The past week of Premiership action saw all 20 teams play twice, but only two sides were able to string together back-to-back wins going into the final third of the campaign. While Watford dealt the first blow that knocked Arsenal out of the title race, and then followed up by beating 10-man Burnley on Saturday, Manchester City’s pair of victories included the most significant fantasy storyline.
With a team full of household names, it was the Citizens’ newest big-money signing that stole the show, as 19-year-old Gabriel Jesus introduced himself to fantasy owners at the expense of long-time City star Sergio Aguero. On the back of just one league goal since Thanksgiving weekend, Aguero made way for the Brazilian for Wednesday’s trip to West Ham. Not only did Jesus set up Man City’s opener after just 17 minutes, but he later killed off the match by scoring his side’s third just before halftime. In doing so, he spearheaded a mouthwatering under-23 attacking trio with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, earning them all another start Sunday versus Swansea City. For his encore, Jesus – who can also operate on the left wing – responded by scoring both of Man City’s goals, including a stoppage-time winner even after Aguero was brought on as a second-half substitute.
Now, despite only arriving in Manchester after winning the Brasileirao with Palmeiras in December, Jesus has already staked his claim to cut into the playing time of one of the five best center forwards in the world. Whereas Kelechi Iheanacho has similarly impressed in Aguero’s stead over the past couple seasons, Jesus’ meteoric rise suggests he’ll join Aguero among the globe’s elite before long.
It was around this time last year, when at 18 years old, the Sao Paulo-born striker really began to make a splash in South America, scoring four goals in five matches in the Copa Libertadores – a competition that launched the careers of Aguero, Luis Suarez and Alexis Sanchez, to name a few, before him. Although a red card forced him to miss Palmeiras’ final group stage contest, and further feistiness resulted in the third-most bookings (11) in league play, he still notched 11 goals and three assists through Palmeiras’ first 14 Brasileirao matches, which saw the club rise from a ninth-place finish in 2015 to champions by the end of 2016.
Thanks to those eye-opening exploits, the youngster was called into Brazil’s squad for last summer’s Olympics, where the host country faced considerable pressure to overcome its epic collapse on home soil in the 2014 World Cup. Along with that added scrutiny, he began the games by having his £27 million transfer to Manchester City announced the day before Brazil’s first match of the tournament. However, since donning his country’s famed shirt – and specifically the no. 9 jersey – Jesus has never looked back. He scored three goals in six appearances en route to a gold medal at the Olympics, and then registered five goals and four assists through his first six games in 2018 World Cup qualifying.
Despite seemingly playing non-stop over the past year, Jesus’ success has yet to be slowed at Manchester City, where his lethal finishing, positional flexibility, and relentless work rate make him a perfect fit atop Pep Guardiola’s attack. While Aguero figures to eventually return to the fold, and Iheanacho remains one of the brightest prospects at his age, Jesus’ top-class talent is undeniable, and he’s already proven capable of playing alongside international stars like Neymar and Philippe Coutinho. Such experience has enabled him to appear undaunted within the Citizens’ setup and under the Premier League spotlight, where he projects to remain for years to come.