Champions League – Before Real Madrid – Manchester City: Gabriel Jesus, the unexpected X factor of Mancunian money time

The star of the moment at Manchester City is him. With six goals and one assist in three games, Gabriel Jesus had an absolutely phenomenal last week of April. An unprecedented quadruple against Watford – he had never scored more than twice in a Premier League match -, a crucial goal in the C1 semi-final first leg against Real Madrid, then a new achievement in Leeds on Saturday: the striker Brazilian, who had already scored in the important shock against Liverpool at the beginning of the month, could not have made better use of his last three tenures, even being decisive in the last five.

Pep Guardiola would tell you that he is not surprised by the current success of his player, irreproachable in attitude, and whose qualities are known to all. But, and this is what regularly makes the beauty of football, it responds to almost no logic, except that “the efforts always end up paying off”. The shape of Jesus is very paradoxical, in more ways than one.

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Gabriel Jesus celebrates his goal against Real Madrid

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The return of the real new to City

Starting with the timing. The player who will be at the end of the contract in June 2023 has been announced on the departure with insistence in recent weeks. Discussions with Arsenal have reportedly started, while at the same time, the possibility of seeing Erling Haaland join the Citizens this summer seems to be getting more and more thick. Basically, City seem keen to rely on a marquee number nine next season, and Jesus is clearly not the one.

A classic top striker position which has also been somewhat forgotten by Pep Guardiola, especially since the departure of Sergio Agüero last summer. Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden or even Kevin De Bruyne: several of them have been, on paper, aligned as false points in recent months. The native of Sao Paulo has for his part evolved as a “true nine” several times this season, but he has also evolved on the sides of the Mancunian attack.

“He can play in all three positions up front and when we need players who can help a lot, he is one of the best in the world,” declared the Spanish technician last February. “Whether he’s a striker or a winger, it doesn’t change anything. We’re very happy with him and he wins us many games,” he continued on this subject after the quadruple of his colt against Watford.

But to be honest, it changes a lot of things. With the titular Brazilian at the forefront, City can rely on a real point of fixation, which picks up less than its partners while being very comfortable in the game with their backs to goal. One more tactical option for a City which, far from being the caricature associated with it, is capable of playing quickly behind opposing defenses in addition to its excessive possession phases. And so, in recent weeks, to rely on a pure attacker.

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Gabriel Jesus in cold goalscoring mode

There is only to (re) see his latest achievements. Against Watford, beyond his penalty, he scored three goals… as a scorer, notably magnifying the crosses of Foden and De Bruyne. Facing Real, he turned around not without success in the area before finishing coldly. In Leeds, he triggered the call at the right time between two defenders, before securing again in front of the opposing goalkeeper. Gestures of serial scorer for a player who has scored “only” thirteen times in 37 matches this season. And who had spent nearly seven months without finding the net in the league between last September and early April.

This had not prevented the person concerned, who is “one of Manchester City’s most important players”, according to his teammate Bernardo Silva, to have a role to play despite several absences and passages on the bench. And for good reason. “With him, you can be so aggressiveexplained Guardiola in February. We can stay high.” “He always has chances to score goals, make assists, and I think a lot of people have realized how strong he is without the ball”he added recently, before comparing his “energy” to that of Hristo Stoitchkov, the former Bulgarian striker of FC Barcelona.

Many hats, many ways to help. In the dark or in the light. On the side or in point. By being a starter or off the bench, as was the case for example in the group stage of C1 against PSG. That’s why Jesus has been lined up so often in big games since the start of the season. But in this beginning of “money time” of the Mancunian season, it is as THE number 9 of the Citizens that he stands out. And no one saw that coming.

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