Eight years ago Arsene Wenger posited a theory about the birthplace of the greatest forward talents in modern football. “If you look across Europe and the world of football, then South America is the only continent to develop strikers today,” the visionary Frenchman said. “If you look across Europe where are the strikers from? You will see that many of them – at least 80 per cent – come from South America.
“Maybe in our history street football has gone. In street football when you are 10 years old, you play with 15-year-olds so you have to be shrewd, you have to show that you are good, you have to fight, win impossible balls. When it is all a bit more formulated then it is developing your individual skill, your fighting attitude less. We have lost a little bit of that in football.” When watching Gabriel Jesus play it’s safe to say that Wenger’s hypothesis has been proven right.
There is so much to admire about the Brazilian. His technical play, dribbling ability and speed of brain and body are all at an elite standard. What stands about all else when watching him though, is his desire.
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Throughout Jesus’ career, nothing has ever really been handed to him. The Manchester City striker began kicking a football on the streets of Jardim Peri in Sao Paolo at the age of just three, but was not picked up by a top level club in Palmeiras until the relatively late age of 15.
Since then he has gone on to win a Brasilerao, an FA Cup, three League Cups and three Premier Leagues, while also taking on the burden of the dreams of a nation who had been starved of an elite central striker for nearly a decade when he took on the Brazil No. 9 shirt previously donned by the likes of Ronaldo and Romario at the age of just 19. Throughout it all though, that fighting spirit he learned growing up in South America has never really left his game.
Intensity is in everything that Jesus does. Sometimes this is not always to his benefit, as his two-month ban from the Brazil national team for his ill-disciplined reaction to being sent off the in the 2019 Copa America final victory over Peru would suggest, but from a base level it’s easy to see why Mikel Arteta is keen to bring him to the Emirates.
“We have to be dominant, we have to show passion and we have to show aggression,” the Spaniard told BT Sport ahead of his first game in charge at Arsenal back in December 2019. “I want to attack, I want to dominate the opponent, I want the opponent to play in their own half.”
Jesus enables Arteta to do just that. He is up in the 94th percentile for both tackles made in the attacking third of the pitch and interceptions among forwards in the Premier League this season (as per fbRef). In recent matches against Southampton and Chelsea, Eddie Nketiah has had joy creating opportunities from high pressing situations. If the Gunners were to sign Manchester City’s No. 9, then chances like that may start to become the rule in north London rather than the exception.
Some though would argue that Jesus hasn’t found himself in those kind of positions very often recently. It’s true that the Brazilian has spent much of the past two seasons on the wing despite being touted by many to take over from Sergio Aguero through the middle at the Etihad. However, it is likely that Arteta will see this as a strength rather than a weakness.
Many watching Arsenal recently have become boxed in to a certain understanding of what the Gunners are looking for in a centre forward due to how Alexandre Lacazette plays the role. The Frenchman is so one-dimensional in his desire to come short to link the play, that people have assumed this is all Arteta wants from his main striker.
While that way of playing does have its perks, considering that Lacazette has more assists than anyone in else in the Arsenal squad this season, in recent weeks it has become more of a hinderance than a help. Teams have wised up to the way he plays due to his predictability as Patrick Vieira stated after the 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace.
“Today was about defending well as a team, putting pressure on the centre-backs, putting pressure on the full-backs to not allow them to find those players in between the line because if there is a space between the line, we will be in trouble,” Vieira said in his post-match press conference. “Any time that they managed to find those players we always had one of our back four who jumped out and try to put pressure, especially on Lacazette.”
As a result, Lacazette’s ability to impact the game has become even more limited than before. Against Palace he managed just 18 passes across the 90 minutes, and in the following loss to Brighton that number fell to just eight.
Jesus offers that facilitative ability as his ranking in the 91st percentile for shot-creating chances through live passes and his 94th percentile rank for passes completed would suggest, but it’s his energetic unpredictability that means he would offer so much more. He is just as happy coming short and laying it off as he is running in behind or even turning and dribbling himself.
Arsenal already have the attacking talents of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard to throw at teams, but add Jesus into the mix and suddenly opposition defenders have got a real handful to try and stop.
The 25-year-old’s main detractors point to his relatively poor record in front of goal as a stick to beat him with. According to understat he has managed 17.54 goals less than he would have been expected to score during his time at Manchester City. But if you look at Arteta’s previous comments, they would indicate that this is not something that concerns him too much.
“We need to score more goals that’s for sure,” the Spaniard said after the 2-1 defeat to Brighton. “That’s a collective issue.” A quick scan across the Manchester City squad over the past few seasons reveals they share the goals relatively evenly across the group. Last season, Pep Guardiola’s men won the Premier League at a canter and were a game away from winning the Champions League with Ilkay Gundogan as their top scorer for the season with just 17 goals. Arteta is trying to create something similar at the Emirates.
Jesus is heading into the final year of his contract and football.london understands that Arsenal are hoping to secure him for around £35 million this summer. Edu has been in talks with his representatives since November, and if he can pull a deal for his compatriot off, it could be exactly what Mikel Arteta needs to take the Gunners to the next level.
Source by Football London