Fit-again Gun­do­gan thriv­ing as Toure’s re­place­ment at City

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Things are turn­ing out very dif­fer­ently for Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan and Ilkay Gun­do­gan since the mid­field­ers swapped Borus­sia Dort­mund for teams in Manch­ester.

Mkhi­taryan is fal­ter­ing at United. Gun­do­gan is flour­ish­ing at City.

More at­ten­tion was fo­cused on Mkhi­taryan af­ter he ar­rived at Old Traf­ford as the Bun­desliga's reign­ing Player of the Year, on the back of a sea­son in which he scored 23 goals and set up 32 others for Dort­mund. He has started one game for United — and was sub­sti­tuted at half­time on that oc­ca­sion — and man­ager Jose Mour­inho has said the 27-yearold Ar­me­nian is strug­gling to ad­just to the English game.

Gun­do­gan ar­rived at Eti­had Sta­dium in June on crutches as he re­cov­ered from a dis­lo­cated kneecap that forced him to miss the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship with Ger­many. Now fully fit, he has slot­ted seam­lessly into City's mid­field and scored four goals in his last two games — two against West Bromwich Al­bion in the Premier League on Satur­day and an­other dou­ble in the 3-1 win over Barcelona in the Cham­pi­ons League on Tues­day.

City fans were won­der­ing how the team could re­place Yaya Toure, the mid­field dy­namo who was cen­tral to its rise as a force in the English game since 2010 but has now been os­tra­cized by City man­ager Pep Guardi­ola.

They ap­pear to have the ideal re­place­ment in the 26-year-old Gun­do­gan, who was slightly cheaper than Mkhi­taryan at 21 mil­lion pounds (now $26 mil­lion). Gun­do­gan was su­perb against Barcelona, and not just be­cause of his goals that be­gan and com­pleted City's re­cov­ery at the Eti­had. He had a 97 per­cent pass-com­ple­tion record, the best of any start­ing player — some feat given the stan­dard of the op­po­si­tion. His press­ing game, es­pe­cially in the sec­ond half when Barcelona swarmed all over, stood out. He al­ways wanted the ball and tried to make things hap­pen, even in the first half when City was trail­ing.

Gun­do­gan — a pure cen­ter mid­fielder — doesn't have an ob­vi­ous weak­ness in his game. Some are al­ready com­par­ing him to Chelsea great Frank Lam­pard be­cause of the tim­ing of his runs into the box, as shown for both his goals.

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