Gundogan & Mahrez prove the folly of knee-jerk reactions for Man City

Comments
The midfielder has been written off as a passenger in the past few days while the new boy has faced premature accusations that he does not fit in

The performance will not be quite enough to silence all of Ilkay Gundogan's doubters, but it is certainly enough to remind them of his best attributes.

And, with Riyad Mahrez getting into the groove late on, Manchester City's 5-0 romp at Cardiff is the ideal reaction to midweek criticism.

Gundogan received more of that than most following the surprise defeat to Lyon, the charge being that he embodied the Blues' lethargic approach - too simple, too slow, and ultimately not good enough.

And, when he was named in the starting line-up for the tricky looking clash at Cardiff, with 'Mr Consistency' David Silva left on the bench, fans feared the worst.

They need not have.

City took a little while to get going but once Sergio Aguero fired in the opener just after the half-hour mark - a goal on his 300th club appearance - they did not look back. 

Gundogan played his part in the build-up, too. His neat pass forward found Bernardo Silva, who played in Aguero.

The Portuguese doubled the lead with a looping header, before Gundogan took over.

Pep Guardiola says the German has a Paul Scholes-esque knack for scoring goals, yet it has felt like a long time since he showed that side to his game. Indeed, it was April when he last scored, a penalty against Spurs, but this was altogether more impressive.

Receiving a wall pass from Raheem Sterling, he guided a beautiful curling effort into the far top corner that left Neil Etheridge helpless.

Sergio Aguero Manchester City 2018-19

In the second half, as City cut loose, he found himself in behind the right-back, allowing him to put in the type of fine low cross that led to so many City goals last season. This time it was new boy Mahrez on the end of it, which will no doubt boost his confidence as he tries to settle in.

The Algerian has struggled to find his rhythm since a club-record £60 million move from Leicester City in the summer, looking at times like he is on a different wavelength to his team-mates. Some, albeit a vocal minority, have claimed that he does not fit into Guardiola's set-up, that he takes too many touches, and tries too many risky options.

Yet his back-post tap-in was reminiscent of many scored by Sterling and Leroy Sane last season, and the late, well-driven effort that notched up City's fifth was a throwback to his best days with the Foxes.  

He will need time to find his feet, and that is something with which Gundogan can sympathise; his first season was curtailed by a knee injury that was so bad he did not return to full fitness, and his best rhythm, until the start of this year.

That is not something that is often taken into consideration with Gundogan, who also suffers from being judged by the incredibly high standards of Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.

The 27-year-old has proven he can fill in for either of City's two most influential players on occasion, not least at Napoli last season, but it is true that there are times when he lacks his illustrious team-mates' ability to change a game.

Article continues below

As well as the goal-scoring knack, Guardiola also values Gundogan's ability to play the simple, unheralded pass, although sometimes that does him no favours; when City are flying, Gundogan can grease the wheels. When City need inspiration, he is not the best man for the job.

That is why his fine performance in south Wales will not win over his staunchest critics; he did after all do his best work with the team already 2-0 up.

Yet recent criticism would have you believe he was not capable of such exploits at all. That, though, should only serve to highlight the problem with knee-jerk reactions. 

Next article:
Mata braced for 'difficult month' at Man United
Next article:
USWNT wins Concacaf Women's Championship with 2-0 victory over Canada
Next article:
Seattle Sounders clinch 10th straight playoff trip with win over Orlando City
Next article:
JSSL's Venetia Tan shows off her keepy-uppy skills
Next article:
Jamaica qualifies to Women's World Cup for first time after beating Panama in penalty shootout
Close