NATHAN Redmond and Raheem Sterling knew how Sergio Aguero felt on Saturday. They too had been on the end of a Pep Guardiola verbal demonstration on the Etihad Stadium turf, but neither got as close to the Manchester City boss as the Argentine did. There was a point at which it seemed the pair would come to blows.
Mikel Arteta stepped in before that could happen, with Aguero and Guardiola hugging it out after it seemed Gabriel Jesus, the player brought on in the place of the 31-year-old, had scored a late goal to snatch three points against Tottenham. Despite the initial drama, there was no suggestion of any real divide between the two.
Saturday won’t be the last time that Aguero finds his strike partner being favoured this season. Jesus has long been viewed as one for the future, but that future is beginning to look like the present and having been symbolically handed the number nine shirt there’s a growing feeling that this could be a transitional season for the Brazilian.
Pep Guardiola on the ‘argument’ with Aguero:
“Sergio believed I was upset with him for the goal we conceded. I wanted one on one movement. He thought I was upset with him. Emotion is part of our game. We talked after and during. He’s a guy I love a lot.”#MCFC pic.twitter.com/kHl73pKLH4
— City Xtra (@City_Xtra) August 17, 2019
This transition would be one that Jesus usurp Aguero as Man City’s first choice centre forward. If the Argentine was upset at being hooked for his 22-year-old teammate on Saturday then he might not deal so well with what is on the horizon. It’s not out of the question that Jesus, by the end of the season, will be City’s main man up front, not Aguero.
There were hints in Guardiola’s first season at City that the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss wanted something more, something different from Aguero. It didn’t take long for the Argentine to win over the new boss, but it’s possible that Guardiola has long harboured the idea that an upgrade on Aguero as his frontman is possible.
And it’s possible that Guardiola has developed and refined Jesus as that upgrade all this time, from the moment he arrived at the Etihad Stadium as a £27 million signing back in the January transfer window of 2017. The Brazilian has been a peripheral figure for much of the time since then, but not without a purpose.
Guardiola isn’t renowned for showing false faith in a player. When he doesn’t believe in a player, they will be sold or cast aside. Look at how Zlatan Ibrahimovic spent just one season at Barcelona. Or how Claudio Bravo was replaced swiftly by Ederson as Man City’s first choice goalkeeper after a few blunders.
— Sporting Life Football (@SportingLifeFC) August 17, 2019
The fact Jesus has lasted this long at City makes a statement about the belief Guardiola has in the Brazilian striker. He is being kept around for a reason and that is reason is to one day become the club’s primary centre forward. Guardiola, arguably the hardest to please coach in the sport right now, clearly feels Jesus will be big player for City, whether that is now or in years to come.
Aguero remains one of the most reliable goalscorers in the Premier League and he will continue to play an important role for Man City. At 31 he is far from washed up. But the Argentine may no longer be able to presume his place as Guardiola’s first choice frontman. City might finally be on the brink of the transition between the two strikers.
It wasn’t long after Jesus’ signing back in January 2017 that Guardiola proclaimed he had seen “the future of Manchester City,” with Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and the Brazilian forward starting as a front three in a comprehensive FA Cup win over Crystal Palace. That future might have finally arrived, at least from the perspective of Jesus. Just don't tell Aguero.