A look at the best strikers in the Premier League, and what they are doing for their teams.
Chelsea have been struggling to get the best out of their strikers this season. The Jesus, Man City beat Lukaku, Chelsea in game of teams struggling to get the best from their strikers is a result that has been seen across Europe. Read more in detail here: chelsea transfer news.
LONDON, United Kingdom — Every club with championship ambitions requires a dependable No. 9 who can produce in important games, and one of them decided Saturday’s match between Champions League winners Chelsea and Premier League champions Manchester City. It was the man who has spent the whole summer hearing his team needs a new striker, rather than the £97.5 million club-record signing, who scored the game-winning goal in City’s 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.
This was a day when Pep Guardiola and his squad reminded everyone that City is still the team to beat in the Premier League, but it was also a day when Gabriel Jesus demonstrated that he can still be the guy to score the goals that will help the Etihad achieve even more success.
And, while we’re on the subject of reminders, Romelu Lukaku’s disappointing performance for Chelsea showed how the former Everton and Manchester United striker still has a lot to prove when facing the greatest clubs and defenses in the world.
– Watch LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, and more on ESPN+ – Watch ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only) – If you don’t have ESPN, you’re out of luck. Get immediate access
It was Jesus, not Lukaku, who shone as a full centre-forward in this game, which was all the more unexpected given that Guardiola did not even pick the City striker to play in his preferred position. With the exception of the final eight minutes, Jesus played on the wide right of a front three, with midfielder Phil Foden operating as a false nine in the middle, but the Brazil international was a livewire from start to finish, pressing Chelsea defenders and taking a physical battering from Antonio Rudiger.
His goal in the 53rd minute, a close-range drive deflected off Jorginho, was a reward for his effort and ability to overcome the displeasure of having to play out of position for most of the game. It was also enough to hand Chelsea their first loss of the season and put an end to Thomas Tuchel’s three-game winning run against City since taking over from Frank Lampard in January.
“Gabriel gives everything all the time,” Guardiola remarked. “You are unable to communicate with him. He sprints for his teammates in every move throughout every game. These are the kinds of players that make me happy.”
It is in high-pressure games that you learn the most about a team, and both Tuchel and Guardiola will have learned something new about their offensive style after this match. Tuchel, for example, may have have realized that if his side wants to win the Premier League this season, they would need more diversity moving forward, as this loss confirmed.
Lukaku’s £47.6 million summer transfer from Inter Milan was supposed to give Chelsea the cutting edge they lacked last season, when Timo Werner failed to deliver as a consistent scorer following his £47.6 million move from RB Leipzig, but Lukaku failed to threaten against City, just as he did against Liverpool last month. The 28-year-old has provided Chelsea with a focal point up front, and his hold-up play has vastly improved in his two years in Serie A, but his movement remains predictable, and he still fails to go in quest of the ball when his team struggles to provide it to him.
Gabriel Jesus, left, was the game-winning No. 9 as Man City ended Chelsea’s three-game winning run. Manchester City/Manchester City FC/Matt McNulty via Getty Images
Perhaps Chelsea needed Kai Havertz’s creativity from the start, rather than as a 60th-minute substitute, to get the best out of Lukaku, but after failing to impress against Liverpool, Lukaku has now failed to impress against City, and if Chelsea are to win the title, he must provide a threat in these games at some point. Lukaku will make Chelsea dangerous if he can add the work rate and mobility of a Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane, or Edinson Cavani, but for now, he is making things much too easy for the top-class defenders he is facing.
Jesus, a City striker, is a different player than Lukaku, but he is also a centre-forward. Guardiola’s lack of confidence in the 24-year-old is shown by his refusal to trust him to fill the hole created by Sergio Aguero’s summer transfer to Barcelona. Jesus’ confidence will have been boosted little by City’s unsuccessful pursuit of Kane. While City do not see Jesus as the answer to their quest for a world-class center-forward, his attributes allow Guardiola to play with a front three in the absence of Kane or Lewandowski.
Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop, and others to discuss the most recent news and debate the most important stories. ESPN+ has a live stream available (U.S. only).
To hold the ball aloft for his approaching teammates, Jesus stretches defenses and willingly absorbs physical difficulties. And he’ll go searching for the ball or make the runs that allow Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, and others to attack opposing defenses.
“Sometimes we think we need a good striker to finish,” Guardiola remarked, “but the main thing is the way we play.” “The most essential aspect is that you do it as a group and as a unit. It’s the same as previous season. We won the Premier League despite Sergio [Aguero] being injured for the whole season.”
Under Guardiola, Jesus may never play in the center again, but he can still be a valuable asset, as he demonstrated against Chelsea, who posed little danger until the last minutes. Chelsea finished the game without recording a single shot on target, despite their late flurry.
Yes, they had had a good start to the season before this loss, but Chelsea still lacks the diversity of City and Liverpool when it comes to attacking play. Early season anticipation had them positioned as championship favorites, but this was a much-needed reality check. City still needs a center-forward, but they have enough of guys capable of scoring huge goals.
Chelsea must still demonstrate that they have it in their arsenal.