The invincible tag has been well and truly worn off Manchester City, with losses to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and – shockingly – Crystal Palace at the Etihad since the start of December.
The well-oiled machine that Pep Guardiola has constructed with Sheikh Mansour’s billions has been showing signs of rust, and the Spaniard certainly rang in the changes ahead of their second visit to the King Power Stadium in eight days to take on Claude Puel’s Leicester City, for fear of falling further behind leaders of pack Liverpool.
Danilo came in for right-back Kyle Walker, who has suffered an atrocious run of form and consequently triggering a substantial portion of City fans’ anxiety regarding the £56m man. Guardiola understandably listened to the criticism and brought in the former Real Madrid man in only his second start of the season at Walker’s expense.
The John Stones-in-midfield experiment has been mercifully ended, with the Englishman taking his place in the heart of defence, and Ilkay Gundogan awarded the ‘Fernandinho’ role.
The most notable change – and one most certainly to raise more than a few eyebrows - however was the complete omission of the misfiring Gabriel Jesus from Pep Guardiola’s entire squad selection to face the Foxes.
Jesus’ brace in a 3-1 win against Everton a fortnight ago offered the forward temporarily reprieve but it is becoming increasingly apparent that the young Brazilian is seemingly incapable of taking the peerless Sergio Aguero’s mantle. That brace in fact marked an end to a barren run of 11 games and 487 minutes of league football without a goal.
Against Palace in the last gameweek, Jesus had just a total of two shots for City, one blocked and one off target. He failed to make a successful dribble, and lost every single aerial battle he became involved in, as well as having a fairly questionable successful passing rate of 75% from the 16 passes he attempted. In a Guardiola team, this is remarkable. Furthermore, and most detrimentally, glaring chances went amiss.
In total this season, Jesus has just three goals in 15 appearances for Manchester City. The official reason for his exclusion for the squad against Leicester was 'a slight knock'.
Questions were raised outside of club football about the 21-year-old’s effectiveness following a lacklustre spearheading of the Brazil attack this summer in the World Cup
Rotation is, of course, necessary in a congested festive period that sees City having to undertake six fixtures between Christmas Day and mid-January. However, Jesus’ startled performance against the Eagles and subsequent absence from the next matchday squad has again raised the questions as to his capabilities to effectively lead the front-line for a team that will stop at nothing to conquer both the Premier League, and Europe.