When we last wrote about roles, we considered that the green ratings for roles when choosing one for a player was less about his actual ability in that role and more about an opinion based on facts, attributes and form. We looked, particularly, at Gabriel Jesus‘ ability and attributes. In game, the staff recommend playing him as an Advanced Forward, based purely on his best attributes. They feel that he would then play best as an Advanced Forward. This is true, but not in every case. The proof?
If you take what is considered his worst role, as a Target Man, and look at his attributes, they look rather good. The attributes needed for a Target Man are definitely not his best attributes. In comparison to that, however, he can definitely hold his own against a League One or even Championship level Target Man. So, now that all the theoretical stuff is out of the way, what is there left to say and do?
So here it is, the ultimate (not so ultimate) role suitability experiment with Manchester City’s very own Gabriel Jesus.
The Role Experiment
So, here’s what I did: I started a save with Manchester City. The tactic setup for the team is very basic. Unfortunately plagued by injuries in early season, we still had a rather decent team to make up a 4-3-3 Tiki Taka formation. With De Bruyne and Sané missing out due to injury, we were all set to go. We saved just before the first game of the season, so we could roll back when switching the experiment.
The premise of this idea is that we’d play five games with Jesus playing as his best position, an Advanced Forward. We would then roll back and play the same five games with the same tactic, roles and players but with Jesus as a Target Man. What could possibly go wrong, I hear you ask? Well the answers may be surprising… The fixture list for the first five games were particularly interesting. We had a great mix of both tough opponents in Liverpool and Chelsea. We also had some weaker ones, such as Burnley, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa.
Despite the injury hit-list, we still set up a tactic with the missing men included before simulating the first games. I wanted a pure AI view on these first few games. So my Assistant Manager took care of the games and various other jobs. My thinking behind keeping Mendy and Sané in the team were to then check the boxes “use team tactic as often as possible” as well as “use team selection as often as possible”. So, I put on my best waiting hat, and waited for the games to unfold…
First Fixtures – AF Role
After FIVE WHOLE minutes of waiting, the game was done loading. And my results awaited!
The first five games as an Advanced Forward saw no real surprises for Gabriel Jesus and Manchester City. We started off the season well, with Jesus getting the first goal of the season for the team. Burnley later replied after David Silva scored the second, but Aguero, coming on from the bench, rectified and put the game to bed. We got through the first game of the season with a 3-1 win.
A key game then came next. We were faced with a tough home game against Liverpool, our title rivals. Despite it being early in the season, it’s a game that could completely change the tide. Despite some excellent work from Rodri in midfield, we succumbed to a 2-0 defeat. With all the strikers snatching at their chances, Jesus included, we were demoralized. Rodri was the driving force for this match, getting an astounding 7 key passes! Unfortunately, none of the chances we had were scored.
Perhaps based on the morale drop from that game, we lost 2-0 to a good Chelsea side after that. Otamendi picked up a red card early on in the game, which was a deciding factor in the result. Barely a single chance was created for us, and it was a poor performance.
Things picked up after that, however, as we hosted Aston Villa. An early brace from Jesus saw us through the game, almost, as Bernardo Silva picked up the third and the three points.
Jesus then scored another brace against Crystal Palace, this time late in the game, after replying to a 2nd minute Zaha goal. City won the game 3-1.
Conclusion and Analysis of Role
So there you have it. The first five games of the season for Manchester City’s campaign. 3 wins out of 5, and 2 defeats. Definitely not the worst results we could’ve had, especially considering Jesus scored 5 goals in those 5 games. That being said, he did have some games where he failed to scored a single goal, despite having chances galore. I think we can call this a somewhat success, as Jesus wasn’t directly responsible for either carrying or losing the game for his team. He had an impact, definitely, but I don’t think it can be considered a game changing impact in any of the games he played. That being said, however, there are some very interesting things we can say about Jesus’ time as an Advanced Forward for these first five games.
If we take a look at his form in these five games, there is a lot of erratic nonsense. But if you take a closer look, what does pop out for me is his overall shot attempts. In the first game, Jesus did well to score one of the two shots he had in a game that was winnable and we did win it. It shows good composure and mental strength, but what comes after in the next two games definitely shows he might not have been up to scratch. We’ll consider it foreshadowing of the things to come, of which they did against Liverpool and Chelsea.
Three shot attempts came from the next two games, which might not particularly be his fault, because to be able to take a shot you also need to have teammates who give you good balls (which would require further analysis), but it could also have to do with his positioning, whether he tries to dribble with the ball, what he does with it. If, in one instance, he had decided to shoot instead of pass, for example, he might’ve scored. Obviously is football, you can’t think of that ‘what if’s’ because there are many.
What did surprise me after that, however, is that in the second to last game, he had more shots than the entire season AND pre-season combined. Those 8 and 9 shots, including 7 on target in the last game, were instrumental into letting him get a brace in them. He was definitely a force to be reckoned with. I did take a peak at what could have made this difference, however, and the result surprised me. For the first three games, Riyad Mahrez replaced the injured Bernardo Silva as a Right Winger.
The chances they created together and the partnership they formed proved to be so ineffectual that barely a chance a was created against Chelsea (there was a red card, I know, but still). When Bernardo Silva came back (unbeknownst to be that he wasn’t in the original team), things definitely… Changed. He almost picked up the MOTM award against Aston Villa, after creating a chance and having two key passes in the build up to the goals. Not to mention he came on in the 45th minute against Crystal Palace to set up another key pass and pick up a rating of 7.
This just goes to prove that Jesus isn’t a one man team. No one is. This role appreciation article I’m in the middle of writing doesn’t just apply to one player, and won’t just apply to one of YOUR players, it applies to everyone. In Football Manager, there is no longer any room for mistakes. One role change can make or break a game, whether it’s a non-league Sunday game or a Champions League final, you need to be absolutely sure that what you are doing is both calculated, with the team and players best interests at heart.
If I was to continue to play this Manchester City save and use Gabriel Jesus, I sincerely don’t know if I would continue to play him as an Advanced Forward. Obviously, the start of the season is very important to every team, as everyone wants to get off to a good start, and have a great campaign. That, for me, is what friendlies are so important for. If you’re in your 15th season for a club, chances are you know what your players play like. But if you’re just starting out in a new save or at a new club, unless you made vital research beforehand, chances are you’re going to be in the blue. So use those pre-season friendlies to experiment a bit, make sure everything’s okay for the season to come.
Finally, the third part and conclusion to this article will be in the next episode. Sorry for the wait! But if you’re itching for more Dictate the Game, make sure to check out our other articles: