Many Manchester City fans will have expected their side to start the season well, especially with the amount of money that coach Pep Guardiola had pumped into the squad during the summer to right the wrongs of his debut season in Eastlands.
It has been a much better start than people would have expected with the Cityzens remaining undefeated thus far as they sit pretty at the top of the table. One thing that City needed to improve on was their form against the top sides failing to defeat any of last season’s top four, but put that to the sword with the 5-0 win over Liverpool.
However, many saw their trip to current champions Chelsea as their biggest test thus far, and Guardiola was given a massive headache with the loss of both Sergio Agüero and Benjamin Mendy before the trip to the English capital.
Mendy was confirmed to be out until at least April after tearing his ACL in the 5-0 win over Crystal Palace, while Agüero was ruled out hours before after the Argentine was involved in a car crash in Amsterdam suffering a rib injury.
Many will have thought these two losses especially that of the Argentine would hinder City chances of defeating the Blues, it proved to be quite the contrary as they arguably produced the performance of the season with Kevin De Bruyne securing the 1-0 win.
Guardiola decided on Gabriel Jesus and Fabian Delph as replacements for the two absentees, and with Agüero expected to be out for around six weeks the duo could be the answer to Guardiola’s selection problems going forward.
Embed from Getty Images
Getting some more minutes
It would be fair to say that Delph has never been given a fair crack of the whip since his arrival from Aston Villa back in the 2015-16 season, especially since the arrival of Guardiola with the coach admitting that he would have liked to have played the Englishman more.
Delph’s game time from his debut season was cut drastically making just 13 appearances last season, which was also hindered by almost constant injury through the campaign.
Guardiola has been well known throughout his managerial career for transferring players into different positions with the likes ofJavier Mascherano, Philipp Lahm, and Joshua Kimmich coming to mind.
The Catalan coach is also well known for his love of full-backs and that was well documented in the summer, with the signings of Danilo, Kyle Walker and of course Mendy. The Brazilian seems the natural solution for the role having played both as a right-back and a full-back, Danilo even played left-back in the opening 2-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion but is expected to be needed elsewhere.
Delph began to be groomed into the role during the Carabao Cup conquest over West Bromwich Albion and again in the win over Shakhtar Dontesk, it is fair to say that he didn’t look a natural playing on his wrong side and didn’t really get on the overlap but was solid enough and kept the passing game ticking over.
Guardiola will have to seriously consider dipping his hands into his pockets in the January transfer window with talks of another move for Danny Rose, but in the here and now Mendy’s absence will open an opportunity for Delph to pull on the City shirt more than expected.
Embed from Getty Images
Looking good to fill a big gap
It was clear from the beginning that Guardiola was a great admirer of Jesus after the completion of his move back in January, his excellent start was also a hindrance to Agüero as it saw him reduced to the substitutes bench.
Jesus' dominance only lasted for four games as he broke his metatarsal which allowed Agüero back into the side for the remainder of the campaign despite Jesus' return in April, the run in the side saw Agüero produce his highest scoring campaign in the light blue colours of City with 33 goals in 45 overall appearances.
Both forwards have had excellent starts to the campaign with Agüero scoring eight goals in seven matches before his injury, Jesus has also racked up a respectable five goals in nine appearances but the emphasis will now lay on his shoulders with Agüero's prolonged absence.
During his early years in his native Brazil, Jesus was mainly used as the wide player in a forward three and it is clear to see that he is still learning to play the number nine role, with the Brazilian's performance as a lone striker certainly wasn't a standout in the English capital.
Under the magnifying glass he looked to be turning the attacking gears in Guardiola's side turning from a inside forward, to a false nine and into a out-and-out striker, Jesus also showed his determination for the side never dropping his levels of energy and effort throughout the 90 minutes.
Chelsea's summer signing Antonio Rüdiger seemed to crowd out the 20-year-old, but overall Jesus is always lurking with purpose and making intelligent moves which will stand him in good stead in Agüero's absence.