Can Gabriel Jesus Save Manchester City’s Season?

Can Gabriel Jesus Save Manchester City’s Season?

If we draw a list of the best strikers currently playing in the Premier League, Sergio Aguero will feature among the top three, if not right at the top. Since joining Manchester City in the summer of 2011, he has been involved in 200 goals in all competitions – 154 scored and 46 assisted. Of these, he has scored 113 and assisted 33 in the Premier League itself. And despite missing several games this season due to a couple of red cards, he has scored 11 (assisted none) in the current season. If he keeps scoring at this rate, he will definitely go past his usual 20+ goals a season scoring rate. However, in the current season, one troubling stat has emerged – Aguero is yet to score a single goal against the sides that are currently top seven (in six matches). It must be due to stats like these, combined with his aggressive streak this year, that the club seem very eager to welcome their Brazilian wonder kid – Gabriel Jesus, who was purchased in the summer but joined them only a few weeks back.

As Manchester City’s stats and current league position proves, they definitely need new ideas and possibly new faces up front. If not to replace Aguero, at least assist him. Manchester City have scored 40 goals this season (5th highest), 10 fewer than Liverpool who are 2 points ahead of City in the league table. During Aguero’s recent absence (4 matches in December), Guardiola could have used Kelechi Iheanacho more extensively but he chose to play him more regularly in cup competitions and depended on other players to fill in the gap in the league matches. Aguero also has not returned from suspension all guns blazing. The result has been 4 losses and one draw in a total of nine league matches, which has seen City slip to fifth in the league. So, some strengthening is definitely required.

But is Gabriel Jesus the answer to City’s problems up top?

Glowing Praise from Respected Veterans and Coaches

This page from Man City’s official website lists several notable footballers, coaches and journalists praising Gabriel Jesus and saying how he could be one of the best footballers playing in Europe.

Ronaldo (Brazilian) said “I’m a fan of Gabriel as I look at him and see myself when I was younger. I see many similarities between us. He is young and is already very successful with a lot of responsibility. He has a footballing career ahead of him and is already delighting us with what he does.”

Tite, manager of Brazil’s national team, had this to say “His turn of pace, his ten-metre sprints, they’re very strong… He’s a horse. He’s a very strong animal.”

And Tim Vickery, the renowned BBC journalist said “He’s a very exciting striker. He has the full repertoire of tricks and he’s a goalscorer. He’s really come into his own when used close to goal at Palmeiras.”

Now, that is some serious praise, especially given that Gabriel is only 19.

Playing Style

Gabriel’s WhoScored profile page lists many characteristics which prove why Guardiola would have been interested in him in the first place. It mentions that his defensive contribution is “Very High” and that he likes to tackle. Both these qualities fit right into a made for Guardiola’s team mould.

His other strengths include finishing and key passes – proven by his 12 goals and 5 assists for Palmeiras in Brasileirao in 2016. Gabriel also likes to dribble and cut inside, so he could be a good foil for Aguero at the top. He could be deployed wide and asked to cut inside to find either other City players in the penalty area or the back of the net. In fact, contrary to what Tim Vickery said about him, while he scored more (9 in 21 appearances) when deployed as a forward in the middle, he scored 3 and assisted 1 goal in 347 minutes (4 appearances), when deployed on the left flank for Palmeiras. That is a goal contribution every 86 minutes, something which could be very handy for City in games where Aguero struggles.

Stats

Among other stats, his numbers seem like a forwards but his passing accuracy leaves a bit to be desired. For Palmeiras, he put in 22.9 passes per game, quite comparable to Aguero’s 24 per game this season. However, his pass accuracy is 69.7%, much lower than Aguero’s 81.5% this season in the league. Also, if he were to play wide, comparisons would be made with Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne, both of whom are miles ahead in passing stats.

He also gets dispossessed easily, which can be a problem in a league such as the Premier League, where opponents are quite rampant in tackling and trying to take the ball away. For Palmeiras, he lost possession 6.2 times per game (4 unsuccessful touches and 2.2 times dispossessed). Aguero, De Bruyne and Sterling – all have much better numbers here and this could in fact be one of the reasons why Pep will not throw Gabriel into the deep end very early.

While WhoScored lists his dribbling as his strength, I feel that in this regard also, he lags behind the three established players in the side. For Palmeiras, he put in 3.3 dribbles every game, but majority of them (2.1) were unsuccessful. In comparison, Sterling and Aguero both put in way more dribbles (4.6 and 4.9) but are more successful than not. In the case of De Bruyne, he dribbles less (2.0) but again is more successful than not.

So, in terms of some of the important stats for him, he certainly lags behind the established players in the City team. However, he is undoubtedly talented and has an eye for the goal. This was very evident in the short time he spent against Spurs on Saturday. On debut, he managed to trouble and score against some of the best defenders in the league, albeit from an offside position. While he might not be an immediate answer to any of Pep’s conundrums in the attack, the manager would be hoping that the youngster improves greatly in the next year or so, because if he does and if he is even a little bit like Ronaldo, then Manchester City will possess one of the most prolific goal scorers in the league. For immediate revival, Pep will have to seek answers from his current starting XI.