For a fee of only £27 million, many consider Manchester City’s signing of midfield maestro İlkay Gündoğan a bargain. One person in particular, who himself was considered a midfield maestro, Paul Scholes, was quoted as saying “If he can stay fit, I think he can be a fantastic player. I also think he is a great value for the money Manchester City paid for him. I think he is a bargain”.
Gündoğan in action for Borussia Dortmund last season.
Under Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City usually played in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 system, operating with two holding midfielders to allow their attacking players to operate more effectively. Under Pellegrini, the main midfield partnership was Yaya Touré and Fernandinho in a 4-4-2 system. This system worked wonders in the 2014 title winning season, seeing Touré terrorise teams up and down the country, scoring 20 goals from midfield. However, from 2014 onwards, Yaya Touré’s defensive ability has declined and this has often left Fernandinho to do the job of two men in midfield, opened up City defensively. Vincent Kompany often had to step out of the backline to cover for Touré which led to his dip in form, and has also ruined City’s defensive stability.
Fernandinho was pivotal to Manchester City finishing in the top four as well as reaching the champions league semi-final.
Since Fernandinho was one of Manchester City’s players of last season, it is likely that he will retain his place in the starting eleven. However, with the arrival of Pep Guardiola, the 2012 and 2014 champions are likely to revert to a more defensive midfield, as previously seen at Bayern Munich. In Munich, Pep often opted for a three-man midfield of Phillip Lahm and Xabi Alonso sitting, with Arturo Vidal pressing and driving forward from midfield. Similarly, at Barcelona, the master tactician opted for with Xavi and Sergio Busquets holding and Andrés Iniesta opening up defences from midfield.
One option for Guardiola could be to utilise Gündoğan as a deep lying midfielder pivot midfielder, where he has time and room to spread passes across pitch as well as winning the ball back when required to. What we could also see next season is David Silva dropping deeper into a more central position deeper in the midfield, similar to how Xavi played for Barcelona and similar Xabi Alonso at Bayern Munich. Silva is one of the best playmakers in the world on his day but injuries last season prohibited his game time. The Spaniard isn’t blessed with pace and is ageing but has excellent technical ability and vision, which would allow him to drop back.
David Silva could be dropped into a deeper role under Guardiola, similar to that of Xavi at Barcelona.
With Silva’s creativity and vision, Fernandinho’s work rate and defensive abilities added to Gündoğan’s passing range, stamina and energy. Man City would have a formidable midfield three for the upcoming season. In Guardiola’s game, winning the midfield battle is important in every game, which is why he wants his side to always dominate the possession. He is a master tactician and with the players at his disposal, it looks to be an interesting season ahead for Manchester City!
Article written by Ben Tipper. Twitter – @mcfccentral