Football: Jesus hopes to get over difficult start

Manchester City's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (front) is finding it tough at the moment, having scored only one league goal this season compared with 13 last term.
Manchester City's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (front) is finding it tough at the moment, having scored only one league goal this season compared with 13 last term.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

City striker frustrated with goal drought but manager Guardiola believes he will improve

LONDON • Sergio Aguero spent most of Saturday afternoon sipping mate tea in a private box, rested with a muscle fatigue.

On the Etihad Stadium pitch against Bournemouth, his replacement Gabriel Jesus did not look like scoring all afternoon.

This time last year, the pecking order had looked decidedly different, as though manager Pep Guardiola had begun to phase Aguero out, with Jesus the future.

Today, City's record scorer Aguero could still be unavailable for the Premier League trip to Watford, but he knows he will be back in the line-up once fit - such is the reversal of fortunes a year on.

His enforced rest came with a doctor's warning; that had the 30-year-old played, he could have faced "maybe four or five weeks" on the sidelines, said Guardiola.

If Jesus gets the nod again, he will be desperate to put on a better display. On Saturday, he wore the look of a frustrated man who is low on confidence when substituted.

ONE STEP AT A TIME

Obviously I want to play more minutes but I respect who is playing at the moment. I always make it clear for Pep that I'm here to help the team regardless.

GABRIEL JESUS, upset about his lack of game time but willing to help his teammates as much as he can.

He had 43 touches, fewer than any of his outfield teammates. And too often, the Brazil forward, who is at his most dangerous when charging at defenders, dropped into midfield where City already had a mass of bodies.

He has mainly featured off the bench with eight substitute appearances to just three starts and admitted to being frustrated with his lack of game time.

"Obviously I want to play more minutes but I respect who is playing at the moment," he said. "I always make it clear for Pep that I'm here to help the team regardless."

Guardiola remains unperturbed by Jesus' goal drought, hailing his selflessness and "work ethic".

"Gabriel is a delight. He's young, he will improve because he has the desire to improve," he added.

While the manager is right to remind the critics that Jesus' career is in its infancy and he has the potential to be one of the best forwards around, his numbers are slightly concerning.

 

This calendar year, the 21-year-old has scored only six goals in 22 games in all competitions and endured a miserable World Cup in which he failed to find the net.

This season, he has scored only one league goal, compared with 13 last term, while Aguero has eight.

He also has not looked the same player since New Year's Eve, when he suffered a knee injury against Crystal Palace that kept him out for seven weeks. But he is optimistic he can rediscover his old form.

"Everything that happened is already in the past for me, my injury, the World Cup," he said. "I want to focus on this current season."

The good news for Guardiola is that even without Aguero and a misfiring Jesus, he can still count on the rest of his players to chip in while looking to make it seven league victories on the trot.

Raheem Sterling is on fire after his ninth goal of the season in all competitions at the weekend.

He was praised by teammate Bernardo Silva, who told BT Sport: "I hope he can get more than last season. He has been in fantastic form. He is so aggressive with the ball and focused on the goal. If he continues like this, he will help us win some titles.

"It's a little bit of pressure for our rivals, they have to win to stay close to us but it's only the start of December."

THE TIMES, LONDON

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2018, with the headline 'Jesus hopes to get over difficult start'. Print Edition | Subscribe