Gabriel Jesus: Manchester City must 'work hard' to get top spot back in the Premier League
Brazilian striker admits margin of error small for the champions thanks to Liverpool's own impressive run of results
The equation has changed for Manchester City. For weeks, many operated under the assumption that the champions would not just retain their title but win the Premier League by a sizeable margin.
If they did not include City themselves, and Pep Guardiola always laughed off talk of becoming Invincibles, the sight of a table topped by Liverpool should alter perceptions.
City have only dropped seven points in 16 games. They now trail Liverpool. “It changes the fact that we aren't top anymore,” said strker Gabriel Jesus. “We need to work hard to get the top of the table back.”
Defeat at Chelsea last Saturday reduced the margin for error, as the Brazilian forward accepted. “The games at home, even if we know they are going to be difficult, we need to try to win them all. The away games as well. And in a few weeks, we have the clash against Liverpool.”
If the season is shaping up as a contest between Manchester and Merseyside, so is this weekend: Liverpool host United while City take on Everton, the first club to take points off them last season. “A very difficult opponent,” said Jesus.
City’s problems stretch beyond the nature of the opposition. Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Fernandinho and Benjamin Mendy missed Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Hoffenheim, depriving them of half of their strongest side.
Aguero and Fernandinho may be the likeliest to return, with De Bruyne a possible substitute. “We have to do our best in terms of recovery,” said Ilkay Gundogan, one of those who will surely start again.
If City’s consistency has been taken for granted, Jesus argued it is not easy to maintain the level of a 100-point campaign. “All the seasons are difficult, but this one especially because of the great season we did last season,” he said.
City have nonetheless made winning home league games appear simple: eight victories have produced 30 goals.
Perhaps that run has been eased by the fixture list. If City, who have already visited the rest of the top five, have been praised for their exploits on the road, a knock-on effect is that they have had some of the simpler home games.
As Jesus suggested, that may change: Everton and Crystal Palace arrive at the Etihad Stadium in December, followed by Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers in January, Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham United in February and then Tottenham and Leicester in the last month of the season.
Routs may become rarer, City’s 100 per cent home record endangered.
Raheem Sterling has been a major reason for their excellence on their own turf, delivering five league goals and three assists at the Etihad already this season.
The Premier League player of the month for November has been in the spotlight for other reasons after he was racially abused at Chelsea. “Those things happen, unfortunately,” added Jesus.
“I hope the authorities do their job. Sterling is fine, he's a grown-up and he knows how to cope with it. We all support him.”
Gundogan, who was racially abused when playing for Germany, added: “It’s not easy because I lived it in the summer as well. I know how that feels and it hurts. But at the end we have no other choice but to stay strong.”
To his credit, Sterling looked unaffected during another effervescent display against Hoffenheim. Jesus struck a post but a forward with a solitary league goal this season and who has failed to find the net in 11 of his last 12 games has not capitalised on Aguero’s absence.
“I have to score goals,” he accepted. “However, sometimes it doesn't happen.”
More often than not, however, his teammates have made it happen for City.
Updated: December 14, 2018 08:20 AM