Gabriel Jesus has not been in the best of form heading into this clash against Watford. In fact, i did not have him in my predicted line up before the game. It was surprising for me to see his name in the lineup, but i thought that Pep was resting players like Mahrez for the Madrid game. To put it all together, it was a game where most people had no expectation from Gabriel Jesus.
I know it’s just Watford, but this game has the potential to give us an other attacking dimension. There have been frustrating moments this season, where Cancelo and De Bruyne were flashing balls across the box and no one was there to get on the end of them. Gabriel Jesus showed us the importance of having someone with the know how of identifying space and making those canny runs at the right time. In fact all of the positions Gabby had taken up would have been vacant if we had played with a false 9.
The balls from De Bruyne were out of this world, specially the cross for the second goal. But, the little movement from Gabby was also very good, it just left the defender bamboozled. Hardwork off the ball and pressing from the front have been the priority in this Pep system, but what has been under appreciated is the little uncanny movements the center forwards make. In fact, the center forwards have not been given the opportunity to occupy that space as much as they would have liked. Most of their work is to press from the front and drop into the midfield, creating an extra overload.
I am not for a moment saying that the style of Pep is not good enough. We have won so many trophies playing his style. But, my only concern is that maybe he should play a traditional number 9 in matches where teams are sitting deep. I realize that the false 9 is very important to get a numerical advantage in the midfield. But, it makes no sense to play such a system against park the bus teams, where you will be camped in the opposition half for the majority of the game.
Also, against park the bus teams, having a striker is so important for the recognition of space and for the timing of those runs. Yesterday’s game showed us the solutions on how to break down a park the bus team. The solution was as simple as playing a striker with excellent diagonal movement off the ball. Pep paid the ultimate compliment yesterday by comparing the movement of Gabby to the legendary Romario. The only question we have had about Gabriel Jesus is his finishing and if he can finish like he did today in most matches, then it would be a sumptuous feast seeing him together with Haaland.
The Watford game typified the manner in which we can break down tight defenses. This is something that has been missing in patches this season, specially against park the bus teams. I just hope that Gabby can continue with his razor sharp finishing for the reminder of the season and Pep doesn’t tinker with it too much. The form that De Bruyne is in, its almost criminal to play without a natural number 9.