MARTIN KEOWN: Faith in Ilkay Gundogan is another example of Pep Guardiola’s genius 

It was fitting that Manchester City’s last goal of an incredible season was scored by Ilkay Gundogan, the first signing of Pep Guardiola’s reign at the club.

A serious knee injury limited Gundogan’s debut campaign at the Etihad to nine starts. Last year, he was often a peripheral figure as City romped to 100 points.

Yet Guardiola has never lost faith in his midfielder.

With Fernandinho missing much of the second half of the campaign through injury, Gundogan has started all but one match in the 14-game winning run that has carried City to the title. 

It was one of many bold decisions that Guardiola got right. It has often been claimed that Fernandinho is irreplaceable. That is not the case any more.

After a long season playing second fiddle to Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane, Riyad Mahrez started at Brighton and responded with a magnificent goal that killed the game and confirmed the title would be staying in Manchester.

That moment will have gone some way to atoning for the penalty miss at Anfield in October.

Needing to bounce back from their agonising Champions League exit at the hands of Tottenham, Guardiola turned to Phil Foden when City faced the same opponents three days later. Foden duly delivered the winning goal after five minutes.

And what about Vincent Kompany? He had only started eight league games before being recalled for Manchester derby last month and yet conjured a wonder goal against Leicester.

Guardiola’s brilliant decision-making is a key factor in why his team have amassed 198 points over the last two campaigns.

Every member of this richly talented group has made a telling contribution to this triumph.


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