Tite Right To Make Gabriel Jesus Main Main Ahead of Roberto Firmino
Earlier this month, Tite confirmed that Gabriel Jesus will be his first choice centre-forward for the Seleção as they chase a 6th World Cup title in Russia this summer. The Brazil boss admitted that Liverpool’s number 9 Roberto Firmino had enjoyed a better domestic season- but when it came to fitting into Tite’s Seleção system, Jesus is his go to guy.
“Gabriel in the Seleção plays very well. So yes, today he is our No.9,” Tite explained. The truth is that both Jesus and Firmino enjoyed excellent seasons, domestically, with Firmino marginally more impressive in a front line tailored to his talents. The problem for Firmino, is that Brazil’s frontline is not constructed in quite the same way.
As with everything else in the Brazilian national side, it all comes back to Neymar. Jesus and Neymar struck up an excellent understanding in World Cup qualifying. Their movements dovetail excellently. The Manchester City man started as a wide attacker at Palmeiras and, like Neymar, grew up idolising Robinho.
So Jesus understands Neymar’s movements from left to centre. Essentially, Jesus is happy to stay fairly central and occupy centre halves, allowing Neymar and Coutinho the freedom to wander from wide. Firmino is such an asset to Liverpool because he wanders from the centre and allows Mane and Salah to occupy central striking positions.
But when teamed with Neymar, Firmino’s movements do not complement Neymar in the same way. Often, they end up getting in one another’s way. Neymar likes to move into deeper areas and become involved in the build up- at Liverpool, Mane and Salah are less concerned with this. Firmino moves deep to help build the play, while his wider colleagues concentrate on finishing moves.
Neymar is far more of a provocateur and this jars with Firmino’s game. Jesus, however, holds his line at centre forward, occupying and pressing centre halves effectively. When the time comes and Neymar does move into the final third, the 20 year old understands how to combine with him.
In short, Firmino’s game is driven by attracting defenders away from their defensive line and moving them towards the midfield. Jesus pins defenders back, which allows Neymar and Coutinho space to operate between the lines. Firmino is great at making space for strikers, Jesus is a striker that makes room for his creative players a little further away from the goal.
Jesus’ finishing is meticulous, as his international goalscoring record suggests. He is just as likely to notch an assist as a goal. Roberto Firmino is a very good player- in the right setup, he is an excellent one. But that setup is not really replicated by Tite’s Brazil team and, therefore, Jesus is the natural choice at number 9.