It was a rather disappointing performance from City today. Often the team looked bereft of invention and spark when entering the final third and sterile possession was a recurring theme as the game progressed. In Gabriel Jesus though, City have a player who is willing at all times to do whatever is needed to help the team win. Today was a fine example of that attitude, his performance wasn’t flashy or eye-catching but filled with grit, determination and efficiency.
Your man of the match today Blues?
— City Watch (@City_Watch) August 26, 2017
A lot of the strong points of Jesus’ performance won’t be represented in statistics when we look back at the game. Instead it was the little things like willingly taking a battering from a centre-half to win a free-kick, or carrying the ball down a seemingly dead end to win a throw in and move the team up the pitch. His performance was littered with selfless movements and actions to help the team rather than himself. Whilst these didn’t translate into a scintillating performance from the team as a whole it did serve to reinforce the idea that he is more than just a predatory striker.
A Defensive Pest
It isn’t just the selfless commitment to the team’s attacking play that Gabriel Jesus should be praised for, he definitely put himself about defensively. His role as the central striker means that he needs to “cut the pitch in half” for the opposition. What I mean by this is that he must force the opposition to keep playing on one side of the pitch by preventing a pass from one centre-back to another. This allows the team to shift over to the ball-side and force ball recoveries through the use of a numerical advantage. Carrying out this action over and over, as well as closing down the goalkeeper, requires a huge amount of energy and persistence. Jesus had this in abundance today, evidenced by the 64 sprints he completed over the course of the game; no doubt plenty of those occurred whilst City were defending.
Of course, his contribution defensively wasn’t just about running around a lot. He also managed to complete 2 out of his 4 attempted tackles – all of them taking place in the Bournemouth half. One of these tackles led to an incident that should have seen Ake see red for Bournemouth, but alas the referee thought otherwise. Regardless, having a forward who is willing and can reliably challenge for the ball in advanced areas of the pitch will surely result in improved performances from City over the course of the season.
Contributing to Build-Up Play
Without sounding like a broken record, Jesus is so much more than a penalty box predator. His contribution to the teams build up play was consistent and efficient across all areas of the pitch.
Jesus was actively involved in play everywhere today, be it moving out wide to support Mendy and Danilo or dropping into midfield to help the team progress the ball. Whilst the team did a less than impressive job of making the most of these movements over the course of the game, Jesus’ efficiency did not suffer. The Brazilian completed 90% of his passes as well as creating a chance in the opposition box.
If City can improve on their positional play in the final third then Jesus will surely only improve upon this aspect of his game. With efficient distribution like this and dangerous runners around him, expect to see not just goals from Gabriel Jesus this season, but also assists.