IIt took 85 seconds for Gabriel Jesus to convincingly explain what Mikel Arteta had been looking for most in this transfer window. Arsenal were 2-0 down in Friday’s friendly in Nürnberg and while that was little to get excited about, their manager could legitimately count on a change of gears at half-time.
Just moments after his introduction, Jesus had taken loose control of a defender, found a tram line to charge through towards the box, played a one-two with Eddie Nketiah and found the inside of the near post from a tight angle.
By the time proceedings ended he had cleverly scored another goal and if that’s as much description of stunning pre-season bargaining as anyone can take, at least the suggestion that Arsenal’s new £45m striker hadn’t been mis-sold was was .
In May, after Arsenal barely put on a glove and squandered their Champions League hopes, Arteta spoke of top-four rivals who “have a very different player profile to ours”. He referred to proven winners: players who knew what it took to turn a brilliant performance into a successful one, and did so with such consistency that trophies followed.
For his side to develop further, he would need to bring Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli and Ben White to this level while signing people who were already there.
That’s not easy when you can only offer Europa League football, but they’ve found one in Jesus and time remains tempting on the Brazilian’s side.
“If we find that player, maybe age in that position won’t be the top priority,” Arteta said of his search for summer reinforcements, signaling that last year’s policy of signing Under-23 players would be adjusted if necessary.
But Jesus is hardly a gnarly 30-year-old with a hint of years in him: he turned 25 in April, and with already four top-flight medals to his name, it’s reasonable to think Arsenal have hit a sweet spot with their acquisition.
“He’s used to winning and he knows winning is the only way; 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 without Arteta’s close collaboration with the Brazilian from his Manchester City days. He knows exactly what he’s getting, which adds to the feeling of an unusually good match. When, once the ball was lively, Jesus roamed purposefully and pounced on that sloppy touch to set his first goal in motion against Nuremberg, it was as if he set out to demonstrate all the facets that made him so attractive.
Under Arteta, Arsenal need to get games started quickly: when they don’t, the warning signs are usually obvious and the prospects downright shaky. Jesus works wildly off the ball, capable of forcing chances and territory with terrier-like pressing but also knows how to capitalize on it. He’s a player who gives you support.
Will he provide enough goals? The No. 9 position may have been a long time coming: he has only twice surpassed 10 goals in a top season, despite playing 38% of his league games for City as a substitute and often being used across the board.
Arsenal scored 38 fewer goals than City last season and fell 15 short of third-placed Chelsea. “Somehow you need these goals in the team,” said Arteta two months ago. “Don’t ask me how, but you need them.”
As it nears its climax, Jesus should give part of the answer. The intent is also for his running and moves to create more opportunities for Saka, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Martin Ødegaard and Nketiah – who Arteta believes can be a useful foil for Jesus late in the games – to their own efficiency to demonstrate.
It seems the right time for him to take on the mantle of leadership that never got in his way at City, but Arsenal need more and their transfer activity over the next seven weeks will determine how capable they are Course to survive next time.
There is still a faint hope of landing Raphinha, who would blow Nicolas Pépé out of the water as an option for a rotation with Saka, although Chelsea and Barcelona remain favorites. Inquiries have been made for Lille’s Kosovar winger Edon Zhegrova but he is just one of several possible alternatives.
Ajax defender Lisandro Martínez could decide his old manager Erik ten Hag is shadowing a popularity contest against Arteta that would perhaps reflect he can’t win them all, while Youri Tielemans would be an excellent addition to midfield if Leicester agree to a deal . Fábio Vieira, the vaunted Portuguese playmaker, has signed from Porto but is being given time to settle in.
The gap between Arsenal’s top performers and their underwriters has been too wide for some time: Arteta wants quality as an alternative to quality, especially when five substitutions are on the cards. The arrival of Jesus is the most important statement for now.
“From day one, he showed that passion, that anger and that determination every time he did something,” Arteta said.
Anyone familiar with the events in Bavaria could understand exactly what he meant.