Gabriel Jesus is the ‘gamechanger’ for Arsenal…and a huge upgrade on Alexandre Lacazette
Mikel Arteta’s ‘project’ at Arsenal has divided opinion, even provoked ridicule, after some of his training methods and pre-match preparations were revealed in the recent Amazon Prime documentary.
Blasting You’ll Never Walk Alone across the training ground ahead of a trip to Liverpool and holding hands in the dressing room to feel the energy of team-mates became lightning rods for frustrated fans, disappointed that Arsenal had blown their chance of Champions League qualification last season.
But the method in the madness is there for all to see now.
Gabriel Jesus ‘plays like a man possessed’ at Arsenal with pundits picking him
Arsenal were upended at Brentford on the opening day of last season. In the weeks and months that followed, they became more and more disciplined and committed. The team sharpened, their resolve strengthened.
This season, with five new additions, Arteta has been able to build on that solid foundation and Arsenal have gone to the next level. No one is more important to them at this moment than Gabriel Jesus, who headed home to put the Gunners two up, en route to a 3-0 win at the Gtech Community Stadium on Sunday.
Still hurt by their humiliation at Brentford in the last campaign, the Gunners were determined to put the bees back in their hive this time around and they did; emphatically.
The performance epitomized the progress Arteta made as his side returned to the top of the Premier League table with six wins from seven.
And the new No. 9, Jesus, has led from the front in every sense.
Boss Mikel Arteta worked with Jesus at Manchester City and he suits the Arsenal system
Jesus has proven to be a significant upgrade on former No.9 Alexandre Lacazette
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“Jesus is Arsenal’s real game-changer for me,” Shearer said BBC. “Jesus is already a big part of what Arsenal are about now – it’s not just his goals and creativity that make him so important to them, it’s his relentless energy.”
Jesus, who signed from Manchester City in the summer, is the tone. At Brentford he could be found in the battle for possession at left back as well as right up the left wing in the dying minutes of the game.
He will drop short and fight for the ball to bring others into play, or he will get in behind and force opposition defenders to drop and create space for his talented teammates, such as Martin Odegaard, Fabio Vieira and the rejuvenated Granit Xhaka.
The fact is, the Brazilian is a huge upgrade on Alexandre Lacazette. At least Lacazette, who played out the final year of his contract at the Emirates, last season.
If during that campaign Arsenal developed a stronger jaw, to borrow a boxing metaphor, this season they have added a punch. Only Erling Haaland has been involved in more Premier League goals this term than Jesus.
Arteta has stuck to his guns despite doubts about his ‘project’ at Arsenal, which has seen some creative work in the build-up to matches, including playing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ in training
Arteta has built a new team based on a stronger mentality and better attitude
The striker has already matched Lacazette’s tally of four top goals in the entire last campaign and we are just seven games in. And Jesus returns better numbers in almost every aspect of his game.
He has delivered approximately double the number of shots on goal per 90 minutes, as well as goals and assists so far this season. The Brazilian has 50 percent more touches of the ball per match and he is much more prominent in the center and attacking thirds as he looks to link up the play.
He even makes more blocks and interceptions and wins more tackles than the Frenchman achieved last season. ‘Relentless’ is an apt description.
Despite his success, there is an admission from the man himself that he can do more after he was left out of the latest squad for the national team.
One of Jesus’ strengths is keeping the ball up under pressure and playing others in
“There was (contact), after the call, yes,” he shared ESPN Brazil. ‘I respect the coach’s decision a lot, I respect Tite, the whole staff.
‘Like I said, I’m Brazilian, I’ll always stick with the team. And I also respect the other players, who have a lot of quality. I will keep doing my best to get the opportunity again.
‘What is in my control is my performance. I will always try to do my best, finish the pieces. Today I had some chances that I could also improve a bit more, I know that. I have been training and trying to do my best.’
That kind of mentality has served him well and no doubt he will be impossible for Tite to overlook if this season’s form continues.
Of course, Jesus has been helped by playing in a successful team bolstered by the addition of Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City, Vieira from Porto, William Saliba’s return from loan, as well as himself. And Arsenal now have more possession of the ball and the team is significantly more likely to play forward.
He has proven to be hugely competitive and strong, leading the line for Arsenal
‘Laca’ was given a fond farewell after five seasons at Arsenal, which brought 71 goals in 206 appearances. He was the club’s top scorer for two seasons and has a place in Arsenal’s top ten scorers in the Premier League. When he left, he was warmly praised for his versatile contribution. There is no doubt that he was a good servant to the club.
However, it is also true that Lacazette’s contribution fell dramatically from what he gave Arsenal at his peak. In 2018-19, when he was named the club’s Player of the Year, his stats, while lower than those achieved by Jesus now, were more comparable.
And to be fair, Jesus is currently ‘playing like a man possessed’, according to former Tottenham Hotspur striker Garth Crooks.
“His enthusiasm and appetite for the game is huge,” said Crooks, who included the Brazilian in his BBC Team of the week.
– He not only scores goals for the Gunners, but he also leads the line. His movement around the pitch is fantastic and he plays the game with an infectious arrogance that spreads through the Arsenal team like wildfire and the reason they currently sit top of the Premier League.’
Lacazette was given a fond farewell by Arsenal, who were praised for his contribution on and off the pitch
Arsenal have shown they mean business this season, but Bees boss Thomas Frank’s assessment that they will challenge for the Premier League title sounds a bit premature.
The Gunners have failed their biggest test so far this season, losing 3-1 away to Manchester United, being caught on the counter-attack on the only occasion they have dropped points.
Their next game, at home to Spurs on October 1, will be exciting.
Former Aston Villa, Chelsea and Marseille striker Tony Cascarino says Arteta finally has the squad he has wanted since taking the Arsenal job almost three years ago, one capable of emulate his former club, Manchester City.
‘[They] won the ball back quickly, passed with pace and produced clinical finishes – just like City do,” Cascarino said The times.
‘The next test is to win big games like City do and it doesn’t get much bigger than the North London derby.’
The international break will give Arteta and his staff time to regroup. It will also allow Jesus to recharge after his explosive start to the season after he was inexplicably left out of Brazil’s squad. The striker will return full of energy and with a point to prove.