Manchester City almost dropped important points in the league game against Watford on Tuesday night. City looked comfortable all evening at Vicarage Road and sought to add to the 2-0 lead before things suddenly took a dramatic turn in the final stages of the game. After pulling a goal back, the home side pressed hard for an equaliser leaving the Sky Blues hanging on for a win. But had City, and in particular, Gabriel Jesus taken his chances in the game, the Hornets’ goal would have served merely as a consolation.
The young Brazilian’s profligacy in front of goal has seen him net only once in 12 Premier League matches this season. It could be recalled that he came under severe criticism for his failure to score a single goal for Brazil at the World Cup despite having a good campaign with City last term. But Pep Guardiola has kept faith with the 21-year-old as his second striker behind Sergio Aguero. The Catalan manager has defended his man when questions have come up in press conferences about his lack of goals.
Guardiola is right that Jesus’ role in the team goes beyond goal-scoring. He usually puts in a good shift whenever he is on the pitch. His work rate is always high making him an important part of the manager’s pressing game. With contributions to goals in terms of assists too, he proves very valuable. For example, he was the provider for Riyad Mahrez’ goal against Watford that enabled City to double the lead.
However, every player on the pitch has a key role to play for the team to get good results. Starting from the back, the goalkeeper has to keep the ball out of the net. Ederson is proving to be an important asset to City in every game. Defenders have to defend. Midfielders have to carry the ball and supply where necessary. They have so far been up to the task. And of course, forwards are in the team to score goals. So whatever else they do will always be a bonus. They cannot run away from their primary responsibility.
Aguero has been top notch. But he cannot play every game even if he was fit all year round. He will still need to be rested from time to time. Also, when he is substituted or sidelined as a result of injury, the second striker must be able to step up to the plate and deliver. Otherwise, why is he there? Again, a striker is judged first and foremost by goals. And that is why he has to score.
Fortunately for the Sky Blues, goals have been coming from several players. The whole of the front line has been on fire. Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Mahrez name them, each has scored five or more league goals this term. Even midfielders David Silva, Bernardo and Ilkay Gundogan have also scored five, four and three times respectively.
The healthy goal difference enjoyed by City in the league suggests there is nothing to worry about when it comes to goals. But games like the one against Watford suggest otherwise. Jesus may not be needed in every game but taking his chances on difficult days when he is called upon will do the team a world of good.
Certainly, Jesus’ predicament is not due to a lack of ability. He has demonstrated his quality and importance to the team already. A recent hat-trick in the Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk is a reminder of his ability.
The manager may need to help him regain his confidence in front of goal so he can join in on the goal fest. Who knows when City will need his goal to secure some vital three points? His late strike against Southampton which secured a record 100 points for the Cityzens in the league last term quickly comes to mind.