When a relatively unknown Brazilian forward named Gabriel Jesus joined Manchester City for the not insignificant sum of £27million, questions were raised as to how he’d get into the side ahead of Sergio Agüero and even Kelechi Iheanacho.
But Pep Guardiola showed instant faith in his new forward, who is versatile enough to play in any of the attacking three positions. Despite being only 19-years-old on his arrival, the Spanish manager put him straight into the side where he impressed, scoring three goals in his first two matches while Aguero watched on from the bench.
Jesus then picked up a foot injury which kept him out for the next few months, but on his return questions were raised concerning Agüero’s future at the club now the Brazilian was back, and ready to bench the Argentine yet again.
But the answer to this conundrum was in Guardiola’s mind all along. With Jesus’ ability to play wide if required, and Agüero showing strengths as a deeper lying forward as he adapted to the former Barcelona manager’s methods, the South American duo looked to be the ideal strike partnership for the 3-5-2, while also striking up a combination in a 4-3-3.
They played some games together towards the end of the 2016/17 season, with Agüero looking much happier and much more used to the system as the season drew to a close.
Jesus was perfect for Guardiola’s attack, and in the three games the pair started together, the side scored, two, three and five goals, giving the side an average of 3.3 goals per game (GPG) when both made the starting eleven. The average GPG with they weren’t in the same starting lineup was 2.
Going into the new season they’ve improved on this ratio, scoring two, one, five, and six goals giving them an average of 3.5 GPG when both start. In the league game in which the two didn't start together the side scored two.
This leaves an overall average of 3.43 GPG when both start and 2 GPG otherwise.
It’s too early to tell whether the trend will continue into the new campaign, but what these statistics show is that they can definitely play in the same line-up and one doesn’t need to be left out to accommodate the other.
It has meant that some of the wide players such as Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sané have had to make more sporadic appearances, but these players can also be used in different positions in this City side which is awash with talented footballers.