Gabriel Jesus gave Pep Guardiola a serious selection headache with a superb performance in Manchester City’s 5-0 demolition of Norwich.
City’s number nine was expected to play in the corresponding position after being named in Guardiola’s starting XI, but instead lined up on the right wing, with Ferran Torres in the middle and Jack Grealish on the left.
Jesus was a livewire all afternoon and chipped in with three assists, one fewer than his tally for the entirety of last season.
Such was the impact he had on the game that Guardiola left him on for the full 90 minutes, despite introducing Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez to get on the scoresheet.
It was a statement performance from Jesus that could see him in line to start next weekend against Arsenal.
Here’s a blow-by-blow look at what was a splendid afternoon for the 24-year-old attacker.
7th minute – For City’s opener, Jesus showed just what he is capable of as a creator. Eyeing up a defence-splitting diagonal ball from Rodri, Jesus controlled superbly with his chest before volleying dangerously across goal. Grant Hanley had to intervene, but he could only deflect the ball against his own goalkeeper, Tim Krul, and into the net. It was a timely reminder that the Brazilian has much more to offer than just scoring tap-ins.
15th minute – City had the ball in the net and again Jesus was at the heart of it, although the effort was ruled out for a foul by VAR. Bernardo Silva clipped Milot Rashica 25 yards from goal, but when the referee allowed play to continue, Jesus was quick to react and used his initiative to slip Ferran Torres through on goal. The move exemplified Jesus’s quick-thinking and direct approach.
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22nd minute – Jack Grealish doubled City’s lead with a home debut goal, and it was a near-carbon copy of the Blues’ first. Jesus was picked out on the right after making another clever run in behind and he fired in another low ball. The delivery found its way to Grealish at the back post, who rather inadvertently stuck the ball away with his thigh. A couple of years ago, Jesus might have taken a shot from the tight angle, but he has matured to become a much smarter team player.
25th minute – Jesus, Walker and Bernardo formed a one-touch passing triangle on the right-hand side which seemed to hypnotise the Norwich players just as much as it did the fans watching in the stands. Jesus’ link-up play on the right wing was seriously impressive all half.
29th minute – City conceded a free-kick as Norwich looked to counter, but Jesus stood over ball to prevent his teammates from being caught out of position. This was the kind of game intelligence that he has been accused of lacking in the past.
45th minute – Jesus made four crosses from open play in the first half, the joint-most by a City player alongside Ilkay Gundogan. He is many things, but selfish isn’t one of them.
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50th minute – Jesus’ passing and build-up play is right up there with the best in the squad. The Brazilian surged forward from the right wing to play a one-two with Gundogan on the edge of the penalty area, although, with nowhere to go he got dispossessed.
55th minute – If there was any doubt: Yes, Gabby’s striker instincts are very much still intact. Reacting sharply to a blocked Walker shot, he sold a dummy and shifted the ball inside onto his left foot, but dragged the shot narrowly wide of Krul’s near post.
61st minute – Sterling entered the fray, shortly followed by Mahrez, but Jesus stayed on the pitch. Sterling took up a position in the middle so that Jesus could stay out wide, before reverting to the left flank when Mahrez took up his customary right-wing role.
71st minute – Jesus completed a hat-trick of assists, and it was the best one of the day. He showed expert patience to perfectly time a run down the right channel, receiving Walker’s inch-perfect through ball in his stride. The composure he showed in coolly sliding the ball across the six-yard box for Sterling to tap home was in keeping with that of a seasoned winger, not a striker-by-trade.
City fans voted Jesus their man-of-the-match, and rightly so. A superb display on the wing will only serve to increase his minutes this season, something he is desperate for after a frustrating 2020-21.
Did Gabriel Jesus do enough today to nail down a starting spot in Pep Guardiola’s side? Follow our new City Fan Brands Writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.