When an 18-year-old Gabriel Jesus burst onto the scene at Manchester City, scoring on his debut after just 11 minutes against Swansea City back in 2017, Pep Guardiola looked as if he had found a long-term successor to Sergio Agüero. No, the Argentina international and now City legend wasn’t winding down his time at the Etihad, in fact, he’d go on to score 42 goals over the next two seasons as City won successive Premier League titles, but the vast resources and financial war chest at the Spaniard’s disposal ensured Guardiola could recruit from far and wide. Jesus looked like an enigma.
It took little time for the Brazilian to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League. He was already built like a grown man and possessed blistering pace to adapt to Guardiola’s demanding tactical system with a maturity that surpassed his years. 95 goals across five seasons represent the growth he showed over his career at City. Be it partnered with Agüero or indeed trusted to lead the line after his departure for Barcelona, Jesus would always guarantee to find the back of the net. And that trust was returned with a plethora of trophies — an FA Cup, four League Cups and four league titles all with the pressure of a side constantly favourites with Premier League winner odds.
However, Guardiola’s ruthless winning machine has always got to keep moving forward, and after struggling for form at times throughout last season, as well as being deployed out wide to make way for Phil Foden in a false nine role, Jesus looked to have lost confidence. And when the opportunity arose to sign Erling Haaland, perhaps the most sought-after striker of a generation having impressed for Borussia Dortmund, Jesus was deemed surplus to requirements.
His departure from the Etihad was hardly the crescendo he’d have imagined and although he lifted the title, you could see the Brazilian was hungry for a new adventure — one that began with Guardiola’s former assistant, Mikel Arteta. Now 25 years old, the time was right for Jesus to take responsibility as a club’s main man, and Arsenal, under Arteta’s supervision for the third successive summer, wasted no time in signing Jesus for a cool £45 million ahead of the new season.
From the moment he arrived, you knew Arteta was impressed, and the signing instantly made waves with the Premier League news as the Gunners had a proper talisman to fire them into the top four. “I think the club has done a tremendous job to recruit a player of this stature,” he said. “It’s somebody that I know personally really well, and we all know really well because he’s played in the league and been really successful.
“It’s a position that’s been on our radar for a long time now and we have managed to get a player that we all wanted, so I’m really happy. He is used to winning and he knows that winning is the only way to do it. I think he will set different standards at the club.”
Jesus hit the ground running in pre-season with a variety of different strikes from looping headers to powerful near-post finishes. It’s the kind of versatility in a forward Arsenal fan had been craving and despite a slow start in his competitive debut away to Crystal Palace, the number of different runs in behind and times he dropped deep to link the play was encouraging.
It didn’t take long for him to find the back of the net for his new club either. A well-crafted brace against Leicester City was quickly followed up by a priceless equaliser against Fulham, where you could clearly see the younger players in the side look for Jesus as a focal point when things were proving difficult.
A late Gabriel Magalhães winner ensured Arsenal would maintain their 100% start, and while even the most optimistic Gunners fans will know the strength of the top four, they must be dreaming of a return to the Champions League after a seven-year absence. As for Jesus, only time will tell how many goals he’ll bag this season as the new number nine, but you certainly wouldn’t rule him out of the race for the Golden Boot given how he’s started in red hot form.