THIS season Pep Guardiola has had to adapt more than ever.
Losing David Silva in the summer and then Sergio Aguero to injury forced him to tactically tweak his Manchester City side to suit the players he has available.
And the main benefactor is Ilkay Gundogan.
Since their 5-2 defeat to Leicester at the start of the season, City have only conceded seven goals in 17 Prem games.
Pep’s first task was to tighten things at the back and after building a base upon the partnership of John Stones and Ruben Dias their attacking return has improved.
Against Palace, Villa and West Brom they have scored 11 goals without a centre-forward on the pitch.
With seven league goals this season, Gundogan is City’s top scorer but previously he has never notched over six — even when at Dortmund.
And it is all down to the false-nine formation Guardiola has adopted.
Recently, the likes of Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne — before his injury — would be given a license to roam into the traditional No 9 slot.
And because teams concentrate solely on their main attacking threats, Gundogan falls under the radar.
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As a former defender myself, I know you are a lot more comfortable when you have an individual to hold and follow — but with City’s interchangeable makeshift centre-forwards it is impossible.
The constant movement of the front four forces defenders to move out of position to stick with them, allowing a passage in the middle of the pitch for Gundogan.
But with 13 different scorers, the fact everyone is now among the goals is down to Guardiola’s genius.
And anyone who manages to finish above them will be lifting the trophy at the end of the season.
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