Football Features

Post-Man City glow-up incoming? Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal gave fans a glimpse of the real Gabriel Jesus

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 22:00, 5 August 2022

Following a much-ballyhooed dress rehearsal, Arsenal ensured it was alright on the night as they ran out 2-0 winners on Premier League opening evening against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

Mikel Arteta’s youthful charges have installed a renewed sense of optimism among Gunners faithful and on tonight’s showing you can understand why. A more focused transfer strategy has led to Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus arriving from Manchester City this summer, with the latter immediately putting defences up and down England’s top division on notice following a productive pre-season campaign.

Jesus, wearing ‘number nine’, wasn’t able to follow in the footsteps of centre-forward predecessors Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette by scoring on his Premier League debut for the club. Nevertheless playing up top is a return to familiar surroundings as the 25-year-old forward under Pep Guardiola was nominally utilised (albeit effectively) out wide.

In short, Jesus and Arsenal needed each other. Jesus desired a more central role while the 13-time English champions sought an upgrade on back-up striker Eddie Nketiah and someone more consistent than Lacazette, who returned to boyhood club Lyon following another disappointing campaign. Even though Jesus blanked he was a constant presence and in post-match interviews Arteta emphasised how he brings a “fear factor” to the team by occupying defenders’ minds.

For one, no one completed more take-ons (6) and had more touches inside the opposition box (10) than him. “Every time he gets the ball, Jesus, it looks like something’s going to happen,” said Jamie Carragher “He looks like a real class act.” To further contextualise this unshackled performance, six take-ons was the most Jesus ever completed in a Premier League match for Man City, having previously done so three times (against Fulham, Brighton and Aston Villa). In other words, he equalled his personal best in just one game for Arsenal.

Jesus couldn’t have chosen a more suitable club as the Gunners already had the record for most different Brazilian goalscorers for a Premier League club. Jesus will likely be the twelfth when he breaks his duck. Finding the net before him, compatriot Gabriel Martinelli nodded the visitors in front after enjoying large swathes of possession. It was his first headed Premier League goal and one that was set up by Ukranian wing-back Zinchenko, who didn’t look out of place marauding down the flank.

Following a couple of injury-hit, stop-start seasons, Martinelli played his most league matches last term and netted six times, one more than he managed in his previous two seasons combined. His fellow winger Bukayo Saka would provide the cross for Marc Guehi to inadvertently put the ball into his own net with five minutes left on the clock. Having scored on the final day against Everton last season, Martenelli has never managed to score in three consecutive Premier League games. He’s got a chance to put that right when Arsenal host Leicester City at the Emirates on August 13.