Dortmund’s midfield gem: Ilkay Gundogan


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Ahead of their Champions League clash with Manchester City, we take a look at Borussia Dortmund starlet Ilkay Gundogan.

Name: Ilkay Gundogan
Date of birth: 24th September 1990
Place of birth: Gelsenkirchen
Nationality: German
Height: 1.80m
Position: Central midfield
Current club: Borussia Dortmund
Former clubs: Nuremberg, Bochum

Eyebrows were raised when Germany took Bayer Leverkusen's Lars Bender to the European Championships, leaving behind his higher-profile twin brother Sven Bender, who had won back-to-back titles with Dortmund.

But Sven had lost his club place to another young German midfielder in Ilkay Gundogan, who had also moved ahead in the international pecking order after fine displays for club and country.

Gundogan, who rejected the overtures of Turkey to play for the country of his birth, was a highly-rated teenager in Bochum's youth team when he was poached by promoted Nuremberg, for whom he starred over two seasons.

The big move to Dortmund followed and he did not disappoint, taking to his defensive midfield role with great success.

Dortmund line up with four very attack-minded players in striker Robert Lewandowski and support playmakers Mario Goetze, Marco Reus and Jakub Blaszczykowski, so the two remaining midfielders — Gundogan and Sebastian Kehl — operate much deeper.

With Kehl the anchorman, Gungogan has the brief to control the pace of the game. He has the technical and creative ability to play killer through-balls, but is not afraid to slow the tempo and has the touch and technique to do so.

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While not the quickest, he is a willing runner with fine close control and the ability to take on defenders, adding an air of unpredictability to his game. What's most impressive about this young man is that he has the awareness and maturity to pick and choose the moments to play a reverse through-ball or nutmeg an opponent, and when to keep it simple.

Keeping it simple is his preference in terms of offloading the ball, although he will go long if needs be. His passing has improved since moving to Dortmund, no doubt by virtue of training with such accomplished passers and playing in a system that encourages ball retention, although his tackling has not been up to its usual standard this season. Again, no surprise as his role has evolved into one of a deep-lying playmaker.

The closest active player by comparison is probably another German, Bastian Schweinsteiger, or even Arsenal's Jack Wilshere.

Unlike those two he is in fine form this week — Gundogan scored one and created another in Dortmund's 5-0 demolition of Borussia Moenchengladbach at the weekend. City would do well to stop his supply-line to the forwards, and the midfield battle with Yaya Toure promises to be an intriguing one.

Brief analysis of Ilkay Gundogan's performance in the 5-0 win over Gladbach at weekend:

• On seven minutes Gundogan uses a good first touch to create plenty of space for a shot from the edge of the box. Keeper Marc ter Stegen saves his effort.

• Throughout the match Gundogan is responsible for launching waves of attacks by Dortmund, keeping possession well after breaking up several Gladbach counters.

• His first major impact comes late though, sliding an easy finish home from 12 yards after excellent play by Blaszczykowski on the left wing. That came on 79 minutes.

• Gundogan returns the favour soon afterwards, picking up the loose ball following a Bender tackle and releasing Blaszczykowski, who gets goal-side of the defender and picks out a nice near-post finish.

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