Men's Team

Game changer Gundogan going from strength to strength

Game changer Gundogan going from strength to strength
Asked by mancity.com earlier this winter whether he felt he was in the best form of his life, a modest Ilkay Gundogan deflected and instead pointed to his impact during the climax of our 2018/19 Fourmidables campaign.

However, in the wake of the German’s magnificent exploits in Sunday’s historic 4-1 win at Anfield, maybe Ilkay could be now tempted to think again!

Placed in a wider context, whichever way you look at it, the impact, contribution and sheer consistency of our midfield maestro over the past few months has been extraordinary.

Long since admired as the ultimate team player, Gundogan has also emerged as a potent City game changer as the relentless nature of the 2020/21 campaign has gathered pace.

Indeed, earlier today came news that Gundogan had been voted as both our own Etihad Player of the Month as well as the the GMS Fans’ Premier League Player of the Month for January.

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The midfielder dominated both votes after contributing five goals and making 10 dribbles throughout a perfect January that saw City create history by winning nine games in total across all competitions.

However, Ilkay’s seismic impact this term was arguably never more evident than over the course of 90 extraordinary and potentially season-defining minutes at Anfield.

The 30-year-old’s class has long been recognised and admired.

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But during an afternoon on Merseyside that will long be remembered by everyone connected with City, Gundogan also demonstrated he has character by the bucket load to supplement that shining quality.

For many players, seeing a first-half penalty go over the bar at the home of the reigning champions would have been a huge blow.

It would have been easy – and perhaps understandable – had Gundo’s confidence and belief taken a dent as a direct consequence.

Instead, as is the hallmark of the very best players, Ilkay simply knuckled down, dug deeper into his reserves of resolve and helped inspire a second half display that City fans will remember and talk about for years to come.

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Two close-range goals that twice gave us a crucial lead served to light the sky Blue touch paper on a City masterclass of free-flowing, attacking football that epitomised the quality coursing through Pep Guardiola’s squad.

Ever the personification of modesty, it’s perhaps no surprise that in reflecting on Sunday’s memorable triumph, Gundogan preferred to point to the collective nature of our achievement rather than seek any personal accolade.

“I must admit, it is not easy to deal with a failing on the penalty spot and there is always a danger of lacking a bit of confidence straight after,” Gundogan reflected.

WATCH: Foden: Gundogan's in the form of his life!

“But I went into half-time trying to say to myself to keep going, make the simple stuff as good as possible and try to stay in the game. I tried to look for my chance and if I get it in the opponent’s box then just try to be there.

“Thankfully, it has worked out twice, quite well. I don’t take this for granted. I enjoy it obviously, but I enjoy it even more when our team plays well and we play like we did in the second half and that is the most beautiful part of it.”

Those twin efforts made it 11 league goals so far this season for Ilkay – but perhaps more significantly it’s now nine Premier League strikes since the start of December for Gundogan.

It’s further compelling evidence of how Ilkay has also moved to help fill the considerable void left by Kevin De Bruyne’s absence through injury these past few weeks.

By way of reinforcing the huge impact of Gundogan’s contribution, it’s worth noting that his goal tally has surpassed the total of some heavyweight rivals.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has hit eight since the start of December, while West Ham’s Tomas Soucek, has claimed seven in that time frame, while Harry Kane of Tottenham and Manchester United duo Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford all have six to their name.

For his part, former City defender Nedum Onuoha believes the guidance, encouragement and support of Pep Guardiola has been pivotal in bringing out the very best of Gundogan.

WATCH: Guardiola explains 'top class' Gundogan's special quality

And, speaking on Sunday’s matchday edition of We’re Not Really Here, the former City defender also paid handsome tribute to Gundogan’s all-round excellence.

“He’s been truly special,” Onuoha declared.

“The confidence as a player comes if you know your job on the pitch and everyone around you knows their jobs. It’s like a dream come true.

“That’s testament to the management, the coaches and the players for buying into it because they’re getting it right week in week out. They’re all doing their jobs. He’s a very good technical player and he’s a massive part of the system.

“There’s a good mix of the two [Gundo and Pep]. It’s important as a player to understand that you need to win second balls and things like that.

“When it becomes automatic, then you know you’re on top form. A team that is united is always going to be difficult to beat.”

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