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Ilkay Gundogan credited with tactical masterplan behind Manchester City’s treble success



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Recently-departed Manchester City captain Ilkay Gundogan has been credited with the tactical change mid-season that contributed to the club’s historic treble success.

The Germany international midfielder brought an end to his seven-year stay at the Etihad Stadium on Monday morning, finalising a free transfer move to FC Barcelona upon the expiry of his Manchester City contract this week.

Gundogan’s final season with the club created history both in English football, and for City as an organisation, as he and his teammates won a historic treble of silverware capped off with their first ever UEFA Champions League triumph.

While the performances on the pitch were nothing short of sensational from Pep Guardiola’s players, many onlookers and supporters were keen to credit one particular tactical change from the Catalan coach shortly after the conclusion of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar last December.

On many occassions, City would operate in a 3-2-4-1 formation with two defensive midfielders lying in front of a back-three, with one of those often being an inverted full-back, or the presence of John Stones away from his natural central defensive role.

In a new report, it has emerged that this system was first implemented by one of Manchester City’s younger age groups in the Academy set-up, and offered to Pep Guardiola by Ilkay Gundogan – who is known to be keen on taking up a coaching role later in his football career.

That is according to an in-depth report from Training Ground Guru, who state that Manchester City have seen a transfer of ideas between Academy and first team – in both directions.

Most recently, it is revealed that Ilkay Gundogan worked with Darren Hughes’ Manchester City under-16s squad early last year, as the Germany international was in the process of undertaking his coaching badges.

One tactical ploy the under-16s were using was playing a centre-back in central midfield when in possession, which was not part of the wider Manchester City club methodology at that time. Ilkay Gundogan is claimed to have fed this information back to Pep Guardiola.

This summer will also see Manchester City make a significant change in their backroom staff, following assistant coach Enzo Maresca’s departure to become the manager of recently-relegated Leicester City.

The understanding in various quarters is that both Pep Guardiola and City officials have an interest in bringing back former assistant coach Juanma Lillo to the club this summer, following his move to take charge of Al-Sadd in 2022.

Elsewhere, City also announced the signing of Croatia international midfielder Mateo Kovacic on Tuesday evening, signing the 29-year-old on a four-year deal for a package worth up to £30 million from Chelsea.