Ilkay Gundogan has four goals from his last two matches, leading to an avalanche of praise for his ability to fuse industry and artistry – but the City midfielder says his best is yet to come.
His double at West Brom helped the Blues to an emphatic 4-0 victory last weekend and he repeated the trick on Tuesday, scoring two in a 3-1 win over Barcelona.
The dislocated kneecap he suffered prior to his arrival at City means he was held back initially but he has enjoyed a fine few weeks in the heart of City’s midfield.
But rather than rest on his laurels, Gundogan says he can have an even greater influence once he is fully up to speed with the demands of English football.
“If you look at just my goals record, you’d have to say this is the best spell of my career,” he said. “But I think I can improve my performances over the next few weeks – I’m still not playing at 100% because it does take time after being out of action for so long.”
Gundogan is the definitive Pep Guardiola midfielder. He registered a 96 per cent pass completion rate against Barcelona – the highest of any player on the pitch – and he works extremely hard without the ball, pressing the opposition high up the field and forcing them into errors.
His four goals in two games have seen him grab the headlines – but he says there is plenty more to his game.
“I’m enjoying be part of the team and playing for this great club,” he said. “I’ll try and continue as I have done over the past few weeks and score more goals but scoring is just a bonus for me – helping the team win and creating opportunities means just as much to me and is more important.”
City face Middlesbrough on Saturday, a side who will pose a very different threat to the one they faced against Barcelona earlier this week.
It’s likely the Teesiders will look to get men behind the ball and frustrate City, a tactic a number of sides have deployed against Guardiola’s free-flowing team this season.
Gundogan believes City are more than capable of breaking down stubborn, defensively-minded outfits but admits he’s been struck by just how difficult each match in the English top flight is.
“Our experience so far this season have proved that no matter who you face in the Premier League, the opponents are tough,” he said.
“Teams set up very defensively against us and try and focus on stopping us from scoring goals and we expect Middlesbrough to come here and be difficult to break down – but we’ve proved we can almost always find a way to score and we’ll try and repeat the way we played against West Brom and Barcelona and look for the three points.”