Man City Square have decided to feature the players who have contributed most to our remarkable season. This time we are turning to focus on a player who has at times divided opinion – Ilkay Gundogan.
Gundogan is a player of undoubted talent, capable of fulfilling a range of tactical demands afforded by Pep Guardiola. In fact he was Pep’s first purchase at Manchester City back on 1 July 2016 for the princely sum of £24 million. He signed a 4 year contract when he joined so is about to enter the last 12 months of his deal.
The difficulty for Gundogan has been where he fits in this Manchester City side. Since joining he has proven to be an impressive and reliable squad player but he has found it difficult to cement his own particular role in the side due to the form of others – Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Fernandinho. His own injury problems have also prevented him from establishing a lengthy run in the team.
Sometimes City fans have been critical of Gundogan because he can slow down our passing game, but it is probably true that in doing so he is simply following the instructions he has from Pep. So when he has played he has struggled because he is compared to the player he is replacing. So it is not that that Gundogan is not good – its that he is not Silva or Kevin De Bruyne.
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Yet this season, things changed for Gundogan and he found himself playing more and more games as injuries to others gave him a chance. He seized this chance and was an instrumental part of our side who went on a phenomenal run of victories to seal an incredible 4 domestic trophies.
During 2018/19 Gundogan played 31 Premier League games, with 6 goals and 3 assists. In fact he was in the starting eleven in the Premier League for 61% of the matches. In the FA Cup he was in the starting eleven 83% of the time; in the League Cup just 17%; In the Champions League he was 70%.
What these figures tell us is that Gundogan has clearly had a lot of game time in the season which has just ended and it is probably fair to say that with Fernandinho now aged 34, that Gundogan would be likely to at least repeat that appearance level next year. If game time is a key factor in whether or not he signs a new contract, then it would seem he is assured.
Gundogan has turned in some excellent performances and been a pivotal part of our side, let us hope he has the chance to do so for us, for a few more seasons yet.