Gabriel Jesus faced the cameras at the end of a record-breaking home debut for Arsenal and declared: ‘I am so happy.’ A few minutes later, his manager offered a slightly different version of events.
‘He is disappointed in the dressing room because he said he could have scored four,’ said Mikel Arteta.
It was about the first time all afternoon that wires connecting Jesus and his colleagues had crossed.
Gabriel Jesus was on song on his home debut for Arsenal, scoring two and setting up two more
The Brazil forward curled a superb opener before heading in an expert second at the back post
In this win over Leicester, he was the centrepiece around which Arsenal’s attack fizzed with invention and intelligence.
He scored two — his first competitive goals since arriving for £45million this summer— and assisted two more.
If early signs in pre-season showed the 25-year-old would add bite and verve to Arsenal, this was a performance to suggest he could transform Arteta’s side.
‘He’s a world-class player. In terms of his numbers, the way he works, his attitude in training every single day. He’s an example,’ said Oleksandr Zinchenko, who also joined Arsenal from Manchester City this summer.
‘He’s still young. Of course, everyone needs to improve some things. He’s not ideal (the finished article), but he scores goals. The rest, he’s unbelievable.’
Getting Jesus on the ball inside the penalty area has offered Arsenal major big boost in attack
The Emirates rose to salute their new No 9 when Jesus was substituted with six minutes remaining.
By then, he had taken seven shots, the most of any player and more than Leicester’s team combined. He had recorded the most shots on target (three) and the most touches (15) in the opposition box.
The next best? Four. No one enjoyed more successful dribbles, only Gabriel Martinelli (four) made more key passes than Jesus (three).
Jesus became the first Arsenal player to score twice on their home Premier League debut. On Saturday, he netted as many non-penalty Premier League goals as Alexandre Lacazette managed in the whole of last season.
And still statistics cannot do justice to the forward’s impact. Even his goals tell an abridged tale.
Fans will remember the cheeky, curled finish that opened his Arsenal account. Perhaps most telling was not how Jesus ended that move but how he started it. The Brazilian chased down a long ball, twisting beyond Jonny Evans before finding a team-mate.
His second goal was simpler, a header from close-range. His third should have arrived soon after.
Wilfred Ndidi’s fine tackle denied Jesus after he collected a goal kick and wriggled free of Evans.
Foxes goalkeeper Danny Ward then thwarted him after a neat passing move. Again, though, the significance of that chance lay in how it arrived: Jesus ceded possession with a loose pass.
He raced to win it back, only to give the ball away once more. Undeterred, the striker led the counterpress which forced a turnover and then raced towards the box. Zinchenko to Martin Odegaard, to Jesus, to Martinelli, to Jesus. All in a flash.
In the second half, he turned provider — finding Granit Xhaka after Ward had fumbled a cross. Arsenal’s fourth arrived after Jesus found space to turn and drive towards the box.
He drew defenders towards him before feeding Martinelli to score. A second top-flight hat-trick of his career never came but that could not defuse the electricity his performance sparked around the Emirates. The stadium was alive with optimism.
‘I’ve never had any doubts about him,’ said Zinchenko. ‘He’s an incredible player, always hungry for goals. I’m so happy for him.’
On this early evidence, Jesus’s best league return, 14 goals in 2019-20, will surely be surpassed.
Arteta also suggested that the squad as a whole are already benefitting from his arrival.
‘It lifts the standards the way he is every day, the way he’s talking to them, the way they are connecting,’ said Arteta. ‘You can see the interactions and speed of the execution is a different level now.’
Is it too early to wonder whether Jesus could join the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp in the pantheon of great Arsenal forwards?
‘I’m not going to judge that (or) compare them,’ said Zinchenko. ‘As a kid I was a massive fan of that Arsenal team. That was a different time. Football is on another level (now). Everything is faster.’
With Jesus at their helm, Arsenal look to be going places. Apace.
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