Ilkay Guendogan, The New Manchester City’s Goal Machine

Ilkay Guendogan is enjoying his most fertile season in 2020/21. So far, he has scored 16 goals and three assists in 34 matches in all competitions. In the Premier League, he scored 12 goals and two assists in 23 games. That figure is nearly half of Guendogan’s total goals since defending Manchester City in 2016/17. Previously, Guendogan’s most fertile seasons were 2018/19 and 2017/18 with six goals coffers. This season, the former Borussia Dortmund has become the club’s top scorer, ahead of strikers like Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.

Guendogan’s clinical performance was sensational. Throughout his career, this Gelsenkirchen-born player has tended to be played as a defensive midfielder. However, Pep Guardiola managed to hone his offensive talents. Guendogan has an attacking talent and Guardiola’s confidence makes him confident to display it. Guendogan paid Guardiola’s trust completely. He has always scored goals in Man City’s last three matches against Southampton, Borussia Moenchengladbach and Everton.

“We play incredible football, a great system that suits me. We also have great players who are in my favor. I just try to work hard as my colleagues do, “Guendogan was quoted as saying by Man City’s official website. His new role made him appear prolific. The player claims that his goal-scoring trend is the fruit of Guardiola’s system. The Pep system in 2020/21 gives him more flexibility to move forward and is an option for finishing.

This cannot be separated from the defensive blocks that give City stability to attack. Previously, Guendogan was part of the block with Rodri or Fernandinho. This time, another player filled the role leaving Guendogan free to operate in the final third and penalty area.

The key to this solid block is Rodri. Since last season, the Spanish midfielder has shown his ability as the successor to Fernandinho. Rodri made a vital contribution as a defensive midfielder. He made the highest recoveries (340) in the Man City squad and the second highest intercept (21). In addition, Joao Cancelo, who played as an inverted full-back, also contributed significantly to The Citizens’ solid block. Unlike a traditional full-back, the former Juventus player tends to play in the middle; also became the holding midfielder and helped Rodri.

Cancelo’s versatility gives City depth in the midfield and helps keep the attack going. Pep himself has experience transforming players into inverted full-backs. At Bayern Munich, he did it to Phillip Lahm. On the other hand, Cancelo is still capable of carrying out his role as an attacking full-back. The Portuguese national is very creative and has provided three assists so far. One of Cancelo’s assistants was given to Guendogan in the match against West Bromwich Albion, 26 January.

“Cancelo’s position, once City has the ball in a good position, it’s in the middle, almost like a pivot. When they [City] had the ball, there were three men at the back and he [Cancelo] was one of the two in front of them [back line]. But from there, you can see him stabbing into the no. 10 and be like a playmaker. This is crazy, ”said former Manchester United player and BT Sport pandit Rio Ferdinand.

The back line of The Citizens also performed well as protection. City center-back Ruben Dias did not hesitate to step up to dispel the threat as early as possible. Dias has recorded 11 tackles in midfield and 18 interceptions in the Premier League this season.

Such protection allowed Guendogan to focus more on attacking. His touch record in the opponent’s penalty box has increased compared to previous seasons. In 2020/21, Guendogan’s average touches in the opponent’s penalty box were 3.83 per game. His touch in midfield and a third of the defense dropped, indicating his greater offensive responsibility and changing role in the construction of the game.

In addition, Guardiola’s willingness to install false nine was also one of the main factors for Guendogan’s goal as a goal scorer. This season, following Sergio Aguero’s injury, Pep has installed midfielders like Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden in the center striker post on several occasions. The fake number nine tends to pull down the back line. In this scheme, Guendogan was asked to move forward more often as executor.

This season, 10 of Guendogan’s 12 goals in the Premier League have been scored in the penalty area. His goal expectation value (xG) has also increased dramatically, from 0.20 per game last season to 0.43 in 2020/21. The statistics show that Guendogan has more frequent firing space in dangerous areas.

On the other hand, Guendogan’s individual abilities also improved as his role changed. Apart from being smart in positioning, this 30-year-old midfielder is adept at competing techniques. Guendogan averaged 1.81 dribbles per match with a success rate of 65.7%.

Guendogan’s performance is one sign of City’s resurrection after appearing below expectations in 2019/20. At City, the glow of certain individuals is more worthy of being seen as a sign. The key to their success is not the extraordinary individual doing extraordinary things, but the collective performance and skill of the tactician. “We try to unite and support each other, be there when it’s needed. It is important. We need to be united as a team, we need to stay together and help each other to win big games, “said Guendogan.

After giving up the title to Liverpool, The Citizens have a great chance of winning the seventh Premier League title. They are currently 14 points ahead of their closest rivals, Manchester United. Although City have played one game more, the distance from the competition has been too wide.

Pep’s men will certainly want to win the closest matches and secure the title as early as possible. In Gameweek 30, they will face one of the closest competitors, Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. In addition to the three-point mission, Guendogan et al intend to avenge their humiliating defeat in the first round, being silenced 2-5 at home.


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