The 49 Steps
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The 49 Steps

Gabriel Jesus Sets Clock Ticking on Arteta

Mikel Arteta will finally sign a striker for Arsenal. It’s been some journey. Yet, instead of going round the houses and down the bloody drains, Arteta has done the simple thing and returned closer to home.

Gabriel Jesus is set to be the №9 Arsenal need, even if he isn’t the nine Arteta deserves. The deal for the man Arteta watched develop at Manchester City is now wrapped up, according to transfer boffin Fabrizio Romano:

Colour me intrigued. There are so many points of interest about this transfer.

First, exactly how does Arteta continue to charm Arsenal into throwing money at him? How does he get to stump up £45 million for Jesus on the heels of dropping £34 million-plus for Fabio Vieira?

What’s more the spending isn’t over yet. Romano also dropped the info Arsenal will push ahead trying to sign £65-million man Raphinha, while Lisandro Martinez is still on the cards, even though Ajax want as much as €50 million.

These are exciting targets and equally exciting times, but how? I mean, how in the fuckety fuck does Arteta keep prying so much money out of the club?

Arsenal will spend around £200 million alone if they get everybody on this summer’s list. That’s a hell of a boost for a manager who finished eighth, fifth and without a trophy the last two seasons.

It’s not as if this splurge is an isolated incident. Rather, it’s the latest in a policy of spend, spend and spend some more until you happen to get it right.

Don’t forget Arsenal shelled out more than any Premier League team on fees last summer. The spree yielded Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale, Martin Odegaard, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares.

Bar Odegaard and possibly Ramsdale, the jury is still out on most of those signings. In fact, Tavares, one of Arteta’s handpicked acquisitions, is already on his way out.

Last summer’s batch of newbies followed on from the previous year’s £45 million signing of Thomas Partey, as well as Gabriel Magalhaes at a cost of £27 million. This is about as far removed from Arsene Wenger’s fiscal prudence and youth-based projects as you can get.

Arteta has been given every player he wants. He’s been given more money and time than he deserves. Surely now the clock is ticking on a gaffer who must deliver big time this season. Big time, as in Champions League qualification and silverware.

There can be no more excuses. No more process speak. No more free hits.

Arteta has everything he needs, starting with the striker supposedly ideal for his system. It’s going to be fascinating to see if Jesus can transfer those system skills to a squad with less talent than City’s.

The prospects are good, even if Jesus’ chance-conversion numbers are far from great. Here’s how he compares to Eddie Nketiah:

That’s quite the difference in efficiency in front of goal. It’s also not a good omen for a team that missed out on fourth last season largely because of an inability to take chances.

The scoring disparity with Spurs leaves no doubt about where Arsenal’s main failing lies:

Asking whether Jesus can bridge the gap is a tricky question. Especially when he played on the right most often for City last season.

Think about that for a moment. Pep Guardiola played his №9 wide right, despite the absence of another recognised centre-forward. City were content to play without a striker rather than deploy Jesus through the middle. What’s more it worked for the league champs.

Jesus’ numbers hardly set pulses racing, as Football 365’s Ian Watson pointed out: “That total of eight goals is not an impressive haul for a centre-forward. Twenty-seven players scored more goals in the Premier League last season.”

Watson’s most damning stat concerns Jesus’ annual scoring tallies and how often he turns chances into goals:

We have excused his goal tally — Jesus has hit double figures in only two of his five full seasons at City — on account of his versatility, but his other numbers suggest his finishing requires refinement. In four of his five full seasons at the Etihad, Jesus’ goals have numbered less than his xG. Forwards can generally get away with some sloppiness at City because another chance is usually only ever just around the corner. Arsenal require a level of ruthlessness that some will need convincing Jesus possesses.

Arsenal don’t have City’s creative depth, even if Arteta’s chance-manufacturing department looks stronger after the addition of one F. Vieira. He’ll help Odegaard and Bukayo Saka keep the lines of supply open more often.

The bigger question, though, is whether Arteta’s style of play is striker-friendly, regardless of personnel? There has to be a reason two goalscorers as proven and prolific as Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang dried up completely on the watch of The Process King.

Sure, there were mitigating factors. Auba’s a party boy who got a little too comfortable after signing his new deal. Laca got comfortable with a few extra pounds, but these were still two players who had scored for fun throughout the rest of their careers, including at pre-Arteta Arsenal.

Squawka’s Muhammad Butt tried to explain those droughts by pointing out Aubameyang played as a “pure poacher,” something “which would never work” in Arteta’s system. Jesus is seen as something different, although curiously, this stat from Squawka would suggest otherwise:

Ironically, Butt found a more direct comparison between Jesus and Lacazette: “Since the start of 2017/18 (when Lacazette joined the Gunners) the Frenchman has 54 goals, 25 assists, 142 chances created (21 big) and 144/230 take-ons completed. He’s played 10,309 minutes compared to Jesus’ 8,656, but the similarity in their production should show Arsenal fans exactly where he fits in.”

Lacazette’s goals were in short supply, but he played his best football away from the area in an Arsenal shirt on Arteta’s watch. Arteta wanted Laca to be a sort of Roberto Firmino and when it worked, Arsenal played some slick stuff.

Jesus can create chances, drop off from the front to join midfield and press all the way along the forward line. It’s easy to love this quote from Guardiola about Jesus that’s doing the rounds: “And when we need runners and players that help a lot with our high intensity and high pressing, he is the best in the world.”

All of that off-the-ball and creativity stuff is nice and all. In fact, I’m all for it, but you primarily sign a striker for his goals.

It’d be tough to stomach spending £45 million on a striker whose best quality is how hard he works out of possession. That’s a fortune, especially for a player with only one year left on his contract. Smart business? Do me a flavour. Wenger, we hardly knew ye…

On balance, I think Jesus will prove to be a good signing, even if he doesn’t quite hit the heights many will expect. Arteta had better hope he does, because if Jesus flounders, the PR monarch’s house of cards will fold like a sham structure.

Originally published at http://arsenalnotes49.wordpress.com on June 25, 2022.

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Arsenal, NFL History and Film Analysis from James Dudko

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James Dudko

James Dudko

Films, Footie and Gridiron, with the emphasis on Arsenal, NFL history and analysis of cinema from years past.