Arsenal

Gabriel Jesus shows Arsenal don’t need £80m Ivan Toney as new January transfer priority emerges

Arsenal have been heavily linked with signing a centre forward next month – and Ivan Toney a popular option – but they already have one of the Premier League’s best in Jesus

A cold Tuesday night in Luton – the modern day cold Tuesday night in Stoke for traditionalists. The hostile crowd, the tight pitch, the physical hosts. These are the kind of conditions Arsenal wilt under. Or so the old logic goes…

It used to be that you could get at Arsenal. Their squeaky clean schoolboys would turn up with their ball at lunchtime in these types of venues and be bullied off the pitch by the bigger boys. Multiple comebacks across the course of a dramatic 4-3 win at Kenilworth Road proved that once more that this no longer the case. There is perhaps no man who symbolises this turn around better than Gabriel Jesus.

The Brazilian is one of the most misunderstood players in this Gunners squad. When you think of a target man, he is not exactly what springs to mind. These types of forwards are fashioned in Burnley, not Brazil. They are comfortably clear of 6ft 2ins, not 5ft 9ins. There is perhaps no one in the Premier League more befitting of the No.9 shirt that Jesus wears though.

Up against a Luton Town back four who towered above him the Brazilian held his own aerially giving Arsenal the option of playing their hosts at their own game. The Hatters’ backline responded to this by attempting to kick Jesus off the park, but instead scaring him off, this only seemed to make the 26-year-old hungrier for more.

The home fans did their bit to try and intimidate him further, but Jesus simply wasn’t having any of it and even gave a few verbals back after winning a free kick on by the touchline in the second half. This needle is something Arsenal have historically been accused of lacking, but Jesus is the poster boy for this new vintage of Arsenal squad that are as happy to have a street fight as they are a gentleman’s duel.

What Jesus is often criticised for is his end product, but at Luton he even had that too. His close range header to restore Arsenal’s lead on the stroke of half time was Filippo Inzaghi levels of poaching, while if Peter Crouch had won the flick on that led to Kai Havertz’s equaliser at 3-3 we would surely not still be having the conversations over whether Arsenal need the aerial presence of Ivan Toney up front in January.

That goal in particular was a carbon copy of Havertz’s opener against Lens in last week’s Champions League rout. It is no coincidence that since Jesus has returned to full fitness as a focal point for Arsenal’s attack, the German has looked far closer to the £65million player Arsenal signed in the summer. “They have different qualities that compliment each other really well,” Mikel Arteta said of their partnership.

Conversations will always exist over his relative lack of goals and Arteta himself has admitted that his side need more from the Brazilian in that department. But when he is in this type of form Arsenal have in Jesus the complete centre forward – gifted with technique and flamboyance of the greatest Samba star, but hardened with the grit and cynicism of a man who has had to fight for every break he’s got in his career so far.

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