Thierry Henry is Gabriel Jesus’s boyhood hero and Arsenal faithfuls will hope that the Brazil forward’s impact will be like the Frenchman’s during the Arsene Wenger days.
Jesus, in search of game time, ditched Manchester City, where silverware is almost guaranteed, to join Arsenal where he was presented with a promising template for a bright future.
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Till date, Arsenal have spent £269.52 million—the most in the Premier League—in the transfer window since 2021-22.
Last season was a mixed bag. Arsenal started with three straight defeats before stitching a string of good results to move into the top-four where they remained for most of the season. But a spate of defeats in the final stretch meant they ended fifth and missed out on a Champions League spot. An improvement nonetheless as they had finished eighth in previous two seasons.
After a poor start to the last campaign, there were calls for Mikel Arteta’s sacking but the Arsenal hierarchy backed the Spaniard.
The young ones
Arteta repaid the faith showed in him. There were some meltdowns along the way but after a long time Arsenal looked like the Arsenal of their heyday, pleasing to the eye. They played with a tempo, the passing at times was breathtaking and, most importantly, they weren’t predictable as they had become over the past few seasons.
Last season’s new recruits and youngsters coming of age were central to their promising displays. Ben White added steel to the defence, Aaron Ramsdale was solid under the bar, defensive midfielder Thomas Partey came into his own and performances of youngsters like Bukayo Saka, Kiren Tierney, Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard went up a notch.
What they lacked were goals. They scored just 61 times last season which was second-worst behind Manchester United’s tally on 57 among the top-six. Champions Manchester City and Liverpool, in second place, scored 99 and 94 goals respectively.
Cityzens turn Gunners
Arteta will hope that Jesus will fill the crucial gap. The initial signs have been encouraging with Arsenal scoring many in pre-season games with Jesus contributing in most of them including a hattrick in 6-0 demolition of Sevilla in the Emirates Cup final on Saturday. They have won all their pre-season games including victories over their Premier League rivals Chelsea (4-0) and Everton (2-0).
Arteta, who worked with Jesus during his time at City, has been impressed with the Brazilian’s displays so far but wants him focus on playing like a proper forward.
“He creates chaos, he creates uncertainty and he’s always on your shoulder. He’s a real threat and this is what we need. He’s very versatile, but obviously, the way we would like to develop him is in that (No.9) position,” Arteta said of Jesus during the recent USA tour. Jesus has scored 95 goals in 236 appearances for City.
While pre-season ties don’t present a clear picture of what to expect as the season progresses, the £46.98 million Arsenal spent on him already looks like a bargain.
Another signing that might have gone under the radar but could make an impact is Oleksandr Zinchenko. A £31.50 million buy from City, the Ukrainian offers flexibility as he is capable of playing as a left-back as well as a creative midfielder.
Even Pep Guardiola has admitted that Zinchenko best position is in the midfield and not as a left-back. While he played all his matches as a left-back for City, he slotted in the midfield while turning out for Ukraine.
So how will Arsenal line-up in the new season? Initial games suggest that Jesus will start at the centre of the attack with his countryman Martinelli to his left, Saka to his right and Odegaard performing the duty of a creative midfielder. Partey and Granit Xhaka will man the midfield while White and Gabriel Magalhaes will be the centre-backs with Tierney and Zinchenko swapping the duties of a left-back. Zinchenko may even move to the midfield to offer Arsenal flexibility.
The only position where Arsenal look a bit weak at the moment is that of a right-back. Cedric Soares featured regularly in that position last season but Arteta is looking to add new faces in that position after reports that Hector Bellerin is in talks to terminate his contract with the club.
During recruitment, Arteta and Arsenal made sure that they signed young players, who could form the core and serve club for long As a result, they have one of the youngest squad in the Premier League. Last term, they had the youngest squad in the league.
The Arsenal management has shown faith in Arteta and spent handsomely in the transfer market. Now, they will expect the manager to deliver at least Champions League spot this season to start with.