Take a walk into Arsenal’s dressing room and scream the name Gabriel, you’d probably turn the heads of a crowd of Brazilians, each wondering which of the Gabriels you want. Arsenal wasted little time in adding to the number of Gabriels at the club by signing Gabriel Jesus from Man City. The striker was signed on a long term contact for a fee believed to be in the region of 45 million.
Arsenal fans must have been left in awe by the debut performance of Gabriel Jesus in the match against Nurnberg on 8 July, which saw him play a part in four of Arsenal’s five goals. Gabriel and Mohamed (pun intended) came together to help dig the Gunners out of two-nil first half deficit to help the Gunners to a 5-3 victory.
Gabriel has grown from a street painter in Sao Paulo to someone who has a huge mural of him painted on the wall above his Sao Paulo neighborhood. Let’s review that story and then discuss how he might fit into Arteta’s plans at the Emirates.
Gabriel Fernando de Jesus was born on the 3rd of April 1997 to Diniz de Jesus (father) and Vera Lucia Jesus (mother) in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is the youngest of four children, including three boys and a girl. Usually the baby of the family is pampered and protected, but for Gabriel, the reality was the opposite. Gabriel Jesus’s father Diniz left the family when Gabriel was still very young. Gabriel’s mother, Vera Lucia, worked as a domestic maid to become the family’s main provider. His mum taught him discipline and made him go out to hustle on the streets of Sao Paolo for extra income.
Like Darwin Nunez, Gabriel began playing football on the street of his hometown at a very tender age. As a child, he played as a central midfielder rather than a striker. After playing street football for some time, Gabriel featured for a number of local teams (including one named Little Kids of the Environment). Twenty-nine goals in an under-15 tournament for amateur club Anhanguera Associacao Paulista caught the attention of some of the region’s bigger sides, and at age 15, Gabriel joined Palmeiras, where he played for the youth team.
However, fans clamored for his promotion to the senior team within a year. During this period, the Palmeiras senior side was flirting with relegation. Gabriel’s path was fast-tracked due to the team’s dire situation, and at 18 he single-handedly led them to their first league title in 22 years.
Gabriel’s exploits for Palmeiras earned him the nickname “Little Neymar” and also placed him on the wish-list of several European clubs including Man City and Barcelona. A phone call from Pep Guardiola convinced him that Man City was the perfect place to nurture his talent. The Citizens signed him in 2017 for a reported fee of 33 million.
When Jesus moved to England, he brought along his mother and an elder brother plus two friends who helped him settle down. He maintains that, if his mother had allowed him, he would have brought his whole neighborhood to England with him. Mum still plays an important role in his life to date, controlling his finances and policing his lifestyle in order to keep him grounded and disciplined.
Signed to act as understudy and successor to the aging Sergio Aguero, Jesus has enjoyed mixed fortunes at the Etihad. On the surface, a tally of 95 goals in 236 games, with most of his appearances coming from the bench, looks like an impressive statistic. But a closer look at his games and performances for the Citizens shows that stats don’t tell the full story.
Style of Play
Gabriel is an average height, hardworking, versatile team player who can feature in a number of positions across the forward line. Primarily a center-forward, the Brazilian is also accustomed to playing as left and right-winger, or even behind the striker. Understat.com shows that he has played 6400 minutes as a central forward, 1100 minutes as a right-winger, and 540 minutes as a left-winger. When playing as a winger, Gabriel’s fast feet and technique help him cut into the middle to create chances for others or to take a shot at a goal himself. His ability to comfortably play with both feet makes it hard for defenders to predict his next move.
As a central forward, Gabriel is adept at positioning himself just between the two center-backs where he can use his pace and technique to advantage. Unlike many other forwards who are often caught offside when they attempt to split defenders, Jesus is an expert at avoiding the offside flag. He times his runs to perfection, relying on his blistering pace to beat opponents when the ball gets played in behind. Gabriel’s constant intelligent runs when his team is on the attack also help create space for his teammates as he helps draw defenders away.
Gabriel is also an excellent dribbler, which he often displays when he receives the ball out wide or closer to the midfield. He’s able to carry the ball forward and closer to the goal area with less effort than most forwards. His 68% dribble success rate puts him ahead of 98% of wingers. He also possesses excellent creative passing ability. Gabriel’s expected 0.23 assists per 90mins is more than 90% of wingers.
Under Pep Guardiola, Jesus became accustomed to playing in a system that features a front five, which means there’s a lot of intricate passing and movement. Gabriel has become adept at receiving the ball in tight spaces and making sharp turns to create space for a shot or a layoff to a teammate. His deft first touch also makes him a good outlet when the team is under pressure. His key pass rate is better than 89% of forwards and his shot creation rate of 3.35 is better than 91% of fellow forwards.
Defensively, Jesus is a dream for managers who play a press. One of the most noticeable aspects of his game is his tireless running and tracking back, which is why playing on the flank has never been a problem for him. When out of possession his ability to hassle defenders who are trying to build out of the back will be important for Arsenal as Mikel Arteta’s style revolves around the high-pressing game.
Take a look at every goal Gabriel scored for Manchester City.
How He Will Fit In At Arsenal
The departures of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette mean that Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah are the only senior center forwards at the club. Gabriel will be expected to go straight into the starting team while Nketiah acts as backup and/or strike partner. Gabriel has all the traits that Arteta wants in a striker.
Due to Lacazette’s ability to drop deep and facilitate play for the team, Arteta persisted with the Frenchman as the club’s first-choice striker for the majority of last season despite his low output in front of goal, making him an extra midfielder when necessary. Jesus will bring these same qualities plus he can put the ball in the back of the net on a regular basis.
Hiss ability to drop deep means he mostly drags center-backs out of position and sometimes forces teams to play high-line, leaving a lot of space to run into when a through pass is played. His physical strength and low center of gravity make it hard for defenders to bully him off the ball, and enables him to challenge defenders for the ball when passes are played forward.
The addition of Gabriel Jesus shouldn’t lead to a change in formation or strategy for Arteta. He is expected to slot straight into the void left by former club captain Lacazette, while the likes of Saka, Martinelli, Smith Rowe and Pepe play from the flanks. On occasions when the team is desperately in need of goals, playing in a front two alongside Nketiah could also be an option, and Jesus can also be shifted to the left late into games to accommodate Nketiah as the central striker whenever Arteta wants to shake things up.
In a summer when signing elite strikers has been the theme among Premier League’s big clubs, the Gunners have responded to the moves of Erling Haaland to Man City and Darwin Nunez to Liverpool by adding Gabriel Jesus to their ranks. Admittedly not as deadly as these other two marquee signings, many would argue that Jesus can become just as clinical if he enjoys consistent playing time and the full backing of his manager. If Arteta can get Gabriel anywhere near the level we widely believe he can reach, he will be a sensation for FPL managers and the Gunners this season.
Fairly priced at £8M, Jesus is a less expensive option than Kane, Haaland and Nunez. The Brazilian’s name should be on the scoresheet regularly as he has the likes of Odegaard, Saka, and Martinelli behind him to create goal-scoring chances. Despite being early days, his connection with Martinelli and Nketiah in his debut for the Gunners against Nuremberg was evident as their combination led to four of the five goals scored in the match.
His previous experience working with Mikel Arteta during his time at Man City and his proven Premier League experience means Gabriel should need little time to adapt to his new club. He is expected to kick on from the first day of the season, making him an excellent option for FPL managers for their opening day teams.
The only caveat for FPL managers is Gabriel’s reputation as a below-par finisher. He has underperformed his expected goals in every season since he joined the Citizens, with the 18/19 and 19/20 seasons being exceptionally poor. His inability to put away chances on a regular basis is a well-publicized part of his game. His failure to also become a proficient penalty taker also counts against him when compared to Haaland and Kane. Saka or Martinelli will be expected to be placed ahead of Jesus among the Gunners’ penalty takers.
However, despite the above-stated concerns, he remains an interesting option for FPL managers as it is believed constant playing time and working with Mikel Arteta will bring out the best in him. A confident Gabriel Jesus can be just as deadly and profitable for FPL managers as any other striker in the Premier League.
What do you think about Gabriel Jesus? Is he already in your fantasy plans, or will you wait to see how Mikel Arteta works him in next season? Please log in and share your thoughts in the comments below.