Arteta gives Gabriel Jesus spotlight to transform Arsenal’s upward ambition
It took 85 seconds for Gabriel Jesus to offer a convincing precis of what Mikel Arteta had sought above all else in this transfer window.
Arsenal were 2-0 down in Friday’s friendly at Nürnberg and while that was hardly anything to get worked up about, their manager was entitled to expect a half-time change of gear.
Within moments of his introduction Jesus had seized on loose control from a defender, found a tramline through which to surge towards the box, played a one-two with Eddie Nketiah and scored off the inside of the near post from a tight angle.
By the time proceedings ended he had deftly flicked in another goal and, if that is about as much description of some knockabout pre-season fare as anyone can bear, at least the suggestion was that Arsenal’s new £45m forward had not been mis-sold.
In May, after Arsenal had barely laid a glove on Newcastle and frittered away their Champions League hopes, Arteta spoke of top-four rivals who “have a very different profile of player to the one we have”. He was referring to proven winners: players who knew what it took to turn a bright performance into a winning one and to do it with such consistency that trophies followed.
In order for his side to evolve he would have to bring Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli and Ben White to that level while signing individuals who were already there.
That is not easy when you can offer only Europa League football, but they have found one in Jesus and time remains tantalisingly on the Brazilian’s side.
“When we find that player, maybe the top priority won’t be the age in that position,” Arteta said of his search for summer reinforcements, signalling that last year’s policy of signing under-23s would be tweaked when necessary.
But Jesus is hardly a gnarled 30-year-old with a sprinkling of years left in him: he turned 25 in April and with four top-flight winner’s medals already it is reasonable to think Arsenal have hit a sweet spot with his acquisition.
“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,” Arteta said after his arrival was confirmed on Monday.
The deal would have had little chance without Arteta’s close working relationship with the Brazilian from their time at Manchester City. He knows exactly what he is getting, which adds to the sense of an uncommonly good match.