Man City relying on Jesus for positive ending in EPL
MANCHESTER, England (AP):
It's a nagging question that occupies the thoughts of Pep Guardiola.
"What would have happened," the Manchester City manager pondered recently, "if we'd been able to have Gabriel Jesus all season?"
Perhaps City would still be in the English Premier League title race, instead of being caught up in a contest just to finish fourth. Perhaps City would have advanced beyond the last 16 of the Champions League, instead of getting eliminated at the earliest stage in Guardiola's coaching career.
It's clear in every answer he gives about Gabriel Jesus that Guardiola thinks extremely highly of the 20-year-old striker, who completed his move from Palmeiras in December and only made his debut in late January.
And it's easy to see why.
The Brazil international scored three goals in his first three league games, performing at such a level in training and in competitive play that he ousted top scorer Sergio Aguero from the starting line-up.
Gabriel Jesus then broke his foot against Bournemouth on February 13, ruling him out for six weeks. Since his return, he made an instant impact and had a goal disallowed as a late substitute in the 0-0 draw against Manchester United, before scoring City's equaliser in the 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough on Sunday.
City have four league games left - starting with Crystal Palace at home tomorrow - to try to secure a place in next season's Champions League, and Gabriel Jesus is set to be Guardiola's go-to attacker, especially after Aguero came off injured against Middlesbrough with an apparent groin injury.
Aguero has scored 30 goals this season, and no other player has hit double figures, with City regularly spurning countless chances, much to Guardiola's chagrin. Yet even in his short time at the club, Gabriel Jesus has shown he offers a more rounded game than his fellow striker and may have as much of a striker's instinct in the box.
Guardiola has remarked how impressed he is by Gabriel Jesus' quick adjustment to both the pace and intensity of the Premier League.
"He is dynamic, he is aggressive," Guardiola said about Gabriel Jesus in welcoming the striker back after injury. "His influence on his other teammates is huge."
And that's the thing for Guardiola. While Aguero may be a scoring machine he's netted in 11 of his last 14 games Gabriel Jesus makes the team operate more effectively as a whole with his pressing and energy from the front.
In the four games he has started and played the full 90 minutes, against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup and West Ham, Swansea and Middlesbrough in the league, City has scored 11 goals. Before his injury, City's front three of Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling gelled so well that Guardiola said they were "the future of the club."
That should be the front line at Etihad Stadium tomorrow, as City look to avoid becoming the latest member of the top six to stumble against Palace.
Sam Allardyce's team has beaten Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool over the past month as it climbs away from relegation trouble, and has proven especially dangerous away from home with quick and elusive wingers Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend feeding striker Christian Benteke.
ON THIS WEEKEND
2 p.m: West Ham vs Tottenham
6:30 a.m: Manchester City vs Crystal Palace
9 a.m: Bournemouth vs Stoke City
9 a.m: Burnley vs West Brom
9 a.m: Hull City vs Sunderland
9 a.m: Leicester vs Watford
11:30 a.m: Swansea vs Everton
7:30 a.m: Liverpool vs Southampton
10 a.m: Arsenal vs Manchester United
2 p.m: Chelsea vs Middlesbrough