Pep Guardiola has clarified the surprising announcement that he sees Ilkay Gundogan as one of the choices for replacing the injured Sergio Aguero. The owner of Manchester City is due within the next 24 hours to discover the extent of a knee injury to the club’s all-time leading goal scorer.
And while supporting Gabriel Jesus as the obvious replacement on Thursday night as the Blues head to Chelsea, he pointed out that Jesus can’t be expected to play in every game because of the pressing need for rotation in the hectic, re-started season.
He went on to list the players he felt could step into the striking role without too much fuss and, although the names of Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva were no big surprise, Gundogan was added to that mix.
Germany ‘s international midfield base sitting is more comfortable despite being more competent in advanced midfield positions. But none have found him a player capable of playing the central position in a three-pronged front so far.
Guardiola was asked to expand on his throwaway commentary, and he made it clear that he did not see Gundogan playing the same role as Aguero: “The players who understand the game and are so much smarter, they understand how to play football, they can play all the positions. Some talented players can play just one position and Ilkay can play in many, many different positions. Not as a striker, as a primary target, but as a striker, he can go down and play to get to the net. He’s an outstanding player because he’s so smart — and at the same time he can play the same role as full-backs, wingers.”
Jesus would probably have started against Chelsea anyway, as he got the nod ahead of Aguero in his first re-start match against Arsenal last week. He received full backing from Guardiola, amid recent rumors connecting Brazil international to a move to a top Italian club when the transfer window opens.
Guardiola (via MEN) said: “We have no reservations about him as everyone knows but, of course, we play a lot of games with a limited time to recover and plan. We need to think of different choices for that. Sterling can play there without a doubt, it’s an excellent place for him to play but at the same time Bernardo can play there.”
“He played at Old Trafford in the Carabao Cup and had a great game when we won 1-3, which helped us qualify for the final of the Carabao Cup which he performed well there. Bernardo is another player like Gundogan who can play in many different positions because he is so smart.”