Gundogan reveals the secrets to Guardiola’s tactical philosophy
Manchester midfielder Ilkay Gundogan has provided a fascinating insight into the mind of Pep Guardiola as he continues his injury rehabilitation.
The Germany midfielder faces the rest of the season on the sidelines after suffering a knee injury in December.
Gundogan became Guardiola’s first signing at the Etihad when he put pen to paper on a deal worth £21million in June.
The 26-year-old was a regular in the City midfield before a recurrence of the fitness problems that have blighted his career.
During his time off Gundogan has been spending time in the United States alongside crocked team-mate Gabriel Jesus.
And ahead of his side’s visit to Arsenal on April 2, the midfielder appeared on NBC Sports with Robbie Earle to dissect the tactical revolution Guardiola has implemented at City .
Robbie Earle: We have seen the likes of Fernandinho and Gael Clichy coming from full-back to take up central positions and leave three at the back. Is it important for Guardiola to have his full-backs coming into central areas?
Ilkay Gundogan: ‘It is but it doesn’t necessarily need to be full backs. We always want to be in the position with three (defenders), two (players in central areas) and then the two attacking midfielders because that makes the game easier for us.
‘We have short ways of passing between all these players and the most important thing is about creating space for these two guys (attacking midfielders Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva) so they can turn and pass to these guys (wingers Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling) and these guys – in an ideal situation – pass back to Sergio Aguero to score.’
Earle: Everyone is talking about the pressing Pep has brought to Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Is it true there is a five-second rule about winning the ball back or is that made up?
Gundogan: ‘It depends on the situation and also on the opponent. If we are quite defensive (positionally) and we lose the ball, we just try to get back into our positions and try to defend. That’s something you have to do from time to time.
‘But if we are more in front and all our players are higher up the pitch, we push and try to win the ball back as soon as possible. It’s much better to win the ball in these areas rather than in your own half because it makes it easier to score a goal and if we have the opportunity to win the ball back up here (high up) we try to use it.’
Earle: It seems like Pep wants to play out from the back. But do you sometimes have to go long when teams press high?
Gundogan: ‘Yeah, I especially remember the game against Munchengladbach where we knew before that they would press us really high.
‘The manager just told the goalkeepers “if we don’t have the possibility to play with the centre backs or the full backs we just need to use our striker” which was Sergio in that case.
‘He told Sergio to stay high up, maybe even offside as well, but then to come back and then (he told) Claudio (Bravo) in that game “just play the ball but not high, not to his head, to his chest so he can control it” and then play with the holding midfielder and he can then play directly to our strikers.
‘There is always a danger of losing the ball in your own half. The ideal situation is winning the ball in the opponent’s half but we definitely don’t want to lose the ball in our own half. So to make it safe this is also a very good solution.’
Earle: You were Pep’s first signing so you are obviously important to the team. Do you see yourself in the holding midfield role or as one of the attacking role?
Gundogan: ‘I like both positions – holding midfield and attacking midfield. If we play with holding midfielders, normally I am one of those two.
‘But quite often we play with just one holding midfielder and two attacking midfielders and when I was fit I played almost 90% of all games as an attacking midfielder and I enjoyed it – creating chances and scoring.
‘I like both positions, it always depends on how we want to play and how the opponent is playing but I just enjoy it.’
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