IIt took 85 seconds for Gabriel Jesus to deliver a convincing summary of what Mikel Arteta had been looking for above all else in this transfer window. Arsenal trailed 2-0 in Friday’s friendly at Nuremberg and while that was little to get excited about, their manager had every right to expect a change of gear at half-time.
Moments after his introduction, Jesus had taken loose control of a defender, found a tramline through which to leap to the box, played a one-two with Eddie Nketiah and scored inside the near post from an angle. tight.
By the end of the proceedings he had skillfully scored another goal and, if that’s about as much description of a stunning pre-season fare as anyone can stomach, at least the suggestion was that the Arsenal’s new £45m striker hadn’t been sold badly. .
In May, after Arsenal had barely put a glove on Newcastle and squandered their Champions League hopes, Arteta spoke of the first four rivals who “have a very different player profile to the one we have”. He was referring to proven winners: players who knew what it took to turn a brilliant performance into a winning one and do it with such consistency that trophies followed.
For his team to evolve, he would have to bring Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli and Ben White to this level while signing individuals who were already there.
It’s not easy when you can only offer Europa League football, but they’ve found one in Jesus and time is awfully on the Brazilian’s side.
“When we find this player, the top priority may not be age in this position,” Arteta said of his search for summer reinforcements, noting that the club’s Under-23 recruitment policy last year would be modified if necessary.
But Jesus is not a gnarly 30-year-old with a pinch of years in him: he turned 25 in April and with four top-flight winners’ medals already, it’s reasonable to think Arsenal have reached a ideal point with its acquisition.
“He’s used to winning and he knows winning is the only way to do it; I think he will set different standards at the club,” Arteta said after his arrival was confirmed on Monday.
The deal would have stood little chance had it not been for Arteta’s close working relationship with the Brazilian since their time at Manchester City. He knows exactly what he’s getting which adds to the impression of an exceptionally good game. When Jesus, prowling with determination as soon as the ball became live, leapt on that sloppy touch to set in motion his first goal against Nuremberg, it was as if he had resolved to demonstrate every facet that made him so attractive.
Under Arteta, Arsenal need to start games quickly: when they don’t, the warning signs are usually obvious and the prospects distinctly wobbly. Jesus works the ball fiercely, is able to force chances and territory through terrier-like pressure, but also knows how to use it. He is a player who gives you a foothold.
Will he give enough goals? From the No.9 position he’s long dreamed of, perhaps: he’s only scored twice as many 10s in a top-flight season, despite 38 per cent of his league appearances for City having been as as a substitute and that it has often been deployed on a large scale.
Arsenal scored 38 fewer goals than City last season and were 15 behind third-placed Chelsea. “One way or another you need these goals in the team,” Arteta said two months ago. “Don’t ask me how, but you need it.”
As he approaches his climax, Jesus should provide part of the answer. The intention is also for his running and movement to create more opportunities for Saka, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Martin Ødegaard and Nketiah – who Arteta says can be a useful foil for Jesus late in games – to demonstrate their own efficiency.
It looks like the time is right for him to take on the role of the leading man who never fell apart at City, but Arsenal still need more and their transfer activity over the next seven weeks will define just how much. point they will be able to stay the course next time.
There is still dim hope of landing Raphinha, who would bring Nicolas Pepe out of the water as an option to rotate with Saka, although Chelsea and Barcelona remain favourites. Inquiries have been made about Lille’s Kosovar winger Edon Zhegrova but he is just one of many potential alternatives.
Ajax defender Lisandro Martínez could decide that his former manager Erik ten Hag nuances a popularity contest against Arteta, perhaps reflecting that he cannot win them all, while Youri Tielemans would be an exceptional addition to the midfielder should Leicester agree a deal. Fábio Vieira, the famous Portuguese playmaker, has signed from Porto but will have time to settle.
The gap between Arsenal’s best players and their understudy has been too big for some time: Arteta wants quality as an alternative to quality, especially when five substitutions have to be made. The arrival of Jesus is the key statement for now.
“From day one he showed that passion, anger and determination every time he did something,” Arteta said.
Those exercised by events in Bavaria could see exactly what he meant.