Analysing Ilkay Gundogan’s dream season at Man City – How his positional change has clicked

Manchester City's German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on February 13, 2021. (Photo by Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by RUI VIEIRA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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How Ilkay Gundogan has improved at Manchester City to have a great season

Ilkay Gundogan is having one of his best seasons as a Manchester City player. He has been at the heart of the Sky Blues surge towards the title this season. With Kevin De Bruyne out injured at the end of January and facing a spell on the sidelines, you could forgive Man City for worrying a bit.

However, in his absence, Ilkay Gudogan has taken up the mantle in midfield and produced some stellar showings. He is the joint top-scorer in 2021, with 9 goals to his name and that should tell you how good he has been.


City’s unstoppable run in 2021 is surely due to the contributions from a lot of players but Gundogan deserves a special mention. We dive deeper into quite how and why has the German flourished so well this season.

A comparison between the current season and last season

Ilkay Gundogan did not have the best of starts to his Manchester City career, suffering a Cruciate Ligament rupture through the middle of the season that ruled him out till the end of the season.

He came back the next season and was a part of City’s consecutive league titles in 2018 and 2019. Nonetheless, it is the comparison between last season and this season that really needs to be looked at.

Stats Credit – Sofascore

From the heat maps, one noticeable thing has been the increased presence of Gundogan in the final third this season. That has directly boosted his numbers in front of goal, with a stark increase from 2 goals in the whole of last season to 11 goals already at this stage of the campaign.

From the above image, it’s clear that he is taking more shots per game and is hence scoring at a much higher frequency. His touches per game and key passes per game have also increased. That shows he is also getting involved a lot more in his team’s attack.

There has also been a positional change for Gundogan this season. Last season, he played 24 games in defensive midfield and 23 in central midfield. This season, he has played 20 games in central midfield and just 3 in defensive midfield so far.

Of those three appearances in defensive midfield, only one has been in the Premier League. The other two have been in the Champions League. Of the 5 UCL appearances, two have been in defensive midfield but he has two goals to his name when he’s played in central midfield in the other three games. Clearly, he has been quite effective in that position.

Gundogan has the highest goal tally for Manchester City

After a bit of a slow start to the season which saw the side hover as low as 9th in the league, City have stormed back into the season, claiming first spot and a 10-point lead over second-placed Manchester United.

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Stats Credit – Transfermarkt

City have a plethora of superstars at their disposal but rather surprisingly, Gundogan is their top scorer in all competitions. It’s even more remarkable when we see he has played fewer games than most of the others.

Gundogan is having his best season and that is directly helping City

There is no doubt that Ilkay Gundogan is having the best season of his City career as well as his senior professional career. City and Guardiola will surely be happy with his contributions in a season that has seen important players like Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne out injured for parts of it.

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With City seemingly romping to the title, Ilkay Gundogan has played a huge part in it. From a personal perspective as well as from the team’s point of view, Gundogan will be happy with how well he has performed this season.