From Edu to Gabriel Jesus – how Sao Paulo became Arsenal’s talent factory

By Tony Attwood

When it comes to goals and assists per 90 minutes, only two players (Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah) have been more effective than Jesus since he joined Manchester City in January 2017. In other words, he has contributed goals and assists at a faster rate than the likes of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Raheem Sterling.

However, some commentators are suggesting there is a problem with Jesus coming to Arsenal noting that Manchester City created 87 “Big Chances” (according to the Premier League’s official site) last season, while Arsenal only created 39.   The only clubs to create fewer “big chances” than Arsenal, were Newcastle United, Everton and Norwich City.

However it is clear that Arsenal must be looking to change the way they are going about goal scoring this coming season for there is no point in playing a “big chance convertor” up front if he doesn’t get the big chances.

And this is obviously where Saka, Smith Rowe and Odegaard come in, since they are quite obviously the manufacturers of chances.

But it is also worth noting a statistic that I have never seen the media pick up on, and that is that two of the top three players in the category of “big chances missed” on the official Premier League website come from the same team: the mighty Tiny Totts.  And two out of the top four also come from the Liverpool team as well.  So maybe this whole “big chance” thing doesn’t really tell us much.

Here is the chart.

Player Club Big chances missed
1. Harry Kane Tottenham Hotspur 18
2. Mohamed Salah Liverpool 17
2. Son Heung-Min Tottenham Hotspur 17
4. Diogo Jota Liverpool 14
5. Jarrod Bowen West Ham United 13


So maybe “big chances” is not what it is all about after all.

There have also been statements to the effect that Jesus “is a player who likes to be in more of a wider than central position.”  That was according to Pep Guardiola.  Now the media responded with statements such as, “Arsenal and Jesus evidently disagree with that particular assessment” but at least they had the decency to add “although there is no doubt that the forward’s flexibility makes him even more appealing to Arteta.”

Now we know that Mr Arteta had not signed an out-and-out striker since his appointment as manager in December 2019. Instead, he has got rid of two of them: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, the latter being converted into an unlikely but effective foil allowing Smith Rowe and Saka to become Arsenal’s top scorers last season (both in the double figures – the media might like to note).

And most of the media chit-chat around the signing ignores the role of Eddie Nketiah who has signed a new deal and got the number 14 shirt.  

But what this really means is that we have a totally different attack.  The Aubameyang / Lacazette duopoly was an utterly different beast from the Jesus / Nketiah attack.  

And here is another thought.  In December 2020, Guardiola said, “One of the reasons why we concede few goals is thanks exclusively to him. Without him we would concede more chances.”   He was speaking of Jesus.

And, as another giveaway as to what Arteta might have in mind, in February this Guardiola said of Jesus, “He can play in the three positions up front. And when we need runners and players that help a lot with our high intensity and high pressing, he is the best in the world.”

So now we get to another point.  Although Jesus didn’t play every game (28 in the league last season) he actually played in 41 games all told, including eight in the Champions League. He also played in seven of the Manchester City games against the “big six” teams, and as the Telegraph says, “Guardiola would regularly select Jesus against the most challenging opponents.”

This now gives us a further clue as to what will happen.  Eddie is likely to be played in games against lesser teams, to help develop his skills and confidence, with Jesus on the bench, and the situation being reversed in top games.   What’s more, given that Jesus has often played out wide, if the game needs one more goal then it is likely that on the hour mark both will be on the pitch, one at centre forward one out wide.  And quite possibly with the two players alternating just to confuse the defence.

One of the other interesting points here is that Arsenal will now not only have four Brazilians in the squad, but all four come from within 20 miles of Sao Paulo.  Plus of course there is Edu.

This is not exactly a new development.  In his time at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger signed seven players from Sao Paulo and there have been reports that Sao Paulo and Arsenal are working on ever more formal links.  This would give Arsenal first choice on a regular flow of talent, and it would give Sao Paulo an added status among young talent looking for a club, to know there is a link with a Premier League team that already has several players from that club.   

It seems to be the way things are going.

One Reply to “From Edu to Gabriel Jesus – how Sao Paulo became Arsenal’s talent factory”

  1. a south american feeder team can’t be a bad idea. Brazil has even begun to produce top class defenders and keepers. we may be a back-up left and right back from top three it looks to me. onward, upward!

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