Pep Guardiola has insisted that he has been surprised at Ilkay Gundogan’s ability to play at the base of Manchester City’s midfield, describing him as ‘an exceptional player’.
With Fernandinho having been drafted into Man City‘s defence, and summer signing Rodri out injured, Pep Guardiola has asked Ilkay Gundogan to play in a more defensive role in his midfield, the German impressing in the role in last weekend’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa.
Speaking about the former Dortmund midfielder, Pep Guardiola has admitted his original assessment of the 29-year-old was ‘wrong’, describing him as ‘aggressive’ and ‘intelligent’.
“One of the qualities I appreciate most is the players who are intelligent, who understand everything that happens in the game and solve it – offensively, defensively – as quick as possible,” Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference ahead of today’s clash with Southampton.
“He can play many roles. Especially in the holding midfielder position. I didn’t expect he would be so consistent as a holding midfielder. He’s an exceptional player, one of Europe’s best.
“I didn’t use him (there) because I didn’t realise and look how wrong I was. When I didn’t have another alternative, I put him in, and I said, ‘Wow’.
“How aggressive he is without the ball, knowing exactly the movements he has to do. Of course he’s not a typical holding midfielder but we need not just defending, we need this quality of player with the ball.”