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How Arsenal could look with Gabriel Jesus in starting XI

| 05.07.2022

How Gabriel Jesus could fit into the Arsenal starting XI

Arsenal completed the signing of Gabriel Jesus from Manchester City for £45million on a long-term deal having fallen at the final hurdle last season in a failed bid to finish in the top four.

Back-to-back defeats at north London rivals Tottenham and Newcastle left them praying for a miracle on the last day.

Spurs were never going to slip up at Norwich so the Gunners will be playing in the Europa League instead of the Champions League this season, something Mikel Arteta admitted gave him “pain”.

With the new season on the horizon, Arteta has been adding to his young squad by signing 22-year-old Porto midfielder Fabio Vieira and teenage winger Marquinhos from Sao Paulo, but Jesus has now joined the ranks following Alexandre Lacazette’s return to Lyon and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s switch to Barcelona in January.

Can Jesus save Gunners?

Jesus and Arteta worked together closely at Manchester City and the Brazilian is looking forward to resuming their relationship at the Emirates.

“I believe 100 per cent in Mikel. I had a very good time with him before, he’s a very good guy and a very good coach as well,” he told the club’s website. “He helped me a lot. We would always stick together after the training sessions and do some finishing or something.”

But how will Arsenal’s strongest XI look with Jesus in the side? We look at Arteta’s options with the players he has at his disposal.

When Jesus signed from Palmeiras in 2016 he was touted as the new Sergio Aguero but six years later he looks surplus to requirements at City, who seem prepared to sell for £50million, just £1m less than the Premier League champions coughed up for Haaland.

It was long expected Jesus would play as the focal point of City’s attack when Aguero moved on or retired but Pep Guardiola generally played him out on the right wing and that’s the position he prefers playing for the national team, according to an interview Brazil coach Tite gave to South American football expert Tim Vickery.

Clearly that would not fit in with the plans of Arteta, who prefers one central striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation and he already has a major talent in Bukayo Saka to play wide right.

Interestingly, his stats playing centrally or on the right suggest he is equally happy in either position.

During his six seasons with City, Jesus has scored 43 times in 6,853 minutes at an average of a goal every 159 minutes, only marginally better than his record playing in any other role (usually on the wing) where his 15 goals came at a rate of one per 165 minutes.

His assist record over the last three seasons were actually better on the flank but it is unlikely the Gunners want to shell out £50m for another wide man when they already have Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe at their disposal, with Arsenal also making an offer for Leeds winger Raphinha!

One option would be to change the system to a 4-4-2, with Jesus operating up front with Eddie Nketiah, who signed a new long-term deal in June.

Arteta deployed that formation in an impressive 3-1 victory over Aston Villa back in October but that was the exception rather than the rule, so it has to be assumed the Spaniard will stick with a formula that brought success apart from those games at Tottenham and Newcastle.

The Gunners boss obviously knows Jesus well from his time as assistant to Guardiola at City, so he must be confident the 25-year-old from Sao Paulo can thrive as a centre forward. That would involve rotating his attacking midfielders but who makes the cut?

Martin Odegaard started in all but six of Arsenal’s Premier League games last season and looks set to play behind Jesus, the position favoured by Vieira in the same system with Porto last season.

Although Vieira was a regular at the tail end of the campaign, he started just 15 of Porto’s 34 games in their title-winning season and until he adapts to the rigours of the Premier League, a place on the bench looks likely for the time being.

Saka, who provided the most assists for Arsenal with seven, has the right wing role nailed down but his place in the team would be under threat should Raphinha make the move to the Emirates while on the left it’s a straight battle between Martinelli and Smith Rowe which is a tough call.

Granit Xhaka, Arsenal starting XI

The holding midfield roles look much easier to pick, with Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey operating in front of the back four, although the way Mohamed Elneny ended the season it would be no surprise to see the Egyptian start against Crystal Palace on the opening weekend.

When Kieran Tierney is fit there is no-one to touch him at left-back and on the other flank, preference has to go to Japan’s Takehiro Tomiyasu, one of the Gunners’ best players last season,.

Gabriel and Ben White are in the heart of defence, although don’t be surprised if William Saliba challenges those two after successful loan spells with Nice and Marseille.

That leaves Aaron Ramsdale between the sticks, with Bernd Leno expected to leave in the summer.

Jesus has only twice hit double figures in his six seasons with City, so he is not guaranteed to be a success at the Emirates, but with more game time he can help Arsenal fans forget the pain of last season’s meltdown.

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Warren Barner