You can imagine the buzz around the blue-clad half of Manchester right now. Atop of the Premier League, the Citizens are unbeaten in 15 matches. Almost every member of Pep Guardiola’s robust squad is content with just a slice of game time. Not Gabriel Jesus, however.
Like the biblical Jesus, Gabriel stormed Manchester like a thief in the night in January 2017. He wasn’t the most famous, joining without much fanfare. That he cost the Premier League champions £27m outlay only confirms his rather unheralded status. But Guardiola had other plans.
The Spaniard was a huge fan. For him, the limelight belonged to the Brazilian. He quickly integrated his newest acquisition, promoting him ahead Kelechi Iheanacho. Sergio Aguero’s place was severely threatened. Jesus repaid the faith with seven league goals in just 10 appearances.
Much was expected from the 21-year-old goal poacher in the coming season. For his sake, Iheanacho was bundled out to Leicester City. Aguero’s once untouchable status followed the Nigerian to the King Power. It was now a straight contest with his South American brother for one slot.
City blazed the trail last term. David Silva and Kevin de Bryune offered quality from the middle. Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling provided width and pace on the flanks. But instead of Jesus, it was Aguero who was preferred in attack. A series of injuries and dip in form limited the Brazilian’s influence.
A similar script has played put out this season. Even though he’s not been to the treatment room recently, game time is still hard to come by. Jesus has started only four league matches and lasted the entire duration twice. Overall he’s not spent more than 471 minutes on the pitch, scoring once and lacing two, with one of the latter coming in a recent win at Vicarage Road.
Not that Guardiola is unhappy with the 21-year-old. Far from it, in fact; he believes his second-choice striker will soon hit form. “It’s important he had the chances, creating the spaces, and the second goal he created for himself,” he said. “[He] does many, many other things, in terms of the pressing, in terms of helping in many, many situations.”
But what has gone wrong?
Aside from the obvious lack of game time, Jesus is struggling with confidence. His shot accuracy appears to have vanished, something that was evident against Watford. Aguero has only missed four big chances in the league this season during his 965 minutes, while Jesus has booted an astonishing 10 in pretty much half the time.
The 21-year-old’s positioning, too, has also been questioned.
Against Watford, Jesus’s average position on the ball was slightly deeper than Riyad Mahrez and only just ahead of Sane, highlighting his ability to drop back and link play. Aguero, with a bigger sample size, proves that being central is the way to go.
He doesn’t take much on towards the left-hand side of the area. The majority of the Argentine’s shots are attempted from a position between the goalposts in the 18-yard-box, and while he’s also taking a lot more potshots with low expected goals values, Manchester City’s all-time leading goalscorer is buying tickets
With Aguero out injured throughout the busy festive period, it’s the best time for Jesus to get busy and revive his form.
Written by Toby Prince
Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby
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