Ilkay Gundogan: Bundesliga Expert On The Player To Take Arsenal To The Next Level
Life seemed sweet for Borussia Dortmund before last season. Back-to-back Bundesliga titles under their belt and a young-yet-established squad ready to claim their hat-trick of domestic trophies and make a serious challenge for the Champions League crown, Jurgen Klopp's giddiness could be felt by all. Fast forward a year and German giants Bayern Munich have not only won the league by a mammoth margin, but they also conquered BVB in the Champions League final and then really rubbed salt in the bratwurst by claiming the DFB-Pokal with a win over Stuttgart.
Combine the Bavarians' treble with the fact that they snatched Mario Gotze from Dortmund and continue to try and lure Robert Lewandowski to the Allianz-Arena, Jurgen Klopp can be excused as he drowns his sorrows in a large glass of Doppelbock.
The Premier League aren't doing him any favours either. Manchester United and Arsenal are both said to be on the trail of midfield maestro Ilkay Gundogan in a move which would really dampen the mood in North Rhine-Westphailia.
Gundogan progressed through the youth ranks of Bochum before making a switch to Nuremburg after just two league games for the club, and it would be at the Bavarians where he would be recognised as a real prospect. The boyhood Schalke fan found himself in the first team aged just 18 and starred for two seasons until Borussia Dortmund offered the midfielder a four-year deal in 2011.
Despite his ability he played second-fiddle to Sven Bender when he arrived at the Westfalenstadion but soon got his break when Bender picked up an injury, and he didn't disappoint. By the time last season rolled around Gundagan was a fully fledged first teamer and is now a key part to how Jurgen Klopp sets up his side.
The former Mainz gaffer's preference to play the 4-2-3-1 system is pivotal on the two holding players. With Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus driving the attacking positions forward, it has been up to Sebastian Kehl and Gundogan to keep things ticking in the middle. However, Klopp has tweaked the latter's game and has utilised Kehl as the anchorman to allow Gundogan a more flexible role, and the 22-year-old has flourished.
There are few people more pleasing on the eye than Gundogan, especially if you have witnessed his growth in the last few years. His decision making has been exceptional again this season and it is rare that he misplaces a pass. He accumulated a pass success of 87% last season in his 28 league games, a total which betters the rest of the squad, and also amassed a tackle success of 80%.
His creativity and awareness both on and off the ball allows him to dictate the tempo and direction of the game, but it is his incessant work-rate that sets him apart from others in his position.
You'd expect a player of Gundogan's age to lack a certain degree of intelligence with his decision making, but he has proved time and time again that his ball retention is up there with the best in Europe. If pushed for a lapse in the Germany international's game it would be his pace as he is not particularly quick, but some of the greatest deep-lying playmakers in European football over the past decade - Paul Scholes and Andrea Pirlo - have proved that this is not a necessity.
The Manchester United midfield is screaming for a Gundogan-type player. With the aforementioned Scholes calling it a day they are severely lacking in any creativity or zeal in the middle and Gundogan would slot in seamlessly should a move transpire. Arsenal are also said to be interested in striking a deal for the midfielder, but the similarities between him and Jack Wilshere could potentially hamper their performances should they be paired up in the middle of the Gunners' team.
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