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Ilkay Gundogan fills the void left by David Silva


In a club as conquering as Manchester City, there will always be one or two super talented players lost in the shuffle. In recent years, one of those players has been Ilkay Gundogan.

Not that Gundogan has failed to play his part in a team that has won two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and three Carabao Cups in the past three and a half seasons. It’s just that when you take out the names that match Pep Guardiola’s squad, his is unlikely to be at the top of your list.

This season has changed, with the German elevating his performance to become one of the most important players on his squad.

Prior to the current campaign, Gundogan had never managed more than six goals in a league season. In his last outing against West Brom, he tied and then surpassed that number with a superbly taken brace.

HI’s first goal provided a glimpse of their increased appetite to score this season. Spotting a split in the Baggies’ defense, he rushed behind Semi Ajayi and was found by Joao Cancelo’s precise and smooth pass. Gundogan’s first touch was excellent, giving him ample time to compose himself and place his shot well beyond the reach of the in-form Sam Johnstone.

For most players, a finish of this quality would be an asset to their personal goal for the season. However, in Gundogan’s case, the strike barely reaches its first three this campaign. In his side’s 3-1 win over Chelsea, he opened the scoring nicely, completing a smart turn on the edge of the box that left Thiago Silva for dead before firing a low shot past Edouard Mendy.

His penchant for the spectacular was also present when City dazzled against Crystal Palace earlier this month. While the majority of the headlines focused on a reborn John Stones with braces, Gundogan’s lens was a magnificent thing. Hit hard in the top corner after giving up to win the ball from a corner, it provided a not-so-subtle reminder of how good the midfielder was.

What has been perhaps even more impressive than those moments of individual quality are the perfectly timed races that Gundogan has done in the box this season. The goals against West Brom and Newcastle were a direct result of his smart move and rewarded Guardiola’s confidence in him.

In recent weeks, Gundogan has been given more freedom to move forward and drift between the lines when City have it – much like David Silva used to do before his summer departure. In the past, it was widely used as a one-time replacement for those who came before it in the city pecking order. Now he seems to finally be carving his own niche as a smart goalscorer.

Ilkay Guendogan
Gundogan is in the form of his career | Pool / Getty Images

His influence as a creator has also grown. Last season, he averaged 3.34 action-creating shots every 90 minutes. This term he increased to 3.82. Its increased impact is something that has been mentioned by Guardiola on several occasions.

“Ilkay is an amazing player and he’s an amazing human above all else,” he told the club’s website in December. “We put him close to Ferran (against Newcastle) – more forward – and he has the personality to play.”

The praise continued to come after the Baggies’ victory, with Guardiola saying, “Gundo is a guy with an incredible sense of goal.

“It’s not just about knowing the right time to get to the box, it’s the right second. This is the hardest thing – not arriving a yard earlier, or a yard later, but exactly at the right time, and Gundo has that sense. And it’s not just that – with his finish too, he has this way of controlling the ball, slowing down and taking a second to pull himself together and see what happens, and be clinical. “

These are not empty words either. Guardiola also backed his new talisman in his actions, replacing him in a hat trick against West Brom in order to keep him fresh for games to come.

After several seasons operating effectively in the shadows, Gundogan is finally making a place for himself at City in spectacular fashion. If he continues at this rate, don’t be surprised if he is named the club’s player of the year at the end of the campaign.