Pep Guardiola will not ask Gabriel Jesus to solve all Manchester City’s problems and believes the Brazil star can operate alongside top scorer Sergio Aguero in attack.
Jesus arrived in Manchester this week and trained alongside his new team-mates for the first time on Thursday, following a switch from Palmeiras agreed last August that was reported to be worth an initial £27million.
City lie fourth in the Premier League, seven points shy of leaders Chelsea. They have won four of their past five domestic matches but a defeat at Liverpool on New Year’s Eve dented their title hopes and a terse round of interviews conducted by Guardiola following a battling 2-1 win over Burnley last time out did little to bolster any sense of a feelgood factor at the Etihad Stadium.
Highly rated 19-year-old Jesus is therefore seen as a potentially galvanising force in some quarters, although Guardiola – speaking ahead of Friday’s FA Cup third-round tie at West Ham, which his new recruit will miss due to work permit issues – is keen not to pile on undue pressure.
“He’s 19, 20 years old. He is so young,” the former Barcelona boss said. “He is strong because when you are able to play as number nine for Brazil, something is good in that player.
“But I do not want to put a lot of pressure about he has to solve our problems. What he has to do is play as free as possible and, of course, score as much as possible when he plays. I think he is going to help us in that.”
Ansioso pra vestir essa camisa!!! pic.twitter.com/C3GJXnSxLX
— Gabriel Jesus (@jesusoficial9) January 5, 2017
Jesus has five goals in six caps for Brazil, marking a prolific start to his senior international career, while he was also the attacking spearhead for the host nation as they scooped a memorable Olympic gold at Rio 2016.
Guardiola has not always been fulsome in his praise of Aguero, stipulating that the Argentina striker must look to improve his all-round game despite 17 goals from as many starts in a campaign hindered by disciplinary problems.
While Jesus presents an obvious alternative at centre-forward, the teenager’s capacity to occupy a wide berth in a front three means Guardiola is preparing to pick him in tandem with Aguero.
“He can play as a winger making movements outside, inside, but of course he has to play close to the goal,” he said.
“He’s not a typical winger down the line like Ras [Raheem Sterling] or Jesus [Navas]. He has to live in front of the goal.
“He has a good sense of the goal, he makes good movements and runs in behind. You have to use him close to Sergio, close to our strikers.”
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 3, 2017
One of Guardiola’s signings who has endured a fraught introduction to English football is Claudio Bravo, with the goalkeeper’s performance against Burnley his latest to come in for criticism.
The City manager complained Bravo was fouled as he missed a punch before Ben Mee pulled a goal back for the Clarets, but he is confident the Chile international has the experience and knowhow to make a success of his Premier League career.
“I see many, many goalkeepers that have the same problems as Claudio with these kind of balls,” Guardiola added. “It’s not only Claudio Bravo in this way.
“He is intelligent, enough, he is experienced enough. He was nominated [by FIFA] as one of the five best goalkeepers in the world. He has experience in Europe and South America – in South America, how tough is the intensity of the games there?
“With these kind of balls in the box he has to be careful, but he realises for himself. It’s not necessary to read the newspapers or for the coach to tell him. He realises immediately.”
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