Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Gabriel Jesus – Data Viz

There is no question that Gabriel Jesus has transformed a once stale and one-paced attack since he arrived from Manchester City in the summer. But after a five-game goalless streak, his finishing ability has come under some scrutiny – so what better time to delve deeper into the underlying data?

Note: You can click on the images for the ultra HQ option (in a new window)

Jesus broke into the Palmeiras side as a wide forward in 2015, before being moved through the middle to great success. During those early days, his shot selection was wild in comparison to the goal poacher-esque shotmaps shown above for the period 2016-17 to 2019-20, where he averaged 98% of all open-play attempts inside the box. However, his final two seasons in Manchester tell a different story.

At that point, it was clear the Brazilian, who was now primarily being used as a utility forward, would not be Sergio Ageuro’s heir and as a result his final years at City were impacted in terms of numbers.

Last season’s Premier League season saw 25 different players take more shots than the Brazilian and although you can be more forgiving of that figure when you consider that Pep Guardiola used Jesus as a wide-forward or as a facilitator – his shooting output was still modest. For context, Harry Kane took more than twice as many shots, and fullback Cancelo even had more attempts than his teammate.

This season, however, Jesus ranks fifth in goal attempts – a figure in line with his best Premier League season in terms of overall rank. Wobbles in front of goal are conceivable as he adjusts to being the leading man after spending so long as a rotation option in City’s plethora of attackers.

Despite the mini-drought, it’s reassuring to see him ranked 3rd in non-penalty expected goals (per Opta via FBRef) – a metric that quantifies the fantastic goal-scoring positions he’s regularly finding himself in.

It’s easy to forget that Bukayo Saka led Arsenal for npxG last season (ranked 21st) in the Premier League, while Alex Lacazette was putting up similar numbers to Daniel James down in 46th place.

Even so, the elephant in the room is Jesus underperforming his non-penalty goals to npxG conversion rate in 3 of 5 full Premier League seasons, resulting in a total of 9.8 fewer goals than expected according to Opta’s xG model.

The question is, how much of it, if any, was due to the pressure of having a generational talent like Aguero ahead of him — knowing his next opportunity might be weeks away unless he took every goalscoring opportunity? And will being the main man act as the catalyst in awakening a killer instinct in front of goal?

Early signs so far this season suggest it’s neither as his losing battle against expected goals continues. While very few forwards continually manage to outperform their xG, Jesus’ rolling 10 shot average of goals vs expected — shown above using the publicly available data on Understat (whose values are a little harsher than Opta’s) — depict a striker whose attempts fall below expectation more often than not.

But is it really that clean-cut? Gabriel Jesus rarely attempts low xG shots – he’s never scored from outside the area and as a result, has rarely registered low xG goals that would help in offsetting any deficit. Indeed, since his debut in the 2016-17 season, no player in the Premier League has scored more goals exclusively from inside the box (60).

The average npxG of a Jesus chance per 90 this season is 0.58, which is high and betters any Arsenal player since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in 2018-19.

His attacking metrics when compared to other strikers in 2022-23 are some of the best in the league. So far, no forward has offered more touches in the box, successfully completed more dribbles that led to shots or won more fouls. He has eased the creative burden on Bukayo Saka and played no small part in the on-pitch development of Gabriel Martinelli.

A striker is judged on goals, but I’d be more inclined to worry if Gabriel Jesus wasn’t finding himself in goal scoring positions regularly and if he wasn’t posting some of the league’s best npxG numbers.

After all, the real skill isn’t finishing; it’s being in the right place at the right time to take advantage of so many big opportunities. If he continues in the same vein, the goals will undoubtedly follow.

Follow me on Twitter @jonollington

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Very interesting read. Thanks. I think he’s great player because thats what I see. His overall contribution and the mayhem he causes will lead to a lot of goals , i’m sure. Glad he’s a gooner.


Comparing him to the other strikers of the big six clubs, he’s definitely up there. Apart from Haaland who is in a league of his own, Nunez hasn’t impressed so far, Chelsea has an Arsenal reject leading their line, Ronaldo causes more issues at Man U than he scores goals and Rashford and Martial have never convinced. While it’s hard to argue with K*ne’s numbers, would I trade him for Jesus? (no!)

Boy Bastin

I’m glad he’s a gooner as well and I really hope he’ll start scoring again soon. But doesn’t recent evidence suggest that the “mayhem he causes” as you say (all the creative things he does etc) hasn’t actually lead to a lot of goals? That may (hopefully, will) change and I’m sure fatigue is playing a part for him and the team generally, but I guess I’m saying I’d like him as one of our principal strikers to be scoring more, rather than spending too much time causing mayhem which may, or may not as recently, result in goals. Probably… Read more »


He’s a big step up on Laca due to his energy and gettting into great positions. He has already beaten Laca’s whole season for non-penalty goals, so definitely a big step up. His threat also helps the other players. Let’s hope he gets back into his scoring routine sooner than later.


Also difficult to compare the stats – he was younger in previous seasons but also had people like De Bruyne to help supply him with their assists. So interesting to try to see the whole picture of how he is doing.

Boy Bastin

Interesting article. I appreciate that this probably won’t be a popular view, but I assume that as a result of the much talked about “reset” (whatever that means in practice for Arsenal in football terms) we’ll be seeing more goals from Jesus pretty quickly. That’s actual goals in the net, not just touches in the box and the other creative things he clearly does, as the article correctly highlights. It’s not just down to him alone, of course, and Jesus (who has looked tired recently) has brought a lot of other “positives” generally to the team – no question about… Read more »

Nainsley Aitland Miles

Yes but we also kept three clean sheets in those five games. Can’t say I’m concerned about our output. Four of those five games were away. Three of those five games were European games using a pick-n-mix spine. Our first team haven’t played at home since Liverpool. We’ll beat Forest two or three nil, Jesus will score, and all will be right with the world again. My taking of Mikel wanting to ‘reset’ is we take a step back and concentrate on doing the basics better. Retaining and moving the ball forward better. This is where we have really missed… Read more »


I’m not overly worried about his goal output, and am sure this will increase in time. The rest of what he brings to this team is absolutely immense (physically and psychologically). I’m also certain that, without Jesus, we wouldn’t have 5 from Bukaya, 4 from Granit, 4 from Gabi-goal, 3 from the skipper and 2 each from Vieira, Saliba and Nketiah. Keep doing what you’re doing Jesus. I bloody love you!


A brilliant player – his attitude is positive and spreads to other players. Definitely a major reason why we have improved so much this season. Just wish he would convert a few more chances !

Boy Bastin

I agree. It’s true that Jesus contributes in many ways to the overall team performance, which is great. However, he is one of our principal strikers and, as such, he should be scoring more himself rather than supporting others so much. A more “selfish” striker, if you like. All the great ones are – they have to be in the end, or they wouldn’t get the goal tally that sets them apart.

Man Manny

Referees must protect him more. Defenders are manhandling him and getting away with it; an example is that Southampton thug.


Good point. He’s clearly not getting fouls on him called in the same way as he used to get them playing for Tax Payer Donated Stadium and Oil State Bankrolled Transfer Funds City.

Naked Cygan

Not feeling good about the Forest game. We seemed to have dipped in form since the Leeds game and Forest are on a high after the Liverpool win. Jesus not scoring is just one problem. Looks like the whole team has lost their spark. Too many miss placed pass, too many side to side and back passed, and not winning many 50/50 duels. The old Arsenal is back. 😬😵‍💫🙄🤬


Every team has a dip in form, it’s about what you do after that counts. Here is to hoping we bounce back tomorrow and have a good run in until the world cup break.


I have the same feeling about the old Arsenal coming back, I thought we had put that behind us. We just need to finish these last games strongly before the WC and see what happens at Christmas

A Different George

I hope he scores more goals, and I think he will, but we should not get too hung up on the idea that he is a centre forward and “a centre forward’s job is to score goals.” In fact, a centre forward’s job, like a fullback or indeed a keeper, is to help his team win matches. So all the “mayhem” etc. that he causes,pulling defenders out of position with his runs, making Martinelli and Xhaka far more potent threats, combing with Saka and Odegaard. dribbles into the box–these aren’t some sort of “extras” that are welcome but secondary additions… Read more »

Teryima Adi

The only Olivier, you would say, is Giroud.😄


I like what he brings to Arsenal.
But does he bring enough goals to this team? No.
We need a top goal scorer to play alongside Jesus – I would like to see us test Fulham’s resolve with Mitrovic.
Nketiah is not good enough, but Mitrovic would bring a lot to this team.

Nainsley Aitland Miles

I doubt Fulham would have let him go for less than £50m. His goals got them promotion, and his goals may just save them from relegation this season. Also has another 4 years on his contract.

Decent #9 though, certainly would have been a useful asset to have in these group stage games and cup games. Seems like he would be comfortable at Europa League level.

Boy Bastin

We need someone else who will knock in the goals. Whether he (whoever he is) will become available in January and/or for the money we have – a reported £50m – remains to be seen. One press article I read recently acknowledged the £50m likely budget and then listed three players we absolutely “must” buy. However, the estimated the cost of the three was over £75m! Let’s wait and see, I think.


Excellent article. We live in a world of press releases masquerading as football journalism. It was really refreshing not to say interesting to see some genuine analysis. Thank you.

Merlin’s Panini

Love this guy. He’s had a huge impact. Just needs to get in amongst the goals again soon.
In a bit of unrelated loan-watch news. Auston Trusty (you know… Auston Trusty! That guy we signed and lost down the back of the sofa and everyone forgot about him) scored a back heel lob today for Birmingham City. Good luck to him.


He’s a great guy, offers a lot to the team but ultimately, he doesn’t score enough and that could lead to dropping of points because there’s simply no effective backup to him in the team. If we look beyond Lacazette’s last season at Arsenal, we’ll see that we had the exact same problem: a striker offering up the goods in other aspects but lacking in his primary responsibilities. Ultimately, that isn’t sustainable… he either discovers his scoring touch or…………

Teryima Adi

Or you bring him an Osimhen that’s going to cost you truckloads of pounds.😄

Teryima Adi

Great analysis. Jesus’d come good.


Nice stats which reflect his importance to our team play. The whole team performs better with him up front, creating an orderly chaos. I hooe his mini drought ends tomorrow and he goes on a scoring run before the WC. Ultimately, what matters for me is that he scored against the Spu*s and gave me great pleasure as I held a taco in one hand and beer in the other.

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