Why Ilkay Gundogan has become such a remarkable goal threat for Man City this season
Manchester City took another step towards claiming this season’s Premier League title with a 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. The result now means that Pep Guardiola’s side sit comfortably at the top of the English top flight, seven points above Manchester United with a game in hand. At the heart of City’s impressive performance was Ilkay Gundogan. Once again, the German midfielder dragged his team to victory by not only driving into the Spurs box to set up a penalty for the opening goal of the game, but he also bagged two more for himself. How much has Gundogan improved this season?The performance capped off a remarkable run of form that has seen Gundogan pick up no less than eight goals and two assists in City’s last nine games. A run of form that has not only shown what the German midfielder can do, but one that has also perfectly set up Guardiola’s side to claim this season’s league title. Indeed, Gundogan’s goal scoring has gone through the roof this season. Last season the midfielder averaged around 0.15 goals per 90 minutes, but this time around he’s averaging a remarkable 0.52 goals per 90. Not only is that a considerable improvement but it suggests that the 30-year-old talent is finding the back of the net over three times as often as he did last season.Why is he scoring more goals this season?There are a number of reasons behind Gundogan’s improved eye for goal but broadly speaking it seems as though the German international has simply become a far more direct attacking threat. As well as his rate of goals increasing, Gundogan has also seen his xG per game almost double from 0.18 to 0.34, as well as his shots per game rising from 1.42 to 1.76. Remarkably, not only has the midfielder improved the quantity of shots he’s taken but also the quality of them too. Gundogan has almost doubled the amount of shots he hits on target per game (up from 0.5 to 0.86) and has seen his xG per shot (i.e how accurate his shot is) go up from last season’s average of 0.14 to 0.22. The midfielder’s conscious decision to become a more direct goal threat can also be seen in the fact that he makes more successful dribbles per match, but his passing and all-round playmaking has taken a notable dip as a result. Last season Gundogan averaged 75 completed passes and 0.13 assists per match. This time around those numbers have fallen to 67 and 0.08 respectively. However, the trade-off seems to be working in his and his team’s favour, as Gundogan has spurred Man City on with his goalscoring and quickly become a leading contender for this season’s Premier League player of the year.