Gabriel Jesus and Joao Cancelo’s impact on Manchester City’s recent past

Sergio Aguero, who has been one of the most reliable strikers of City, has not featured in the starting lineup since 3rd January. Last seen in Stamford Bridge as he came off the bench in the 86th minute, the 32-year-old has been recovering from Covid-19 since then. It was an opportunity for Gabriel Jesus to maneuver his way into the team from the bench to make a significant mark in the absence of the regular first-choice striker.

The Brazilian has 7 Premier League appearances since Aguero’s absence, has only managed to find the back of the net twice. Although it almost has not made a difference in the Sky Blues’ attack, in the past few weeks, they have scored 29 goals while conceding only twice in their 13 games undefeated run. Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling have played a crucial role in bolstering City’s attack, both scoring seven goals in their last ten matches. Gabriel Jesus, who has not been making the most out of it, has an expected goal rate (xG) of 3.95, while the German midfielder has found the net seven times with a goal rate expectancy (xG) of 7.46. The Brazilian’s rough patch can be side-lined by the rest of the attacking options Guardiola has, but not completely.

Pep Guardiola’s use of full-backs has always been praiseworthy, and this season is no different. Joao Cancelo’s tactical versatility has yielded the Cityzens several crucial points in the recent weeks. It has lead to an increase in his game time in comparison to the previous season.

The Portuguese’s ability to make forward runs, playing as an inverted full-back, has been instrumental, with his team playing with a false nine. It allows the players in the final third to create an overload in the midfield, with his constant support along the flank. His average number of key passes that has lead to a goal per ninety minutes (KP90) 2.08, stands convincingly adequate for his ability to build from the back.

Pep also has Cancelo forming a double pivot in the center, which gives City an extra edge in ball recovery and a compact defensive structure. His positioning and performances show why he isn’t a regular full-back and is one of the main reasons why Guardiola has invested so much trust in him, especially in big games.