It would be unfair to argue Gabriel Jesus is overrated, for he is still an exceptional young talent learning his trade, but after an anonymous appearance against Liverpool one thing is patently clear. While the 15-cap Brazilian prodigy may be widely revered as one of the most promising raw talents in European football, he’s still far from being a complete centre-forward worthy of regularly spearheading the attack for this breathtaking Manchester City team.
When deployed out wide or in a supporting capacity, the fact Jesus still hasn’t quite moulded his game around any position doesn’t particular matter, at least not to the same degree. Those roles allow him to play his natural game, albeit within Pep Guardiola’s framework, and pick up the pockets of space in attack that appeal to him most.
But centre-forward is a distinctive craft; there’s a huge responsibility not only to score goals, but also to occupy defenders, to create space for others and to bring the midfielders into the game. And while Jesus has shown his ability to play off others in City’s front-line, the south American struggles when he’s the focal point – even against a defence as notoriously unconvincing as Liverpool’s.
That was painfully evident against at Anfield on Wednesday night. Although it was clearly a bad day for Manchester City, one that even Sergio Aguero would have struggled to provide a glimmer of positivity in, Jesus’ marginal statistical returns as the encounter’s most peripheral figure were incredibly telling. He had the fewest touches of the ball of any starter for either side, despite playing the whole ninety minutes, and only managed two more than Raheem Sterling who came on only for the final 35.
Even more tellingly, in that time Jesus managed just one effort at goal, which failed to test Loris Karius, and didn’t register a single created chance, successful dribble, cross or even a foul won.
More than his impact on attacking moves though, Jesus’ lack of presence in the final third stood out most. It was a difficult night for the 21-year-old, who clearly has a huge career ahead of him but equally clearly still has a long way to go before he can be considered a complete striker of the calibre City need.
The idea of City parting with Aguero in the summer and Jesus naturally succeeding him at the tip of the attack, as many have speculated over the last two years, seems almost preposterous after Wednesday’s humbling performance.
Which begs an interesting question; as retaining the Premier League title has proved a much tougher challenge than winning it over the last decade, do City need to sign another striker this summer? Let us know by voting below…