Since Robin van Persie left the club in 2012, Arsenal have spent close to a decade trying to find his replacement. Players like Olivier Giroud to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have been brought in to fill the boots of the Dutch icon to varying success. Now, for yet another attempt, Arsenal have brought in a striker that they hope will bring the club back to its former glory.
Arsenal have had a pretty interesting transfer window so far, as they continue their rebuild while still aiming for that fourth Champions League spot. Gabriel Jesus should both help the club continue its push forward while infusing youth to the side.
Gabriel Jesus is an interesting player that came to England with plenty of hype and has both met and not met that hype. For the most part, Jesus was an important part in the City sides that dominated the Prem over the past five years. At the same time, his play style meant that he was never going to be a 20+ goal a season striker.
Clearly a disciple of Guardiola, Arteta has set forth building his Arsenal side in the manner of his mentor. Emphasizing on playmakers rather than poachers or utility players, Jesus represents Arsenal’s gradual transition to a City or Barça clone. While it has made Arsenal a better side to watch, it will be interesting to see if this path will make the London side more competitive.
Another interesting piece of business by Arsenal that will likely define their chances at the fourth spot in the Prem next season. A lot of the pressure will come down to Jesus and whether he can become Arsenal’s savior.
Very much a modern forward, Gabriel Jesus’ play allows him to play across the forward line without nailing down a specific role. This allows him to create space for others, but also makes him less of a traditional goal scoring threat.
At first glance, Jesus’ numbers aren’t that impressive, as he has only recorded double digits twice in the Prem and has never had double digit assists. Those numbers quite honestly don’t represent a player that is worthy of the fee paid by Arsenal.
However, it’s when you look at his stats more closely and match it to his play style that his brilliance really comes to light. At his core, Jesus is a player who is more comfortable getting involved in the buildup and moving fluidly rather than just being a poacher. And that’s exactly what his numbers show.
Across his six years in the Prem, Jesus has constantly outpaced his expected assists and been near the top of the league for his per 90 actions. Taking a deeper dive into his per 90 actions reveals that Jesus’ expected goals, assists and passes completed are amongst the best. Which shows a player that will perform at a consistent level and won’t shy away.
These numbers are integral in understanding just what his play style really means. More of a false nine than than the scoring force that was Agüero, Jesus’ play allowed Pep to avoid using a traditional striker. This allowed for Pep to just play playmakers which yielded better chances, but at the same time, there was never that true goalscorer.
A modern striker, Jesus’ play has translated well to the Prem and he will likely have continued success in London. More of a Timo Werner than a Romelu Lukaku, Jesus fits into the trend of false nines that has captured the Prem’s managers’ minds.
Having spent time as Pep’s assistant manager, Arteta clearly wants to mold his team into a Manchester City lite. The Jesus transfer just continues to prove this, as he is now taking players from his mentor to copy him.
From the move towards a more possession based style of play to using similar types of players, Arteta is clearly replicating Pep. By having Ødegaard, Rowe and Saka as the side’s pivotal players, there is a clear focus on having forwards that are more focused on playmaking. It’s similar to the emphasis that Pep places on players like Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden who are playmakers rather than finishers.
The similarities don’t stop there, as Arteta’s use of Partey is close to the way that Pep used Rodri. Both players are excellent defensively and can be counted upon to be the anchor while their teammates bomb forward. For Arsenal, this will leave Xhaka as the odd man out and signals another shift in Arsenal’s transfer plans this season.
Just as Jesus played a false nine role for City, he will likely play that role in London for Arteta. He will likely start and play most of the game at nine, but will flow across the pitch throughout it, which should open more space for Rowe and Saka to go forward. It’s clear that Arteta feels that Jesus is a missing piece for this side and will hopefully restore some hope to Arsenal fans.
Ultimately copying Pep is a dangerous path, as there is such a small track record of coaches that have succeeded on this path. Even Pep himself has struggled to find that dominance at the European level since he left Barça. Arteta will walk on a tightrope to create his own identity while paying homage to his mentor.
A Pep disciple, Arteta will use Jesus similarly to how Pep used him which should benefit both the player and team. It will be interesting to see how both player and manager elevate themselves to the next level to help Arsenal return to Europe’s top competition.
As Arsenal continues its interesting rebuild, Jesus will have to play an important role in restoring the club back to the echelon of Prem greatness. Arteta will continue to build his Arsenal side in the eyes of his mentor, but a lot of it will come down to Jesus’ play. At the end of the day, the only question that remains is will Jesus be Arsenal’s savior?
Featured image: Getty