His arrival to Manchester City had been taken with a huge pinch of salt, but Ilkay Gundogan needed only 80 minutes of competitive action to prove the critics wrong and demonstrate that he could go on to become a key player for Guardiola’s team this season.
Plenty of eyebrows were raised with the Spaniard being so adamant on bringing the Germany international to Etihad earlier in the summer, but Pep Guardiola’s visions of the team he wanted to create at Manchester City were spot on once again, acting as a huge confirmation of his undisputed managerial quality.
The 25-year-old Germany midfielder had endured a difficult 2015-16 season at Borussia Dortmund.
Having missed the total of 24 matches for Bundesliga giants after being sidelined for almost 200 days in total, many Manchester City fans had every right to question Guardiola’s insistence on Gundogan.
Knowing that he arrived to Etihad with a knee injury, Gundogan was forced to endure criticism himself, once again in his injury-depleted career, with fitness problems dating all the way back to his Nurnberg days during which he had struggled with muscle tears and thighs issues.
Often panned for his body weight and lack of form in addition to recurring injuries, Ilkay Gundogan ended up showing impressive strength of character as he dealt with all the problems with his head held high.
Pep Guardiola was however able to look past Gundogan’s lengthy injury list and see the type of a player he believed could make a difference in Manchester City he wanted to make.
Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager met with Ilkay Gundogan back in March in Amsterdam to discuss a deal along with City’s sporting director, Txiki Begiristain. Guardiola was desperate to land the German, believing Gundogan would be key to the high-intensity pressing game he was about to introduce at the Etihad Stadium.
The Spaniard believed in Gundogan’s ability to return from a serious injury and hit the best form when it is most needed, much to the similarity of the scenario that occurred at Borussia Dortmund last season when German public was treated with two different versions of the same player – highly criticised when injured and divinely adored when on the pith.
Gundogan’s ability to carry the ball forward and offer support in the centre of the park was supposed to help City regain possession quickly, which is the top priority aspect of the play Guardiola insists on.
Guardiola knew what he was getting in Ilkay Gundogan and he was happy to share it with Manchester City fans during the rescheduled UEFA Champions League opener against Borussia Monchengladbach.
Torrential rainfall in Manchester delayed Gundogan’s long-waited promotion, but Manchester City supporters were treated with a spectacular performance from the debutant, who made it all worthwhile.
The Citizens continued their impressive showings in the new season with a 4-0 thumping of Bundesliga outfit, cruising to victory courtesy of Sergio Aguero’s hat-trick and a late effort from Kelechi Iheanacho.
Manchester City dominated the game from start to finish, making it look like they were enjoying a training session at times as they headed towards their seventh win from seven games under Pep Guardiola.
Ilkay Gundogan was a shining light in a straightforward night for the Citizens, delivering a brilliant performance and making fans forget all about ever criticising Pep’s judgment.
The 25-year-old Germany international was composed and calm throughout, quick and intelligent in his decision making. It was his use of the ball that was particularly outstanding, though. He was the classic Pep’s player – covering huge portions of ground and displaying an uncanny amount of energy of playing both in deep-lying role and as box-to-box engine driving his team’s attacks forward.
His overdue debut ended up being dream-like with Gundogan looking remarkably assured and confident on ball.
Pep Guardiola greeted him on the touchline as Gundogan was taken off with ten minutes from time, thanking him for the brilliant performance he displayed at the Etihad. Manchester City play Bournemouth for the weekend and Gundogan is sure to be given another pop at home for a Premier League debut.
Citizens look at 2/7 betting odds to emerge victorious and grab the eighth win under Pep Guardiola and here you can find some important statistical information regarding the upcoming match:
Ilkay Gundogan’s first official match for Manchester City was as impressive as the team’s overall start to the new season.
With almost no bedding-in period or a transitional cushion to work around, Pep Guardiola’s City impressed with seven wins from seven matches, 21 goals scored and some magnificent football in general. Citizens are working in impressive speed, strength and dynamics which makes them firm favourites to win the Premier League title.
And with Ilkay Gundogan up and running for the first time since April, fans’ smiling faces glow with the prospect of their team becoming even more exciting on the pitch.