If someone had said at the start of the season that a Manchester City player would win the PFA’s Players’ Player of the Year award, Ilkay Gundogan’s name would probably not have been at the top of many people’s list.
But after inspiring his side to a comfortable win over Tottenham to open up a seven-point lead at the top of the table, Gundogan is one of the form players in the top flight.
The 30-year-old Germany midfielder took his tally to 11 in the Premier League with two of his side’s goals in the 3-0 win over Spurs.
In addition, he won the penalty that allowed Rodri to give City a first-half lead.
“It looks like Gundogan is going to be the man to take Manchester City to the title,” ex-Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports. “What a season he is having. I think he is going to be PFA player of the year. He has been a revelation, a joy to watch.”
Gundogan limped off with a groin problem and could be a doubt for Wednesday’s Premier League game at Everton (20:15 GMT).
But by the time he left the pitch he had already sealed the points for his side.
While Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris will feel he should have done better with Gundogan’s first, his second, to make it 3-0, was an excellent finish after holding off Davinson Sanchez following Ederson’s long ball forward.
“I said many times he could play as a striker, like a false nine, and people laughed,” said Guardiola. “I understood why because he didn’t do it here. But he has the sense to arrive at the goal.
“Today it was the action for a clear penalty and after he had the quality to score the two goals. He has the tempo to arrive there. He is so good in these moments.
“He won the award for player of the month. If he keeps playing this way in February, he is going to win it again.”
Asked why Gundogan is scoring so many goals, Guardiola added: “He is playing closer to the box.
“When Fernandinho was out two seasons ago he was a holding midfielder, where it was difficult to score goals.
“Now he plays close to the striker and he has an incredible sense to do movements to the box. Then there is the finishing. When a guy shoots the way he did for the second goal, Lloris cannot stop it.”
City took the lead from the penalty spot after Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s foul on man-of-the-match Gundogan.
Guardiola’s side had missed three of their previous six Premier League penalties this season, including one at Liverpool last week when Gundogan skied his kick.
City’s poor record with spot-kicks had led to the City boss suggesting Ederson might be an option to take the next one.
So when referee Paul Tierney pointed to the spot, the City keeper strode forward with purpose only for Rodri to grab the ball and place it on the spot.
Lloris got a touch to the penalty but the ball spun off his wrist into the net.
“I was a bit angry because we missed many penalties, much more than we expected, and big games you have to score penalties,” said the Spain midfielder.
“I was angry, I grabbed the ball and no-one took it from me and fortunately I scored.”
Asked if Rodri was now City’s main penalty taker, Guardiola said: “No. I would say I admire the courage to take the penalty but it was not a good penalty.
“I am not laughing, I am concerned about this. We will have a real specialist to take them with quality. We have to practise.”
Guardiola did not rule out Ederson, who provided the assist for Gundogan’s second goal, taking a penalty in the future.
“When I talk about Ederson and penalties, you see his assist, 60-70 yards, well then he will score from 12 yards,” he said.