the second strike and was fresh legged in a team that could well have thought the title was slipping away.

First, he popped up at the back post to head home a perfectly weighted Raheem Sterling cross. He immediately retrieved the ball from the back of net and placed it on the centre spot.

After Rodrigo levelled the scores two minutes later, it was Gundogan again that provided the most important touch in City’s season – latching on to Kevin De Bruyne’s pass to tap in and create a tidal wave of euphoria all around the Etihad Stadium.

As well as his fourth Premier League winners' medal, that six-minute spell also earned him the Premier League’s Game Changer award for the 2021/22 season.

OVERVIEW

Having played in 43 of City’s 58 matches in 2021/22, despite a month on the sidelines in the autumn, Gundogan continues to be integral to Pep’s thinking.

His 27 Premier League appearances included 20 starts and eight goals, his second highest tally of league strikes since joining the Club.

Following on from his career-best 13 goals in the league last season, it’s clear that the Germany midfielder is having more influence in the final third as his time at City progresses.

The vice-captain was also important in the Champions League, starting six times including in both legs of the tense quarter-final tie against Atletico Madrid.

READ | The talented Mr Gundogan

According to FBref, he is in the top 1% of players across Europe’s top five leagues over the last 365 days for non-penalty expected goals and assists, with a total of 0.55 every 90 minutes of action.

He is averaging just less than one goal in every three matches and slightly better than one assist in every five.

Already with his second career in mind, the 31-year-old is also in the process of gaining his UEFA coaching badges and he even took charge of an Under-16 session back in February.

An astute thinker in and out of possession, whether City are engaged in an end-to-end battle or attempting to break down a stubborn defence, it’s little wonder Gundogan is so well loved by Pep.

A calming influence through the team and a master at retaining the ball in central midfield, he brings that sense of control sought by leading managers all around in the world in a sport usually defined by its moments of chaos.

Now with 11 major honours in sky blue, Gundogan continues to be a central figure in a glittering era for the Club.

WHAT THEY SAID

Pep Guardiola: " He's an exceptional human, I know his parents and understand why. He's my neighbour, we have a good connection, outstanding player.

“As a player he’s one of the most intelligent, wisest players I have ever trained, I have ever seen.”

Phil Foden (after title win): "What a guy! He came on and changed the whole game! He always knows where the ball is going to be in and around the box.

"He's such a clever player. He was always there in the right place at the right time."

Title win | Dressing room celebrations

John Stones (after title win): “He’s done it so many times. He’s had a big impact, whether he’s starting or coming off the bench.

“It’s his quality, experience and he’s just such a great professional. We’re extremely lucky to have in our team.”

Paul Dickov: “Gundo is underrated by other teams. They forget about him but with his football intelligence, what a player!

“Technically, he is fantastic. With his football brain, you can see him looking for little gaps.”

Shaun Goater: “Gundogan is always a consistent performer. He makes the right decisions.

“He receives the ball with his left foot or right foot and has the touch and finishes. He’s one of the best at arriving in the box.

“He’s got this quality of arriving at the right time. He’s brilliant at it.

“It’s not luck. He’s got a way of ghosting between defenders – he sneaks into these areas and whether it’s with his feet or a header, he knows where the ball is going to be.”

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