Football Features

Gabriel Jesus proves he is about more than just goals in dramatic Arsenal win

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:37, 5 December 2023

Gabriel Jesus proved that he is about much more than goals as Arsenal fought to a 4-3 win over Luton on Tuesday night.

The Brazilian was brought in by Mikel Arteta last summer to lead the line for Arsenal and he hit the ground running, scoring five goals in his first eight league appearances.

There was then a brief drought before injury, but Jesus returned in fine form too, scoring six goals in his final 10 league games as Arsenal just missed out on the title. Nonetheless, he was dubbed as not the goalscorer Arsenal needed, likened to the Erling Haaland signing at Manchester City.

This season in the Premier League, Jesus’ lack of goals has come under the microscope again with just one strike in his opening nine league games. He has once again suffered with injuries and only slowly made his way into the game, also being shifted across the front line.

The criticism also came despite the fact that Jesus has been the go-to man for goals in the Champions League, netting in all four of his appearances in the competition this season. Jesus himself wasn’t fazed by the talk, saying last month that goals were not his strong point, helping the team more in other areas.

“There are things that I can’t control. I train, I look for, I try, I move, I help the team,” he said.

“I believe that goals are not my strong point, but I score goals, I’m there to score goals. I did so much in the national team. When I score goals again, it’s going to happen. It’s work. I work quietly, I’m not one to respond to criticism, I’m not one to be happy with praise. I was, I won’t be anymore.”

And against Luton he proved that he is crucial to Arsenal in ways other than just scoring.

Three of Arsenal’s four goals against Luton involved Jesus at some stage including, of course, his header. That’s the easiest contribution to pick out, nodding in after Ben White’s wonderful work down the right to make it 2-1 to Arsenal at half-time.

Jesus also set up the third, with a neat pass into Kai Havertz with Arsenal trailing at the time. But perhaps the best input came in a goal he will not be directly involved in, at least on the official stats.

Luton had started the game well and were pushing Arenal, having a few chances. But they were undone by their own work. A heavy backpass to Thomas Kaminski forced the goalkeeper to kick the ball into touch, giving Arsenal a throw in by the corner flag. While some teams may have taken their time, looking to bring the big defenders up to attack the box, Jesus thought quickly.

Jesus took a quick throw-in to Bukayo Saka, catching the Luton defence off guard, allowing the Englishman to set up Gabriel Martinelli for the opener. It means Saka has scored or assisted against all 25 teams he has faced in the Premier League, one of just two players to have a perfect record with more than two opponents faced (Harry Kane 32/32).

“Gabriel Jesus himself will say he’s not the best goalscorer in the world but he creates a lot for his team,” Matthew Upson said on BBC Radio 5 Live.

But it wasn’t easy for Arsenal. They were twice pegged back by Luton, with both goals coming from corners. Gabriel Osho and Elijah Adebayo’s goals were similar, both headers from Alfie Doughty corners, exploiting a weakness on the night.

Luton even took the lead through Ross Barkley with a goal that brought more questions to David Raya, who allowed the Englishman’s shot to go through him. But Jesus set up Havertz for Arsenal’s equaliser and just as Luton looked to be holding out for a draw, Declan Rice headed an injury-time winner.

It was Rice’s second injury-time winner for Arsenal this season having also netted late against Manchester United at the Emirates, becoming just the third different player to net two 90th-minute winning goals in a single Premier League campaign after Ian Wright and Nicklas Bendtner.

The win also secured Mikel Arteta’s 100% record, now beating all 25 of the teams he has faced as a manager in the Premier League. And, most importantly for Arsenal, it sent them five points clear at the top of the league.