Guardiola wants more from Jesus as he praises Man City star’s hunger | Football | Sport
Pep Guardiola has described Gabriel Jesus as “like an animal” in training as he battles with Sergio Aguero for a place in the starting line-up.
The Manchester City manager’s only regret is that the animal in question is not a meerkat – because then he might look up more.
Despite a comfortable-looking scoreline, Ederson’s brilliant save from Christian Benteke’s header with his first touch after coming on showed how easily Palace could have come back into things.
The ball hit the bar and City broke as only they can – only for Jesus to shoot into the side netting when a simple cross to Kevin De Bruyne would have enabled the Belgium international to kill off the game with a tap-in.
Thankfully, his brilliant headed opener followed by a sublime second from David Silva just 93 seconds later before half-time were enough.
“He is a real competitor and every session fights like an animal,” Guardiola said of Jesus. “Of course, he is still young and can improve.
“The last action… like when he has to pass to Kevin. He has to do it… but he is so young.”
He’s still just 22, in fact, which is why Guardiola continues to play down his side’s hope of major success all the time his players are only just beginning their learning curves.
“Gabriel has always been good, right from the beginning,” Guardiola insisted. “Unfortunately he had two tough injuries. Last season was tough for him. “After the World Cup it was not easy for him. But he’s strong. He is No 9 for Brazil. So he is an incredible young player.
“Of course there is more to come. He can play; it’ll be a long career. His mentality means he’ll always have success. He is hungry, he wants to become an important striker around the world. We are lucky to have him.
“I thought the club bought an incredible young player at an incredible price. One of their best signings.”
City spent £27million on the then-teenager in January 2017. Where they have been less successful in recruiting, it seems, is in their centre-back position.
An illness for Kyle Walker on Saturday and the knock picked up by Nicolas Otamendi while on international duty with Argentina meant that Guardiola felt the need to play two midfielders at the back as John Stones continued his return to fitness with just a brief cameo appearance.
When Rodri slipped early on, Fernandinho showed his pace and comfort in any position by mopping up a chance that would otherwise have fallen to Wilfried Zaha.
But the number of saves Ederson had to make as Palace pushed late in the game showed there is still some inherent defensive frailty right at the heart of the Manchester City defence whoever Guardiola seems to pick there.
A clean sheet, though, is still a clean sheet – the first for City in the Premier League away from the Etihad since the opening weekend of the season.
“It’s an option,” Guardiola said of his latest experiment. “Rodri can play there. When we decide to do it we’ll have more midfield players on the pitch and we did it.
“I don’t know what is going to happen in the future but he convinced me as an alternative.
“Joao Cancelo had his first game away in the Premier League; it’s not the same as the Etihad. He was aggressive and has incredible quality with the ball. Benjamin Mendy as well.
“He was injured long-term and hopefully he can stay because he has a special quality.
Fernandinho was disarmingly honest when asked it is easy to turn himself from midfielder to makeshift defender at the drop of a hat.
“To be honest, yes,” he said after once again coming to the rescue in City’s current defensive crisis, this time alongside another midfielder Rodri.
“It is not like midfield because most of the time you have the ball at your feet, and can take the decisions.
“The plan we have means we know exactly where we can find the spaces, their weak points.
“If you are in good shape with a good mood you get a good performance.”
Fernandinho did, however, admit that substitute Christian Benteke’s more direct approach did ruffle some feathers when he came on for the final 14 minutes of the match.
“When they started to put long balls into the box, they created chances and give us problems. That’s something we have to improve in future.”