Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal: Will the Manchester City striker thrive on more regular minutes?

17 Aug 2022 | 08:03 | Football

Ze Roberto smiled when the conversation turned to Gabriel Jesus.ex-Brazil international, with sky sports On Zoom, he was more than happy to answer questions about the players he coached during his two-year stint with Palmeiras in his hometown.

Ze Roberto was a useful megaphone for the young striker at the time, providing support and coaching ahead of his £27m move to Manchester City in 2017, but has since found himself watching his move. Frustrated with former teammates.

Jesus is a four-time Premier League winner and, of course, has made an important contribution at the Etihad Stadium, scoring 95 goals in 236 appearances in all competitions. But Ze Roberto thinks there should be more. He said the situation at Manchester City did not allow Jesus to really thrive.

“Gabriel Jesus is a player with great talent and potential, but he needs more playing time to gain confidence,” Ze Roberto told sky sports.

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Watch Gabriel Jesus’ best Premier League goals at Manchester City

“Guardiola’s mentality is to rotate his entire team and give every player a chance, but I believe the best version of Gabriel Jesus is when he is motivated and keeps playing.

“When a player like Gabriel joins the team and then leaves, it’s hard for him to be consistent and find confidence. I think it’s always difficult to change that at City.”

Ultimately, this will lead him to leave. Arsenal have reached an agreement in principle to sign the 25-year-old and they are not his only suitors, with Manchester City willing to sell before he enters the final year of his contract.

Jesus was dubbed Sergio Aguero’s successor back in 2017, but he will be leaving the Etihad as he has never started more Premier League starts for Guardiola’s side 22 times. Over the past five seasons, he has played just 51% of City’s available minutes.

Not that his scoring record is noteworthy.

Jesus averages a goal every 160 minutes in the Premier League. Since then, of the players who have scored at least 15 times in the game, only six have had an excellent shooting percentage.

These players are Aguero, Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Jamie Vardy – making sure Jesus has a good ‘s company — but to the dismay of many, his numbers aren’t any higher.

That’s partly down to a lack of consistent starting chances – Jesus has come off the bench for more than a third of his 159 Premier League games – but it’s also a matter of ending.

Jesus is great in many ways, from off-the-ball, versatile to pressing, but he’s not always reliable when it comes to conversion opportunities.

In fact, while his scoring record is by no means bad, the underlying stats hint at a major flaw in front of goal.

Jesus has the second-highest negative difference between actual and expected goals in the Premier League since his Manchester City debut five-and-a-half years ago, behind Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke.

The best finishers tend to beat their expected goals on a steady basis, as shown by the presence of Kane and Son Heung-min at the other end, but Opta’s xG model suggests Jesus has about 12 fewer net goals than he does indivual. should Yes, based on the quality of the scoring chances he has.

These numbers can be interpreted in different ways.

A high xG is definitely a positive as it demonstrates a knack for getting into the right position. There are many who think Jesus just needs more consistent minutes to build up what Ze Roberto calls “confidence” and unlock his true potential in front of goal.

Others, however, will argue that the underlying stats prove that he doesn’t have the killer instincts needed to truly be a first-choice center on a top team.

Guardiola, who has always valued Jesus, seems to belong to the latter group, preferring to use the 25-year-old as a winger even though he has no natural replacement at the forward position and eventually signed Erling Erling Haaland fills the void.

But Jesus’ next club may see him differently.

Gabriel Jesus has better record in games he starts
Gabriel Jesus has better record starting for Manchester City

After all, failing to establish himself as City’s centre-forward doesn’t mean he won’t be able to do that elsewhere. Especially seeing as his Premier League scoring record is much better as a starter than when he came off the bench.

In fact, in his 99 Premier League appearances for Manchester City, he has scored 53 goals and provided 23 assists, while in his 60 substitute appearances he has only scored 5 goals and provided 23 assists. Contributing another 6 goals, his productivity is noticeably lower.

It’s also important to remember that Jesus brings more than just goals and assists.

In fact, while his shooting has frustrated Guardiola at times, his pressing has been viewed very differently. “He’s the best in the world when we need runners and players who can help a lot with high intensity and high pressure,” he said in March.

Guardiola has long regarded Jesus as integral to his team’s ability to stifle opponents’ possession, which in turn allows City to maintain a high defence, qualities his next club will be eager to capitalise on. Mikel Arteta, who coached him at Manchester City, has long been keen to turn Arsenal into a pressing team.

Most importantly, however, according to his former mentor Ze Roberto, Jesus was just playing. “He needs a manager who can give him more minutes,” he added.

“This is how to get the most out of Gabriel Jesus.”

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