Pep Guardiola insists Sergio Aguero remains central to his plans at Manchester City and could play him alongside Gabriel Jesus.
Aguero, who has scored 154 goals for City since joining the club in 2011, was surprisingly among the substitutes for Wednesday’s victory at West Ham.
Exciting new signing Jesus instead led the line and impressed hugely on what was his first Premier League start, getting on the scoresheet and setting up another goal in the 4-0 win.
Aguero’s long-term future under Guardiola has been the subject of some speculation this season but the City manager is happy with the prolific 28-year-old.
Guardiola said: “I understand the debate but there is no doubt about the quality of Sergio. I can say how happy I am with what he did – except the seven games when he was banned.
“The big clubs in Europe always have a lot of strikers and there have been at this club too – (Mario) Balotelli, (Carlos) Tevez, Sergio, (Edin) Dzeko – all together. Big clubs need a lot of strikers.
“Sergio remains the most, or one of the most, important players in our squad. Without him it will not be possible.
“This guy (Jesus) arrives, he played good. That’s why he was playing but they can play together. Gabriel can play on the left. Now I have many options up front.”
Jesus, 19, has made an immediate impression since joining City last month in a £27million deal from Palmeiras.
Guardiola said: “He’s 19 years old but he’s settled quickly. He speaks enough English words to understand us but he’s taking lessons every single day. That means a lot for us.
“In the three games he’s played he’s shown a lot in terms of desire, helped us with high-pressing intensity, his movements in the box.
“Even when he comes in the middle to play, he has the ability to share the ball with his team-mates so we are happy with him – but there’s a lot to improve.”
Another debate at City has been over the goalkeeping position. Claudio Bravo has had limited success since being controversially brought in as Joe Hart’s replacement earlier this season and has been left out for Willy Caballero in the last two games.
It remains to be seen whether Caballero keeps his place for Sunday’s visit of Swansea or whether Bravo, signed because of his superior footwork to Hart, is restored.
Guardiola said: “Still I didn’t decide. I am happy because in the big clubs they always have good goalkeepers and I have that. I am going to decide, it depends on what I see.”
Chile international Bravo, 33, took his omission well, according to his manager.
Guardiola said: “He is a huge professional. He is not a young guy, he has a lot of experience. I explained my feelings and he understood.”
Midfielder Yaya Toure has also been in good form since being restored to the side in November after a dispute involving his agent was resolved.
Guardiola said: “I’m delighted with his performance. Yaya has a quality that is difficult to find today. He loves football, he love to play – he’s like an amateur.
“He comes here to enjoy, always wants to train, always wants the ball, always wants to play. I love that. At the end it (football) becomes a profession and you have to do that but he is like an amateur in those terms.”