Pep Guardiola can fill Ferran Torres void immediately if exciting January arrival delivers – Alex Brotherton

The sale of Ferran Torres to Barcelona has left Manchester City with one of the smaller senior squads in the Premier League.

Contrary to popular belief, the 17 senior outfield players that Pep Guardiola now has at his disposal is more meagre than the recourses Chelsea and Liverpool can call upon, although as we know, Pep and City tend to thrive when the playing squad is trimmed and tight-knit.

While Torres had not played for City since October after fracturing his metatarsal on international duty, Guardiola would have eagerly anticipated his return to action.

City will no doubt cope without him – they managed to open up a 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League in his absence – but with one less player in the squad and a striker at that, it is crucial that everyone continues to muck in with goals and assists.

Gabriel Jesus is one player who has benefitted from City’s collective over star-man approach.

Unlike in his previous four-and-a-half seasons in Manchester, Jesus has spent much of this campaign on the right-wing. Guardiola made it clear back in August that he believes Jesus offers more to the team in a wide position, a change that vacated the central striking role for Torres.

Jesus tops City’s assists leaderboard with seven in the Premier League this season. Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold are the only Premier League players to have set up more top-flight goals.

Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City is challenged by Marvelous Nakamba of Aston Villa

Additionally, he has scored twice and notched a further three goals and one assist in the Champions League – one of each coming in the stirring 2-1 win against Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite those impressive figures, the question remains: is Jesus having a good season?

After a blistering beginning to the season that saw him start nine consecutive league games for which he was available (he did not return from international duty in time to face Burnley) his productivity has waned. The 24-year-old hasn’t featured in two of City’s past five league outings, that despite the fact that both Jack Grealish and Phil Foden spent time out of the team recently.

Jesus has still provided three assists in his past seven league appearances, but his most recent Premier League goal came in September in a 1-0 win at Chelsea.

Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City celebrates his goal against PSG

Statistics aside he is still playing fairly well, although some of the dynamism and trickery he showed in the earlier months of the campaign seem to have deserted him.

The downturn in form could be partly down to both tactics and the opponents City are facing. At the start of the season, City came up against plenty of low-block defences, with Jesus excelling in getting in behind and crossing from the byline.

In recent weeks though City’s opponents have been more dynamic, less likely to dig in and camp in their own half for 80 minutes. The likes of Leeds, Leicester and Arsenal all had a go at City (with wildly different results!), perhaps explaining why Guardiola opted to start Riyad Mahrez on the right instead.

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The AFCON-bound Algeria star is one of City’s most ruthless attackers, more capable of punishing teams that leave space in behind for City to play into.

Because of this, Jesus returned to centre-forward at Newcastle, Brentford and Arsenal – a position where he has rarely looked like an elite operator since bursting onto the scene in Manchester back in 2017. If he had, we wouldn’t be talking about City not having a recognised striker.

During Guardiola’s tenure, City have rarely conducted transfer business in January. Aymeric Laporte and Jesus are the only two first-teamers to have walked through the door in winter.

It’s unlikely that City will decide to sign anyone this month to replace Torres. If Jesus, City’s most exciting January arrival of recent years, can rediscover his best form, then their decision will be entirely vindicated.

Do you think that Gabriel Jesus needs to step up his form in the second half of the season? Follow our City Is Ours writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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