Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has stressed his belief that Ilkay Gundogan could move to striker to aid his side’s injury crisis.
The midfielder’s nine-goal haul in 2021 is more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues has managed. He netted twice in both of his last two games against Liverpool and Tottenham and has helped fire City seven points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand.
Gundogan has roared to the top of City‘s scoring charts, with the club’s strikers enduring a tricky year. Sergio Aguero has managed just five games this season because of injury and illness, while Gabriel Jesus has been in and out of the team with his own issues.
“I said many times he could play as a striker, like a false nine, and people laughed,” said Guardiola (via BBC Sport) after watching Gungodan’s man of the match performance against Spurs. “I understood why because he didn’t do it here. But he has the sense to arrive at the goal.
“Today it was the action for a clear penalty and after he had the quality to score the two goals. He has the tempo to arrive there. He is so good in these moments. He won the award for player of the month. If he keeps playing this way in February, he is going to win it again.
“He is playing closer to the box. When Fernandinho was out two seasons ago he was a holding midfielder, where it was difficult to score goals. Now he plays close to the striker and he has an incredible sense to do movements to the box. Then there is the finishing. When a guy shoots the way he did for the second goal, [Hugo] Lloris cannot stop it.”
It wasn’t all positive for Gundogan, however. The German left the game midway through the second half with an injury, and Guardiola confessed he was unsure just how serious the issue was.
“We will see tomorrow,” said Guardiola (via the club’s official website). “He told me it was tight. He is intelligent to say it, but we will see tomorrow.”
City will hope to have Gundogan back as soon as possible. The 30-year-old has been one of the Premier League‘s outstanding players since the turn of the year, stepping up while the Cityzens’ strikers have been struggling.
His goalscoring pedigree has been clear to see, having proven that he has what it takes to shine in the penalty area. Gundogan is obviously better in a midfield role, but while options up top are thin, moving him into attack should be a no-brainer.