Gabriel Jesus summed up his Man City career in two games against Liverpool FC – Tyrone Marshall

Jesus’ killer instincts

A week ago Gabriel Jesus was Liverpool’s tormenter once again, the ideal Manchester City man to pose their most demanding rivals a problem they so often fail to solve.

But Jesus’ City story has been one of feast and famine and – back in the side again against the Reds – he missed two glorious second-half chances to really breathe life into the most improbable of comebacks. The Blues had looked a beaten side at the break, but Jack Grealish’s rapid strike in the second half gave them hope and one more goal at that point would have been just the tonic for a tired team.

Jesus’ first opportunity saw him get the wrong side of Virgil van Dijk and while he managed to get back to put the pressure on, Jesus could still squeeze a shout out at the near post, only to be denied by Alisson. If that was a half-chance, then his opportunity with 20 minutes to go was as simple as it should get at this level. Grealish’s pass played the Brazilian clear on goal but he never really looked like being the cold-eyed killer City have desperately wanted him to be. He took the effort early and was denied by the foot of his countryman in Liverpool’s goal.

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Had that gone in, as it really should have done, it would have set up a grandstand finish at Wembley longer than the four minutes City eventually had to find an equaliser. But Jesus hasn’t done enough to show he is the No. 9 that City need, which is why a new one will be on the way this summer.

A test of character

Any Liverpool fans looking for a chink of hope in City’s remaining Premier League fixtures probably have their eye on trips to Leeds, West Ham and Wolves, but in the short term, it feels like the next seven days will be a test of the resolve in this squad.

A doubleheader at home to Brighton and Watford is an ideal fixture list for a team that have emptied the tank in their four fixtures against Atletico Madrid and Liverpool. But the Seagulls have just won successive away games at Arsenal and Tottenham and Watford are fighting for their lives. Fixtures that look routine on paper don’t always work out that way.

This run of four games has taken a lot out of the City squad and now they will be hurting at the way their chances of a Treble have come to an end. Brighton, at least, will feel there is a sense of vulnerability to City after this draining run. Pep Guardiola’s side probably need to be perfect for the next seven league games, so this is a week where they have to show that character of champions and get this setback out of their system.

Anything Ederson can do

Zack Steffen was sat on the bench at the Etihad last week as Ederson kept his cool and let the ball run onto his goalline before picking a pass out, but that kind of thing comes naturally to the Brazilian goalkeeper and, now we know, less naturally uncle Steffen.

It was a brave call from Guardiola to put the 27-year-old in the team for this game and it backfired at the worst possible moment. City were still trying to clear their heads from the first goal when Steffen felt he had the time to take another touch in his own six-yard box with Sadio Mane racing in to close him down.

It was simply never on. Liverpool’s press had been ultra-aggressive from the first whistle and Mane was at full pelt towards the goalkeeper. By the time Steffen switched the ball to his left foot, Mane was sliding in and deflecting the ball into the back of the net.

Fernandinho’s farewell

City have an awful lot still to play for in the final weeks of this season and Fernandinho wouldn’t want any of the tail end of his campaign to be about him, but having unexpectedly announced his departure from the club earlier in the week this is the Brazilian’s farewell tour after nine years of magnificent service to the Blues.

The 36-year-old’s decision to call it a day at the Etihad caught Guardiola by surprise and the City boss pledged to try and give him the best possible farewell between now and the end of May, but it won’t involve winning the FA Cup. This was Fernandinho’s 12th Wembley appearance for the Blues in a final or semi-final and it will be his last. In truth, it probably highlighted why he feels now might be the time to bow out.

He certainly wasn’t City’s biggest problem, but his mobility isn’t as good as it was and he was hounded by Liverpool. You could see the difference in the speed City move the ball with Fernandinho in the side, especially against a team as good as Liverpool, compared to when Rodri plays.

At his best Fernandinho was the master of the tactical foul, but he was lucky to stay on the pitch at Wembley. He’d been second to a few challenges by the time he flew in on Mane, a lunge so late it angered the Liverpool players nearby.

Grealish’s central role

Grealish hasn’t yet nailed down an obvious position in the City side and at Wembley he was back in a central position, often playing as a false nine, although that was also a role Raheem Sterling drifted into in what was a pretty fluid City frontline .

That didn’t always help and it looked confused at times in the first half, with the press not quite working and Liverpool finding space to play through that quartet. When City started to build attacks it was generally Grealish at center forward, dropping deep to try and pull at least one of Liverpool’s central defenders upfield.

It was interesting that it was the sixth time that Grealish has played that kind of role this season and twice he’s done it against Liverpool. He was impressive at Anfield in the 2-2 draw earlier in the season and his movement did occasionally pose them problems at Wembley.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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