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Edin Halilovic writes a detailed scout report about the Manchester City and Brazil striker, Gabriel Jesus.
There is a revolution that’s slowly taking shape in the blue half of Manchester since the summer arrival of the man they call ‘the Philosopher’, Josep Guardiola. In an attempt to lower the average age of his squad and build it in his own vision for the longer term future, Guardiola and the Manchester City management spent most of their first transfer window together trying to bring in a plethora of youngsters to the club while also bringing in some ready-made players that are prepared to add something to the team right now without having to wait for them to grow into their own and become important parts of the first team squad.
This scouting report takes a closer look at one of the talents that was signed by the club last summer, Gabriel Jesus, who is only joining up with the squad now having spent the first half of the European season helping Palmeiras to their first Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A title since 1994 just over a month ago. With his City debut looming large, all eyes will be on the Brazilian talent to see if he can make an immediate impact with the club just as he has done with the Selecao since making his international bow shortly after signing for the English club.
Gabriel Jesus is a 19-year old Brazilian forward who can play both up top leading the line as a center-forward or on either flank as a winger. He started out as a street and amateur level player, mostly plying his trade for Anhanguera, before moving to Palmeiras in 2013 at the age of just 16. He started out in their youth ranks by joining their U-17 team but after two dominating seasons there, he was promoted to the first team and made his debut in March 2015, just one month shy of his 18th birthday.
Since then, Jesus has made strides of progress in his development which has enabled many to consider him the next hot Brazilian footballing commodity and arguably the biggest since Neymar Jr’s arrival on the scene at the start of the decade.
In his first year of professional football, Jesus was part of a Palmeiras team that finished 9th in the Brazilian Serie A, with him being voted as the Best Newcomer in the league, and won the Copa do Brasil. The following season, he helped steer Palmeiras to their first national league title in 22 years with his 12 league goals while also playing a key part in Brazil’s first ever Olympic gold medal success in football last summer on home soil. Immediately following that triumph, he was slotted into the Selecao starting eleven by newly installed manager Tite and he’s taken his opportunity well with 4 goals in his first 6 caps which has left him as the frontrunner to be Brazil’s next big #9 and lead the line for his country for years to come.
At the end of the 2016 season, he was voted as the player of the season and was awarded the Bola de Ouro award following Palmeiras’ success. In just two seasons as a pro footballer, Jesus has vastly improved as a player with a successful transition from youth to senior football, as evidenced by not only his team successes but also his individual awards as well as his international achievements in 2015 and 2016 . Now, he’s getting ready to make the next big step in his career by moving to arguably the best league in the world to play under who many consider to be the best manager in the world, Guardiola.
Jesus is an uncompromising all-round forward who can offer a lot both on and off the ball. With the ball, he’s a driving force who is always looking to get the ball forward and cause danger to the opposition with his runs from deep, his dribbling abilities, and his keenness to link up with his teammates to take opposing defenders out of the equation as a means of reaching the goal. Without the ball, he utilizes his intelligent movement and pitch awareness to find pockets of space to wander into to either offer himself as a passing option for his teammates or to create more room for them by taking away their markers and attracting their attention with clever off-the-ball runs.
Jesus often alternates between drifting into wide areas by moving into channels and dropping deeper into midfield with ball-oriented movements to offer an option to build passing connections with close-by teammates. He isn’t the strongest or the tallest player and is fully aware of that so he tries to play to his strengths by looking to constantly link up with others and get on the ball where he can use his pace and dribbling abilities to run right at defenses and create promising situations for his team on the offensive end.
Although he isn’t the most imposing player physically as pointed out, Jesus is not afraid to get physical when necessary and is often involved in duels for the ball with players, which is standard practice in South American football where there is a prevalent emphasis on physicality over technicality. Along with the contributions he makes on the ball, he works hard off of it by pressing opposition and tracking back to help his teammates and isn’t afraid to get his socks dirty for the right cause for as long as he’s helping them out in winning balls back.
The skills he has gained from his early days of playing in the Sao Paulo streets are evident in his adventurous traits to dribble and link up with others as often as possible, but his intelligent actions on the pitch and the surprising level of footballing maturity for a player of his age is what really catches one’s eye about him and what separates him from other forward talents in South America as he typifies what a modern forward is supposed to be all about in today’s game. This perhaps is the single biggest reason for why he’s been able to achieve so much as a professional already in such a short space of time.
Jesus’ biggest strengths arguably come in the form of his impressive off-the-ball movement and his tireless defensive work rate. Although great Brazilian strikers of the past were renowned for their extravagant lifestyles off the pitch which led to a lack of stability on it and a physical level that was unsuited for an elite sportsman, Jesus more closely resembles and typifies your modern day forward than he does his predecessors. Combining his pace with his ability to identify and navigate spaces, Jesus’ tireless efforts in making runs off the ball attract plenty of attention to him from defenders and take some off of his teammates in the process, which creates room for them to maneuver into as the opposition opens up in the process thanks to his clever decoy runs.
When his team isn’t in possession, Jesus doesn’t just stand around waiting for his players to win it back but instead works hard in helping them do so by covering ground through high pressing and smart defensive tracking backwards to his own goal. He often moves out wide to support his fullback and create 2v2 situations, stopping the opposition from establishing numerical superiority on the flanks and thus hampering their hopes of creating a chance down the side and forcing them to switch the play and try their luck elsewhere. His good reading of situations allow him to visualize dangerous threats before they come to pass and get into position early enough to avert them with his defensive tracking which allows him to successfully recover the ball for his team with the effort and awareness he puts into his work on the defensive side.
Although Jesus isn’t the most technically polished of players, he is a good passer of the ball and has an above average rate of success with his attempts despite the fact that most of the passes he plays are risky and forward thinking. Although he mostly prefers to play short one-two combinations with supporting teammates, he does often attempt vertical passes when taking up a deeper position on the pitch as a means of trying to get the players further forward on the ball and free them up in advanced areas.
A trait that seemingly almost has to be common in South American attacking players in the eye of your average football viewer is that they need to possess flair and skillful dribbling abilities when they’re on the ball. Jesus, who was a street player before moving to Palmeiras, certainly possesses those abilities in his locker and is capable of taking defenders out of the equation with his drive and eagerness to get the ball forward and beat his man in 1v1 situations. Although he isn’t as flashy as a Neymar when he dribbles, his quick footwork and sharp body directional changes aid him a lot in such situations and make him a good dribbler of the ball.
Jesus’ finishing abilities have also improved considerably as he’s grown accustomed to senior level football after a year of learning curves in 2015. Although his finishing in 1v1 situations still leaves something to be desired, his overall shooting abilities and his prolific scoring record are enough to make him adept in this department. His preferred shooting style is to cut in on his right foot and curl or place the ball into the opposite corner if he’s playing in from the left hand side and put his laces through the ball with powerful attempts if he’s taking them from the right side.
Due to the emphasis on defensive organization and quick breaks on the counter from Palmeiras and Brazil, Jesus wasn’t able to produce several shot attempts per game on average as he spent much of the matches outside the penalty area but that hasn’t hindered his scoring touch as he managed to find the back of the net with regularity throughout 2016 for both club and country.
As a direct result of his physical approach to defending and attacking balls, Jesus tends to commit fouls often, as evidenced by his 12 bookable offenses in the league last year. By that same token, he was also one of the most fouled players in Brazil in 2016 and while his ability to win fouls is unquestionably an asset for his team, it is a concern for such a young player to take the brunt of so much punishment and sooner rather than later perhaps a slight alteration in his approach to the game may be of more benefit for him and help him avoid any severe injuries in the future whilst prolonging his career as a pro level player in the process.
Although he likes to often get into duels, Jesus doesn’t find much success with them. Aerially he’s often beaten by his marker while his inability to use his strength and hold up the ball well often leads to turnovers and giveaways in ground situations too. His heading on its own isn’t very impressive either with most of them failing to find their target successfully.
Another weakness in his game is his crossing which is something that he doesn’t attempt much of in games on average due to his central position on the pitch and it shows as he often doesn’t get the proper weight or accuracy on his deliveries with most of them either being under-hit or over-hit.
Other weaknesses could include his failures to beat the offside trap as he occasionally times his runs a split second too late and ends up going early enough to get sucked into the defensive team’s trap as well as his disciplinary issues which stem from his physical approach and his inability to contain his emotions in heated moments, which is only normal for a young player and can be etched out of his game with more guidance and experience.
Gabriel Jesus has all the tools in his locker to be a success in Europe and although he’s still a little rough around the edges in some aspects of his game, there’s nothing there that he can’t improve on with good coaching and playing at a high level for a longer period. Moving to Manchester City will be a big challenge for his career but judging by the quick climb he’s made to get this far already, it’s certainly one he’s ready to take on right now.
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