Pep Guardiola remains certain that Gabriel Jesus has the quality to be a long-term successor to Sergio Aguero for Manchester City.
Jesus scored in each of his first three appearances of the season – coming either side of a spell out with injury – but has gone six games without a goal and has not even registered a shot on target in the Premier League since his strike against Liverpool on November 8.
With Aguero limited to just five appearances due to a mixture of injury and the illness that kept him out of Saturday’s goalless Manchester derby, Jesus’ struggles have coincided with a broader lack of cutting edge within the City squad.
PEP 💬 Today @aguerosergiokun was training. The last two, three days he could not train.
Today he trained and we will decide tomorrow.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) December 14, 2020
The 5-0 win over Burnley on November 28 answered some critics but despite that lopsided victory City have the fewest goals of any side in the top half of the Premier League, with the subdued nature of their display at Old Trafford on Saturday hard to ignore.
Much of the spotlight has fallen on Jesus but Guardiola declared himself happy with the Brazilian’s performances – crediting the 23-year-old’s high pressing with helping City perform much better at the other end of the pitch this season.
“He will do it soon,” Guardiola said ahead of Tuesday’s match against West Brom. “Because I see him every day. And I love him so much. What he’s able to do is one of the reasons why we concede few goals, and few chances is thanks exclusively to him.
“Without him we would concede more chances. And sometimes I give credit to the other ones. Of course he wants to score goals and he will do it.
“I want his goals but his contribution is as the best striker in the world doing something that (not) any other striker can do for the team.”
City looked unusually cautious at Old Trafford, wary of United’s threat on the counter-attack, an assessment which Guardiola did not contest.
“I don’t completely agree when everyone said that (it) was a boring game but I wouldn’t say the opposite when everyone is agreed about this game,” he said.
“I know that maybe we missed being more intense in the final third or creating more chances. I know the reason why, the players know it – we talked about this.
“Apparently they have a completely different opinion about the approach that we wanted to do, that we want to do all the time.
“But I know, I know the standards that this club and this team has from the last years. And I know handling this is more difficult, but we accept the deal. We are just in early December, we have many more months ahead and I know exactly what we have to do to get better.”
Next week will mark a year since Mikel Arteta left City to become the manager of Arsenal, but the Spaniard is under increasing pressure after Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Burnley – the Gunners’ seventh defeat in 12 in the league this season.
But Guardiola backed his former deputy to turn it around.
“He’s one of the best managers I’ve ever worked with and seen directly,” he said. “For his personality and his commitment and his love for his club – because if it were not for the love of his club he would still be here.
“So I’m pretty sure he will turn over (the page) and do it like everyone expects. But sometimes when a club comes from not a good period, it needs time.”