Gabriel Jesus reveals Arsenal role in solving Man City and Brazil question after Leicester brace
Arsenal had to make sure they got the decision of which striker to sign this summer right. After a season where the lack of a regular goalscorer ultimately became a key component of the club’s failure to qualify for the Champions League, a second season of striker uncertainty would be disastrous.
However, Gabriel Jesus’ arrival at Arsenal has brought only positivity and excitement. Yet this was not always the case. Brazilian football expert Tim Vickery had raised concerns in a conversation with Sky Sports regarding whether Jesus was in fact a number nine.
“What is he? Does he want to play as a No.9, or does he want to play as a wide striker?” Vickery asked rhetorically. “He has kind of run away from being a centre-forward.
“He was Brazil’s centre-forward in Russia four years ago,” Vickery said. “And he didn’t score a goal. That’s a trauma for him to this day. Ever since then, there has been this question mark. ‘What are you? Are you a centre-forward, or do you want to play wide?’. I had a chat about him with Brazil’s coach, who said after the World Cup, he asked Gabriel Jesus, ‘where do you want to play?’.
“Jesus said, ‘I don’t mind’. The coach said, ‘well, clearly you do mind. Clearly, you have a preference. Tell me where it is that you want to play?’. And he said a little bit sheepishly, ‘I would rather go wide’. And since then, Brazil hasn’t really used him as a centre-forward.
“There has been a sense that he has been running away from that centre-forward position and perhaps running away from comparisons with Aguero as well. So, what are Arsenal buying? This needs to be very, very clear. What are they buying? Where is he going to play? And where he is going to fit into their system of play? You do wonder if he lacks penalty area presence.”When Arsenal signed Jesus, there was plenty of talk therefore about whether they had made the right choice with more natural strikers such as Gianluca Scamacca on the move this window. However, it became very clear extremely quickly during the pre-season that they had.
Now, with the Premier League under way, the 4-2 victory over Leicester saw Jesus score twice and set two more goals up. After the game, he explained the misconceptions around him after the World Cup that Vickery had described, and he referenced his Arsenal switch bringing him back to the ‘Gabriel’ he wants to be.
“Obviously given the circumstances that happened, after the World Cup, it ended up that in the national team I started to play more as the winger, at City too,” he told ESPN. “So, it’s normal for the player to take it and think that you can’t play with 9, which is the winger, and I had this head for a long time.
“Now I have a different mind, I believe in myself a lot more, I’m back to smiling, to having confidence playing and that’s why things are working out, and when they’re not working out too, I’ll continue to be the same, which is in my control it’s my performances, the way I face things, so why can’t I? For a long time, I thought like that, but I came back, the usual Gabriel, to think that I’m the 9, that I’m there to finish, to help, not just to score goals, but to go down, play, I came back.”
Jesus’ current form and own words show that despite conversations around a player’s mindset from nearly four years ago, these are not a fair representation of the player’s current form. The 25-year-old is flourishing as a striker and perhaps the freedom Mikel Arteta has allowed him is exactly what he needed.
Arsenal now face three matches against Bournemouth, Fulham and Aston Villa before taking on Manchester United. The Gunners will hope to win all four with Jesus at the tip of their spear being thrown toward Champions League qualification and a route back to their years at the top.