Ilkay Gundogan is Manchester City’s one to watch this season

This article is part of Football FanCast’s One to Watch series, which focuses on those players we think are particularly worth keeping an eagle-eye on as the 2019/20 season unfolds.

Ilkay Gundogan is facing a decisive period in his Manchester career as the midfielder enters the final year of his contract with the Premier League Champions.

What’s the story so far?

After five wonderful years with Borussia Dortmund, a spell somewhat marred by injuries, the Germany international made his move to City in 2016.

It’s fair to say that after a trophyless first season the Citizens have reaped the rewards of Pep Guardiola’s influence, with City have securing six trophies in the following two years.

Gundogan has been a key part of this success, perhaps not always as a regular starter, but certainly as an important squad player.

In his time at City he’s contributed some vital goals, including a memorable brace against Barcelona in 2016, and also his header against Manchester United in 2018 that rounded off an incredible 44-pass move.

And who can forget the goal that put the 2019 Premier League title beyond any reasonable doubt, one which saw him exquisitely arc a wonderful free-kick into Brighton’s goal.

At times he’s been used as a supporting central midfielder, sometimes as a replacement for the more advanced Kevin De Bruyne, but his best form came last season as a holding midfielder, where his performances improved perpetually across 31 league appearances, proving that he is capable of replacing the ever-reliable Fernandinho.

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What’s 2019-20 got in store for Gundogan?

Ilkay Gundogan protects the ball from Stephan Lichtsteiner

The midfielder’s competition has intensified since the arrival of Rodri from Atletico Madrid, while Phil Foden’s emergence is a pertinent factor to consider.

His role as a starting holding midfielder looks questionable, and with De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Foden and David Silva all vying for a starting place in more advanced midfield roles, it’s clear that the former Dortmund star is facing his most challenging season since setting foot in Manchester.

With a year left on his contract, it would make sense for Guardiola to prioritise alternate options for the long-term, but the Spaniard’s faith in Gundogan suggests it’s far too early to pigeon hole him as a bit-part player.

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What constitutes a successful season?

Regular starting opportunities in the Premier League and the Champions League will be the aim.

Guardiola understands his value, saying after a City’s 4-0 Champions League win against Basel: “Gundogan is an extraordinary player. Last season we missed him a lot for the six months he was out with an injury.

“That’s why we’re so satisfied for the performance – not just for the goals for the quality he has, for the personality to play. He played fantastic.”

The upcoming season will be an audition for the midfielder to earn a new deal at City – if he even wants one – and to showcase his class to potential suitors.

Shifting dynamics and new signings make his individual progress a compelling one to keep an eye on in the 2019/20 season.

Gundogan should target (all competitions):

Appearances = 30

Starts = 20

Goals = 5

Assists = 7

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