BALTIMORE — It may only be preseason, but Arsenal’s most important summer, Gabriel Jesus, signing is off to a hot start during their tour of the United States. In two matches, the striker already has three goals while looking comfortable with Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard, and Bukayo Saka in the attack. It’s music to Mikel Arteta’s ears as the team made quite the commitment to the Brazilian, signing him from Manchester City on a £45 million deal. He’s got the No. 9 shirt, a five-year contract, and the keys to the attack.
Arteta’s familiarity with Jesus during their time together at Manchester City is important, but Jesus is a different type of forward than Alexandre Lacazette, who he’s replacing. Standing at 5-foot-9, Jesus is hardly an imposing figure on the pitch, but that doesn’t stop him from getting onto the ball through his speed and impressive work rate. He will look to shoot more than Lacazette, and it’s just what Arsenal need. Manchester City may have top-tier chance creators, but it’s no easy feat to score 58 goals and assist 29 more in the Premier League while playing a large part in four league titles in five years. Now as the man in attack, the sky is the limit.
In Arteta’s own words, Jesus “creates chaos,” and that’s a good description of how Arteta wants the attack to play heading into the season. Arteta isn’t the only one looking forward to what Jesus can bring either.
“Yeah, I think it’s gonna be fun. I think he’s a brilliant player. I watched him play a lot of times for Man City. And Yeah, I think Jesus has some really good qualities, and I’m looking forward to it to play with him,” Odegaard told CBS Sports.
Arsenal are gathering unpredictable, versatile players who can slot into multiple positions when needed. Even Jesus, while he’s expected to lead the line most days, will be prepared to slot in as a winger when needed while Martinelli or Eddie Nketiah can also play as the central striker.
“He looks really sharp, really dynamic and has a good understanding with his teammates straight away,” Arteta said about Jesus’s performance against Everton. “They’re looking for him and generating chances, good connections around specific spaces that we want to exploit with him especially, and yeah, really happy with his performance.”
You can see Arteta’s vision for how he wants Arsenal to play when he speaks about Jesus and while that style showed at times last season, injuries and not having two forwards who could contribute to that style held the Gunners back, missing out on Champions League football.
“They have everything that we need,” Arteta said of his forwards. “First of all, they are really intense, both [Jesus and Nketiah]. So the way they can press, and the way they can sustain pressure with the opponent is great. Both of them. They can threaten you in behind which can allow people to have the spaces inside. They are really good in link-up play. And they will have an eye for goal. But they are not [6-foot-3], but they have all the qualities for the way we play. They are fantastic.”
While it’s nice to have a way to go route one at times if a team is good enough at counter-pressing and getting in behind the defense, crossing the ball into the box to attackers typically generates better chances. Don’t let Jesus’ size fool you either as he did score 16 of his 95 goals for Manchester City in all competitions with his head.
Pressure is certainly on Arteta as he has just about everything that he needs in this Arsenal squad. Adding Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City would give Arteta yet another option in creating a quick-passing, high-pressing side that can carve teams up with precision. Because of that, expectations are certainly high at the Emirates, so all eyes will be on how Arsenal open the season. It’s easy to have hope that things will work out when a plan is coming together during the preseason, but it’s important to put those plans into practice when the lights kick on August 5 away to Crystal Palace in the Premier League.