Is Ilkay Gundogan a genuine candidate to win PFA Player of the Year?

There have been times in the last five years when Ilkay Gundogan (£4.0m) would have struggled to make a list of Man City’s top ten players.

This season, he may well be the best individual in the entire Premier League.

The German faces stiff competition from the likes of Bruno Fernandes (£5.2m), Harry Kane (£7.2m) and Jack Grealish (£4.7m) for the prestigious individual awards, of which PFA Player of the Year is the most notable.

Of course, there is plenty of football still to play that could result in other names coming to the fore, favourites fading away, or both.

But after Gundogan scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season (all competitions) to go seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table, it seems a fitting time to consider the case for the 30-year-old.

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The midfielder has mostly played an understated role for City with Pep Guardiola deploying him to ensure control and dictate tempo from midfield.

This season he has taken on a new task that involves late runs into the box and showing for cutbacks.

And the stats reinforce what fans have observed.

Gundogan has already registered more shots this season (36) than the whole of 2019/20 (33) and the same is true of passes received in the opposition’s penalty area.

He’s been so effective in the final third that Guardiola hasn’t felt the need to employ a recognised centre-forward in every game.

This adaptation has shone a spotlight on a player who was previously seen as a stagehand.

There can be no doubt that his efforts have heavily contributed to an extraordinary winning run that has made his side heavy favourites to lift the third Premier League crown of Guardiola’s reign.

If Gundogan isn’t currently playing the best football of his career then it’s certainly the best form he’s found since recovering from a terrible knee injury that permanently changed his play style.

Naturally, form that thrusts a player into the Player of the Year discussion translates to Dream Team success.

Gundogan added 20 points with a brace against Spurs to take his overall tally to 136.

He’s now the third-best midfielder Dream Team has to offer with Jack Grealish (£4.7m) slipping down to fourth.

However, the jubilant spirits Gundogan’s owners were dampened when he was removed in the 68th minute clutching his groin.

Guardiola said the extent of the tightness would be assessed prior to City’s trip to Goodison Park on Wednesday night.

Fixtures come thick and fast this month with a Champions League round of 16 tie against Borussia Monchengladbach to play amid three league fixtures before the end of the month.

It goes without saying that a significant layoff would damage Gundogan’s Player of the Year hopes and cause Dream Team gaffers further injury-related grief.

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