Ilkay Gundogan claimed Manchester City’s rock-solid defending will ensure they remain a force to be reckoned with even when they are without key attacking players.
City clinched a comfortable 2-0 win over Newcastle United on Saturday thanks to goals from Gundogan and Ferran Torres to move within five points of leaders Liverpool.
It was their 13th clean sheet of the campaign across all competitions, more than any other team in the top five European leagues this season.
“We have been solid in our defending,” Germany midfielder Gundogan told BT Sport.
“If we can keep it solid at the back then we always give ourselves a chance because we know we’re going to score goals.
“In the first half especially, I felt like we moved the ball well. The weather conditions were not the best here today, but I think it was a solid performance.”
City were missing Gabriel Jesus, laid low with COVID-19, while Sergio Aguero was again used as a substitute as Pep Guardiola eases his workload on return from an injury layoff.
Gundogan said the rest of the players will continue to step up and shoulder some of the goalscoring burden whenever they are without the team’s recognised strikers.
“I think we should always share the responsibility of scoring on the pitch,” he added
“Obviously we’re missing some great players but we have the quality in the team to cope, such as Ferran, to be ruthless and get this done.”
— Ilkay Gündogan (@IlkayGuendogan) December 26, 2020
City have won their last 12 Premier League home games against Newcastle, scoring 41 goals and conceding just seven.
Guardiola urged his players to continue to keep their composure during a “weird” season of results in the Premier League.
The disciplined and clinical manner of City’s display was more akin to what Guardiola’s side have produced in recent seasons, albeit without an emphatic scoreline.
“Last week we were 10th in the table, all the season is up and down,” Guardiola said.
“There are weird results for everyone, this season you have to be calm in the good and the bad moments.
“We cannot think much, the schedule is a game every three days. The players are committed and focused.”
Guardiola was also happy with the intensity and awareness shown by his side against Newcastle as they moved up to fifth in the table.
“We played really well, the tempo we have to play football is this tempo,” he told BBC Sport.
“A lot of passes and the ball goes to where you are. Imagine the ball will come. Today was the best game of the season for players being in the position they have to be in.
“The way you play shows the results you will get in our team. Today was the day that we have done it best. Build from here, in 45 hours we have another game at Goodison Park.
“Tomorrow the players have to regenerate and prepare in one day. This pandemic puts us in an extreme situation, but that’s how England likes it so we accept it.”