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Opinion

What has Pep Guardiola done with Kelechi Iheanacho?

Friday 17th February 2017
The best striker in the Premier League in terms of minutes per goal ratio has been conspicuously missing in action for his Manchester club – so, it's only rational to ask the question – where is Kelechi Iheanacho? What really has become of him under Pep Guardiola?

Kelechi Iheanacho has a place in Premier League history, his ratio of one goal every 96 minutes, makes him one of the most prolific strikers ever to score 10 goals in the English top flight. However, it looks like Iheanacho will be needing much more than his goal ratio stat to impress Pep Guardiola at the moment.

Last season, only Sergio Agüero (29) and Kevin De Bruyne (16) scored more goals for Manchester City than Iheanacho (14), so, when Pep Guardiola resumed duties as Manchester City manager, the belief was that he would give the young Nigerian some more opportunities to express himself and perhaps lead the line for City alongside Agüero.

Pep Guardiola did give the 20-year-old a handful of minutes when the season resumed – he featured sparingly in the first couple of games against Sunderland and Stoke, garnering less than 35 minutes in both games. But given his first start of the season, in the derby at home to Manchester United, he scored and provided an assist. He was on the score-sheet again in his second start at home to Bournemouth; there would be two more strikes for the Nigerian against Southampton and Hull.

In his 15 Premier League appearances for Manchester City, Iheanacho has had a hand in seven goals – 4 goals and 3 assists with an additional two goals coming in the Champions League. Guardiola had given Iheanacho 471 Premier League minutes in 15 games, which is an average of 31 minutes per game, although he played less than 15 minutes in some of those games.

However, Kelechi Iheanacho suffered a dip in form – his goal return failed to improve; from a goal ratio of one in every 96 minutes, he now averages a goal every 117 minutes. His poor form cannot only be attributed to a loss of confidence by the player but most importantly a loss of confidence in him by his manager (Pep Guardiola). Former Manchester City captain, Shaun Goater, certainly agrees; he was quoted by Sports.bwin  as saying:

"I'm a massive believer in what a manager does rather than what he says and I'm sure he thinks and says that Kelechi is a great young talent but Guardiola's actions make it clear that he doesn't believe he's good enough.”

"He obviously doesn't have confidence in him to play him alongside Aguero more regularly if things aren't going right.”

We can't argue much with Goater here, Guardiola did phone Gabriel Jesus (a 19-year-old Palmeiras striker) to tell him that his services were in immediate demand at the Etihad. Considering the fact that City already a very young striker in Iheanacho, it was clear who Gabriel Jesus was coming to replace.

No sooner had Jesus' paperwork come through did Iheanacho go missing from Manchester City's match-day squad – that was in the 2-2 draw against Spurs at the Etihad. Since then (four games on), Kelechi Iheanacho has not been deemed fit enough to make Pep Guardiola's 18-man squad list, and his name was also blotted out of Manchester City's Champions League squad.

Pep Guardiola coyly revealed which of Manchester City youngsters he is relying on for the future when he said to Mancity.com:

"These three players [Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling] will be the future in the next three or four years, I'm pretty sure of that,"
 Gabriel Jesus's injury could be Iheanacho's lifeline
Gabriel Jesus's injury could be Iheanacho's lifeline
I'm not a fan of reaping from other people's misfortune, but a rare opportunity has presented itself for Kelechi Iheanacho to redeem himself in the eyes of Pep Guardiola – Gabriel Jesus suffered a broken metatarsal in the game against Bournemouth and Guardiola needs to replace the dazzling Brazilian striker.

Guardiola has lost faith in Iheanacho, he's left him the woods and recruited a replacement, but the Nigerian has just been offered a shot at redemption following Jesus's 3-month injury. If his efforts still remain unconvincing for Guardiola, then it's time the £85,000-per-week striker leaves City in search of playing time.
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