Saturday 24 March 2018

Jesus' whole year with no defeats an indication of strength City possess

Man City’s Gabriel Jesus is challenged by West Brom’s Jonny Evans. Photo: Getty Images
Man City’s Gabriel Jesus is challenged by West Brom’s Jonny Evans. Photo: Getty Images

Jim White

As a measure of how dominant Manchester City are in the Premier League, at the Hawthorns on Saturday, centre-forward Gabriel Jesus notched up a remarkable record: the victory over West Brom marked an entire year since he last played on a losing side.

It may not have been his most effective match in City colours, he may have spent much of his afternoon shackled by the excellent Jonny Evans, but the individual achievement his performance marked was hugely significant.

"It's amazing. It's really incredible," was his manager Pep Guardiola's response. "One year is a lot of games, for the national team, for Palmeiras and here with no defeats. It's really good. He's a guy who helps us a lot with pressing, he's so intensive on the second balls, and centre balls. He's a real good guy."

Going an entire year without defeat: that must be the very stuff of Tony Pulis's dreams. But the irony for the ultra-cautious, ultra-conservative West Brom manager is that Jesus has achieved the mark playing in sides in which attack is paramount. For Brazil and Guardiola's City, it is not avoiding defeat that is the priority, it is victory.

On Saturday, Pulis did his best not to be defeated, fielding a team of five defenders shielded by three defensive midfielders. It did not work.

City, while not at their stylish peak, nevertheless took the home side apart at will. Never mind the 3-2 scoreline made respectable by Matt Phillips's late consolation, in this extended game of defence versus attack, there was only ever going to be one winner.

Guardiola was probably right to suggest his side should have won 5-1, after Ben Foster in the home goal made a series of outstanding late saves.

Pulis, however, was adamant it was not his tactics that were holding back his team. "It's just that we need a result to get out of it," he said of Albion's dismal run of form.

But the manager, who has never been relegated, did not suggest he was about to change tack: 'Pulisball' is going nowhere.

"You get these periods, you get ups and downs," he said. "We kept going. I don't think there was a lack of confidence, maybe a lack of quality at times in certain areas."

Which is not something that could be said of City. Even if Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne were unusually quiet, even if John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi were culpable for the goals, Fernandinho, Leroy Sane and Kyle Walker, excellent all, stepped into the breach to give yet further demonstration that Guardiola's method is a far more effective way of avoiding defeat: score more goals than the opposition.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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