Gabriel Jesus was just like every other young boy growing up in Sao Paulo.
He dreamed of emulating Ronaldo Nazario and becoming Brazil’s number nine.
For the majority, a dream is all that ever is but for Jesus, it quickly became apparent that he was good enough to make that his reality.
“And there’s a longer answer, which starts when I was a boy with a dream”, he told The Players’ Tribune back in December 2017.
“In Brazil, there are millions of boys with a dream. But I was lucky, because I knew some superheroes.”
The biggest superhero in his life has always been his mother, Vera Lucia, to whom he dedicates every goal to with his iconic phone-ringing celebration.
“Whenever I score for Manchester City, my mother calls me”, he explained when asked about his famous celebration.
“As soon as the ball hits the back of the net, the phone rings. It doesn’t matter if she’s back home in Brazil or if she’s in the stadium watching me. She calls me every time. So I run to the corner flag, and I put my hand to my ear, and I say, ‘Alo Mae!'”.
“When I arrived at City, people thought this was really funny, and they kept asking me what it means. There’s a quick answer, which is that I love my mother, and she’s always calling me.”
It is no longer the Etihad Stadium that will be seeing Jesus’ celebration regularly, with the Brazilian deciding to swap Manchester for London – joining Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal in a reported £45 million move this summer.
The Gunners will be getting a top-class forward that fits Arteta’s system perfectly and the Spaniard will hope that entrusting the former Palmeiras to be ‘the main man’ could help his output improve as the north Londoners look to end their six-year UEFA Champions League hiatus.
“When asked by SkySports earlier this year what qualities he is looking for in a new striker, Arteta answered:”He puts the ball in the net, that’s priority number one.
“Goal threat. Any successful team needs enough goal threat in the squad. Without it, you have nothing. You can play good football but you need enough goal threat in the team.”
When first looking at Jesus’ numbers in the final third it is clear to see that he has consistently scored a solid number season upon season but the main worry for some is the fact that after over five years in the Premier League, he is still yet to crack 15 top-flight goals across one season.
When looking at his minutes per contribution with a fine-toothed comb it is evident that he has suffered from a lack of consistent minutes during Pep Guardiola’s trophy-laden time in Manchester.
Across 236 games minutes for the Citizens, Jesus netted 95 times whilst providing a further 46 assists, as per transfermarkt – working out at a direct goal contribution every 101 minutes, numbers that read even more impressive when you consider he has spent lengthy periods on the wing – a role he is unlikely to play for Arsenal.
There is a hope within the fanbase that giving him the reins upfront, making him the go-to guy will help his output become more consistent.
At 25 years old, he still has some time to improve but one worry for some will certainly be his finishing, regularly underperforming his npxG. Across the last five Premier League campaigns he has racked up 58.1npxG whilst finding the back of the net on just 51 occasions.
The lack of a clinical edge is certainly a cause for concern but the counter-argument to that is that at least he consistently finds himself in goalscoring situations, something that can’t always be said for his predecessor in north London, Alexandre Lacazette.
In the same time period, Lacazette accumulated just 44.5xG. For further context, the Frenchman played almost over 1,500 more and was between the ages of 26-31, with Jesus’ data collected between 20-25.
In Arteta’s aforementioned interview, the youth coach also emphasised the need for his new striker to complement the rest of the team, bringing teammates into play.
“The other thing is that he has to complement the other people we have, personally and on the pitch, and for that, we need the right profile”, he added.
“We need a profile where you can exploit his qualities at the same time as the qualities we already have, so we don’t have to transform our way of playing again to adapt to that specific player. He has to have a certain age, a certain level of experience, and he has to be able to come here and play under the pressure of being at Arsenal.”
This is another area where Jesus has frequently excelled.
Last season, the former Palmeiras frontman ranked second in the Premier League for goal-creating actions per 90 minutes and eighth for xA per 90, proving he can mix it up with the elite in the division when it comes to creating high-quality chances for his teammates.
The Brazilian international also can advance his team up the pitch with his elite ball-carrying ability.
In the 2021/22 league campaign, he successfully dribbled past 45 players, 28 more than Lacazette managed, boasting a far greater success percentage than the Lyon frontman in the process.
He also registered 147 progressive carries last term, 99 more than the former Arsenal man.
The choice over the last few years in north London appeared to be either the goal threat of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who struggled with the ball at his feet or the link-up ability of Lacazette, who struggled to find himself in promising goal-scoring situations.
In Jesus, the Gunners now have a combination of the two.
“Arteta is keen to deploy an attack that works hard off the ball, often urging his young team on from the sidelines, shouting at them to close down opposition players and press from the front and this is something that Jesus has consistently excelled in, with City boss Guardiola even calling him the best pressing forward in the world. Speaking about the frontman’s work ethic earlier this year, the former Barcelona coach said:”He can play in the three positions up front, and when we need players who can help a lot, he’s the best in the world.
“(With him) we can be so aggressive, we can get an extra rhythm for midfield players, can stay high.
” Jesus’ relentless running isn’t just for the sake of it either, he often wins the ball back for his team.
He registered a whopping 5.77 ball recoveries per 90 last season, with Lacazette and Aubameyang barely averaging more between them.
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