Gabriel Jesus and the jet-fuelled turn that left Arsenal fans salivating
There’s nothing quite like making a good first impression and it’s safe to say Gabriel Jesus has nailed his first few weeks at Arsenal.
Arsenal spent £45million to sign Jesus from Manchester City, with the 25-year-old signing a long-term deal at the Emirates.
Jesus scored 95 goals for City and helped the club win four Premier League titles, three EFL Cups and the FA Cup during his five-year spell at the Etihad.
And, if his pre-season exploits are anything to go by, Arsenal might just have stumbled across their golden ticket in their quest for a Champions League return.
The Brazil international broke his duck with a brace during Arsenal’s 5-3 win at Nurnberg followed by another against Everton in the United States.
No wonder his form has been music to the ears of Arsenal supporters, many of whom identified their team’s shortcomings in attack as the main reason they missed out on the top four last season.
While Alexandre Lacazette performed admirably for much of the last campaign, with Eddie Nketiah chipping in some vital goals, Jesus is a clear upgrade on both players.
And, for all his goalscoring prowess, it was a moment of non-scoring inspiration against Orlando City that would have shivers of excitement down the spines of the Arsenal faithful.
Upon receiving the ball on the edge of the penalty area, Jesus was tightly marked by an opposition defender who had mistaken the Brazilian for his favourite sweatshirt.
Many strikers would have used their physicality to escape the situation but Jesus chose a cuter method instead, slithering away with a turn and burst of pace that sent his marker halfway to Disneyland.
If we were being critical, Jesus slightly overran the ball and the Orlando City goalkeeper was able to make a regulation save from his underpowered effort.
But focusing on the end result would be to stubbornly miss the point; Arsenal have been crying out for a striker with speed and invention to make their attack more unpredictable.
It took Jesus five humid seconds in deepest Florida to suggest the Gunners have acquired just that.
Gabriel Jesus what an effort. 😱 pic.twitter.com/idXycgJr4c
— TheAFCnewsroom (@TheAFCnewsroom) July 21, 2022
For all the justified excitement surrounding his signing, there have always been doubts about whether Jesus had what it takes to become a central striker.
Guardiola bought him with that intention at City but quickly deviated back towards Sergio Aguero. Fair enough; you could design the perfect 100-goal-a-season striker in a laboratory and prime Aguero would have scored 101.
But Jesus has seen his role evolve into a wide forward position, as he cuts in from the right flank for club and country, rather than the main forward Arsenal have bought him to be.
Speaking on talkSPORT, South American football expert Tim Vickery said: “Six years ago a comparison was being made between Gabriel Jesus and the original Brazilian Ronaldo.
“It was from the most impeccable source imaginable: The original Ronaldo, who said ‘this fella Gabriel Jesus reminds me of me when I was a kid’.No one would make that comparison now.”
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Vickery went on to suggest Jesus’ traumatic experience at the 2018 World Cup, where he failed to score as Brazil’s starting striker, deterred him from taking on the lead role at City.
He added: “I spoke with the Brazil coach about Gabriel Jesus not that long ago and he said that after the World Cup he called over Gabriel Jesus and asked him, ‘Where do you want to play?’
“Gabriel Jesus said, ‘I don’t mind’, but the coach said, ‘Obviously you mind, you obviously have a preference, what is your preference?’ And, somewhat sheepishly, Gabriel Jesus said he’d rather play out wide.”
Plenty has changed in the past four years and Jesus has lots more experience and achievement under his belt than in 2018. There’s nothing to suggest the 25-year-old cannot make a success of the central role at Arsenal if he applies himself.
And, alongside his goalscoring, Jesus has already proved himself capable of providing a shot of adrenaline into a previously plodding attack.
Just ask the Orlando City groundsman who is spending his day removing tire tracks from the Exploria Stadium pitch.
By Michael Lee