In the series where discuss the usefulness – or uselessness – of roles, we’ve already theorised that role suitability is just an opinion given to you by the scouts. Truly, what difference do these roles make? This is the quest we’ve set ourselves up for. Through thick and thin, rough and smooth, Leroy Sané’s insane pace and John Stones’ twisted knickers, this is: Roles, do they matter? Part 3!
When we left off the last article on roles, we discussed many topics and actually managed to experiment a bit. In the start of a league campaign, Manchester City were on the lookout for five wins in five to kick start their campaign. Their star striker, Gabriel Jesus, was fired up as ever. The coaches were happy to see him start every single game in their favourite position for Jesus (not that they asked him…). As an Advanced Forward, Jesus racked up a total of five goals out of five, scoring two braces against the might of Villa and the Eagles. Failing to score against some of the tougher opponents, such as Chelsea and Liverpool, did leave a rather sour taste in my coach’s mouth, as his favourite boy in his favourite position didn’t deliver quite as expected.
None the matter, however, as now it’s time to roll back the save, and play the same five games again… Only this time, Jesus will be playing in my coach’s nightmares… As a Target Man…
Target Man Role
You may or may not be all that familiar with Target Men. I strongly suggest you read this article first to make sure you know what I’m on about. Or just to seem like you understand it, here’s a quick overview:
A Target Man is, by all means, a striker who does exactly what it says on the tin. A strong man up front, he’s the one you aim for when delivering that all important cross, or whip in that wonderful free kick. He’s the origin of the all important footballing rule: If you don’t know who to aim for, aim for the guy who’s head towers over the rest. Chances are, he gets on the end of one of your crosses, he’s going to head it in. When he’s not doing Peter Crouch stuff, the Target Man’s other duties include (but aren’t limited to):
- Helping his teammates by using his sheer physical prowess to disrupt the opposition line
- Laying off headers to his teammates in an attempt to bring them into play
- Recovering from a 10 meter dash to the ball for 20 minutes (I’m looking at you, Akinfenwa)
As such, I, as a genius football manager, brought Jesus to the first five games of the season as a Target Man. The scrawny 22 year old, who weighs only 73kg (roughly 11 stone) and is somewhat on the small side, standing at only 5ft8 got nervous on his first outing, thinking I mistook him Lucas Nmecha down in the development squad. “Bloody frenchy…” he kept saying to me when he ran past me…
A good start to the game saw us 2-0 up after barely 10 minutes of play, with Rodri threading through ball after ball, confusing the opposition defence with the fact that you can actually kick a ball higher than a person. Being the towering man he is, Burnley decided to man mark him with three defenders in Aguero’s first goal, allowing Silva the space to make a brilliant pass to him, which he banged in in his usual style.
Aguero then won a penalty for the side, which allowed Fernandinho to score the second. After winning a goal back but missing a penalty in style, Burnley were hot on our tails. But late on, Laporte got down the wing and crossed in a superb ball for Jesus, who absolutely smashed it home. A kick start to his season as a Target Man perhaps? We’d find out what confidence that gave him against Liverpool…
A tale of two teams here at the Etihad, as both sides really did push to gain ground in this early season. Unfortunately for Liverpool, City were the ones walking away with three points on the day after a resounding 4-1 victory. Despite the scoreline, the game was actually rather balanced. 15 shots to 14, with both teams having a good number of key chances to boot. Luckily for us, though, Kyle Walker was in the form of his life in this game (which is definitely saying something), as he wreaked havoc down our right wing, enjoying two assists in the making. But it was a substitutes game in the end, with two of the lucky bench warmers scoring. Jesus got us off to the good start, however, when he headed in a good Walker cross in the 26th minute.
I would talk more about the other goals, but we are here to talk about Jesus, so its only fair I bias this towards him. His pass created a second goal, scored by Sterling in the 44th minute, after stealing himself away from two defenders. He was also key in Aguero’s goal in the 80th minute, with a defence splitting run before passing to Walker who crossed it in for Aguero. He also pulled defenders towards him in the 88th minute, when Foden scored the fourth and final goal of the game for City, allowing us an easy three points off the bat. Hats off, gentlemen!
After such a good performance against such good opposition the week before, we could only hope things got better, right?… RIGHT? The performance against Chelsea was… Mediocre, at best. We got away with a win, don’t doubt that. But it was a 1-0 victory, with barely any team gaining any ground on the other. The highlight of this match was in the 67th minute when Jesus picked up a knock, and was substituted off…
After a drab performance at Stamford Bridge, it was now time to face Villa at the Etihad. Jesus had recovered from his knock and was raring to… Well, jump, I guess. And mildly annoy some defenders. He got on the scoresheet early on, in the 17th minute, as Walker whipped in another good cross for him to get on the end of. The rest of the match was rather drab for Jesus, however, as he saw himself being man marked by three different players during corners, allowing Sterling another howler, and opening up play for Silva to find Mendy in the third goal. A 3-0 victory over Aston Villa is always something to be happy about!
The final match of the season did feature Jesus, for the little he did. Sterling was man of the match after a staggering 7 goals were scored, not all by City. 5-2 was the final outcome of the afternoon. Sterling scored the first goal during a corner, while Jesus was probably wondering where his life had gone wrong. He also scored the second goal, which was a great header from an angle. I won’t bore with details, but the last three goals: balls were kicked and goals were scored. Jesus didn’t really do anything.
Conclusion and Analysis of Form
Well, there you have it. The penultimate episode of this series. Jesus has truly been transformed by this experience. He’s grown a foot, and has managed to increase his heading ability tenfold… No, I’m just joking.
In reality, the results are pure and simple. The Target Man worked wonders against a Liverpool side we otherwise lost 2-0 against. I can’t say that that was ALL Gabriel Jesus and his Target Man prowess. What I can say, however, is that his movement off the ball, the pulling of defenders man marking definitely made a difference. This difference could have been what allowed to score one goal more, and then two, three… And so on. But the stats don’t lie. In terms of personal performance, Jesus’ form in his five games as a Target Man are not up to scratch. Three goals instead of five, less shots on target, less shots overall… And most surprisingly to me, he seems to have considerably less headers won as a Target Man than as an Advanced Forward.
Now I hear you in the back saying “this is all mumbo jumbo, in the end the coaches were right!” and my immediate reaction would incline to agree with you… But look at the results. If you remember the previous article, we noticed a considerable difference in performances after the Chelsea game, when Bernardo Silva made his return from injury and started linking up brilliantly with Jesus. In this version of reality (a poor reality, I admit), Jesus’ performances in every game (barring the Palace game) made a definite impact on the team as a whole, allowing to push on and score more goals, because in some instances he was man marked, in others he won a key header, etc…
All that’s left to do, is decide whether you want to sacrifice personal performances for the sake of the team or not…
And that’s the beauty of Football Manager. It represents freedom. You’re free to use Jesus however you want! This article is similar, but it is not based on facts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making up a load of rubbish. What I mean is, I might have had success with playing Jesus as a Target Man, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will. Like it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t.
The players on the pitch are yours. The pitch is yours. The game is yours.
And as always, if you liked this article, feel free to read more: