Pep Guardiola says he has “no doubts” about Gabriel Jesus’ ability to lead Manchester City’s attack – and the Brazilian might be proving his manager right.
In the absence of regular frontman Sergio Aguero, Jesus netted his seventh goal of the season in their latest victory over Burnley.
Wednesday’s 2-0 win at Turf Moor restored City’s three-point advantage at the top of the Premier League, but 23-year-old Jesus’ credentials have been questioned.
“For the team, but especially for him, the striker needs to score the goals,” said Guardiola.
“There are no doubts about Gabriel. Last game, he scored and got us the three points – and today, he started and played really good.
“We are delighted for Gabriel all the time. We need his goals – he knows it – but his contribution in many aspects is fantastic.”
With 32-year-old Argentine Aguero still needing “a few weeks” to return to match fitness after testing positive for coronavirus, City will need to rely on Jesus.
He has scored in back-to-back league games for the first time in 2020-21, after also netting the winner against Sheffield United on Saturday.
His third-minute opener against the Clarets on Wednesday took his season’s league tally to four.
Questions have been asked about whether Jesus – who has scored 75 goals in 172 games for the club – is clinical enough to lead the line at City.
His expected goal rate (xG) of 3.95 – the number of goals he would be expected to score from the chances he has had – is on par with the four he has managed in 13 games, but lags behind the leading forwards in the English top flight.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has netted 15 goals with an xG of 11.42, Tottenham’s Harry Kane has an xG of 10.78 and has scored 12 goals, while Spurs team-mate Son Heung-min also has 12 goals but at a much lower xG of 7.43.
City did not add a striker in the January transfer window but the goals have been shared around the team, with six players scoring five or more times this season.
Raheem Sterling, who scored the second against Burnley, leads the way with 10, while Phil Foden and Ilkay Gundogan have contributed nine each.
City have scored 39 goals from 333 shots this season – a conversion rate of 8.7%, which is the 10th best in the division – but they are aided by a watertight defence that has conceded just 13 goals so far.
BBC Radio 5 Live pundit Pat Nevin said Jesus’ “scoring percentages aren’t always brilliant, but he’s there where the centre-forward wants to be”, highlighted by his poacher’s finish from close range against Burnley.
Nevin added: “Do Manchester City need a brilliant striker? I actually don’t necessarily think so. They need someone who can put the ball in the net.”
A real test of City’s attacking prowess will come on Sunday when they travel to face Liverpool at Anfield (16:30 GMT kick-off), though the champions are out of form and seven points adrift of the league leaders having played a game more.