One of the few positions that Arsenal have not signed from outside of the club during the Edu/Arteta era is striker, which is changing now with the signing of Gabriel Jesus from Manchester City.
This is an fascinating article to write. Normally the players Arsenal are signing are a bit more less well-known than Jesus and people have the ability to project and get excited about them. This signing, while very exciting to me, has been one that is polarizing. Perhaps that is the case often with players that are signed from within the League, and especially from teams that we as fans see as our rivals.
For the stats presented in this post, I will be comparing Jesus to forwards, but like many of the players Arsenal have been linked with the positions have been a bit fluid and are not perfect descriptors.
Gabriel Jesus: By the numbers
2.44 – Open play shots per 90, 77th percentile for forwards
0.8 – Shots in prime (within 12 meters) per 90, 51st percentile for forwards
0.33 – Non-penalty goals per 90, 51st percentile for forwards
0.43 – Non-penalty expected goals per 90, 68th percentile for forwards
0.99 – Shots on target per 90, 50th percentile for forwards
One of the big questions around Jesus is his finishing. I did a deep dive about this back at the end of April when Arsenal were first linked and came away basically that it is hard to say anything other than he is a below-average finisher, but even then it is still complicated.
He is slightly below expected finisher with his head (pretty good for his size) with 10 goals from 12 xG, he finishes well and takes a surprising amount of shots with his weaker left foot scoring 17 goals from 18 xG, and with his stronger right foot, he has scored 35 goals from 46 xG.
There will probably be frustrating misses for Jesus (but there are for all strikers) but hopefully, he continues to be a player that puts himself into good goal-scoring opportunities enough to make up for the misses.
1.55 – Open play key passes per 90, 92nd percentile for forwards
0.28 – Shot Assisted xG (xA) per 90, 87th percentile for forwards
0.38 – Assists per 90, 93rd percentile for forwards
3.71 – Shot creating actions (the two actions proceeding the creation of a shot) per 90, 92nd percentile for forwards
Jesus might have some questions about his finishing but outside of that it really does seem like he is a phenomenal player with the production that he is able to create. His creative numbers look very good, with one of his favorite zones the areas for high-quality cutbacks for teammates to run on to.
2.68 – Progressive passes per 90, 90th percentile for forwards
3.15 – Deep completions (passes within 25 meters of goal) per 90, 92nd percentile for forwards
77.88 – Progressive yards passing per 90, 86th percentile for forwards
5.68 – Progressive carries per 90, 90th percentile for forwards
2.07 – Dribbles completed per 90, 94th percentile for forwards
11.04 – Deep touches (within 25 meters of goal) per 90, 97th percentile for forwards
3.62 – Very Deep Touches (within 15 meters of goal) per 90, 91st percentile for forwards
7.19 – Progressive passes received per 90, 51st percentile for forwards
3.34 – Penalty box passes received per 90, 87th percentile for forwards
0.99 – Aerial duels won per 90, 21st percentile for forwards
2.63 – Aerial duels total per 90, 17th percentile for forwards
37% – Aerial duel win%, 39th percentile for forwards
35.93 – Pass Attempts per 90, 95th percentile for forwards
107 – Pass Efficiency (the ratio of actual pass completion compared to expected pass completion, 100 is completed as many passes as expected and higher is better), 98th percentile for forwards
0.43 – xG Buildup (the total xG where he was involved in the buildup play before the final pass or shot) per 90, 93rd percentile for forwards
0.3 – Goal probability added (my version of an expected threat, this measures how much the actions a player did that help or hurt the team’s chances of scoring) per 90, 97th percentile for forwards
As we round out the remaining attacking stats, I think we see a picture of a good all-around player. He is a player that looks like he wants to be involved in the build-up play, doing well to link with teammates, he is a good target for getting the ball up the field, and also a player with a very good understanding of how to get the ball in dangerous areas.
14.14 – Pressuers per 90, 34th percentile for forwards
3.43 – Successful pressures per 90, 30th percentile for forwards
6.44 – Attacking 3rd pressures per 90, 31st percentile for forwards
1.03 – Possession adjusted (I use possession adjustments to make it so that each player has the same number of defensive possession opportunities) successful tackles per 90, 79th percentile for forwards
1.9 – Possession adjusted interceptions plus blocked passes per 90, 97th percentile for forwards
4.43 – Possession adjusted ball recoveries per 90, 94th percentile for forwards
One of the interesting things is that Jesus’ pressure numbers look just okay, this might be a reflection of where Manchester City rank in terms of pressures (6th in attacking third, last in total pressures) because they have so much of the ball, their players don’t have the same chances to pressure opponents. Looking at the more traditional defensive metrics and adjusting for possession you can see a player that comes out looking very good for winning the ball back. My expectation is that Arsenal are comfortable with his pressing, this is something that has gotten him into the Brazil squad ahead of other forwards.
When I started looking at potential forwards for Arsenal one of the things that really became clear is that there are not a lot of strikers right now that don’t come with pretty big question marks that aren’t outside Arsenal’s price range (really only Mbappe and Haaland). Everyone else seemed to come with serious areas of weakness, questions about how their statistics and performance would translate from a ‘lower’ league to the Premier League or were on the downside of their prime with the risk of a sudden drop-off looming (aka the Aubameyang cliff).
Jesus has his questions, how much of his performance is down to super team effects at City and just how bad and big of an issue is his finishing. He does come with quite a lot of very good boxes checked as well, he is a very good all-around player who has played and excelled in the Premier League, in a system not dissimilar to what Arsenal wants to do, while also having the connections to Arteta and Edu.
The fee is on the high side for a player with one year left on his deal, but not crazy (and maybe a discount) for a player of his talent while buying from within the Premier League. I think that this is a move that comes with a relatively low risk of a flop while still having some good potential upside where he blossoms into one of the top all-around forwards in the League.
Sources: Opta, Statsbomb