Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan admits the club are starting to feel “unbeatable” after he picked up the Premier League Player of the Month award for January.
Gundogan has played a major role during City’s rise up the Premier League table, and last month the 30-year-old scored five goals in six league games to help his side take control of the title race.
Leaders City have won their last 10 league games in a row, and during January Gundogan was on target in victories over Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and West Brom.
“The highlight of January? I don’t even know,” said Gundogan. “I think it was all the month because we won all the games. It was just the run, you know the feeling that you have inside yourself that you’re so strong at the moment as a team, not just yourself, that’s just an amazing feeling.
“I had that feeling a few times in the season where we had 100 points, or the season after where we won one point ahead of Liverpool, or when I used to play for Borussia Dortmund.
“You have that feeling sometimes where you just feel so strong and unbeatable. That was the best moment that went all throughout the month.”
The German missed the start of the campaign after testing positive for Covid-19, but he has since emerged as a regular starter in central midfield under Pep Guardiola, who is shortlisted for the Manager of the Month award alongside Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, Brighton’s Graham Potter and West Ham’s David Moyes.
Most recently, Gundogan scored his eighth and ninth Premier League goals of the campaign in City’s 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
It means his goal tally is already higher than in any of his previous four full seasons at the Etihad Stadium, while he is also the Premier League’s top scorer since December 15.
Carra: How Cancelo unleashed Gundogan
Jamie Carragher believes Joao Cancelo has been instrumental in Gundogan’s goalscoring transformation for City.
“I think on the back of Man City having problems with strikers – (Gabriel) Jesus didn’t play yesterday and (Sergio) Aguero is out – other people have had to step up to the plate and this man has done it more than anyone,” said Carragher on Monday Night Football.
“What I find interesting on the back of yesterday (in the game against Liverpool) is that there was a system change at half-time and City went to 4-4-2.
“Normally in a 4-4-2, the central midfield players are almost sitting players. They might join the attack, but even if they’re scoring goals it’s probably from a shot from outside the box.
“They’re not really getting past the attacking players, so what I found fascinating yesterday is that Gundogan’s two goals were from inside the six-yard box.”
Carragher believes it is largely thanks to Cancelo.
The City full-back is instructed to move into central midfield in possession and, according to Carragher, his presence there allows Gundogan to get forward, into positions where City lack a focal point in the absence of Aguero and with Jesus out of favour.
“We have known for so long now about Pep’s full-back’s going into midfield,” added the Sky Sports pundit. “It’s nothing new. He has done it since he first came.
“But when Cancelo steps into midfield, it then means that Gundogan isn’t a holding midfield player anymore.
“He’s an attacking eight, he’s a number 10, he’s between the lines and I think this relationship between those two has been pivotal.
“He’s always making penetrating runs, putting his arm up and wanting to get involved. This is not something we saw too much when he first came in.
“Certainly in the last couple of years, he has played more of a holding role. But now he is being encouraged to go forward and he’s almost like the main striker.”
Gundogan had never scored more than six Premier League goals in a season for City until now and while his shot output has not changed dramatically this season, his conversion rate has.
“When you look at the stats, he’s scoring over double the amount of goals he’s got in previous seasons,” said Carragher.
“The last couple of years whenever he’s been in the team, you always felt he was in as a sitting player, next to Rodri or in place of Rodri or Fernandinho.
“But the thing I want to highlight now is his shot conversion. The reason his shot conversion is so high is that he’s having a lot more of his shots inside the box. That makes a big difference.
“He’s gone from a goal every 10 shots to a goal every five shots because he’s taking them from better areas and better positions. No silly shots from outside the box, hence why he’s getting more chances of scoring.”