Gabriel Jesus has had a flying start to his Arsenal career so far. With 3 goals and 3 assists in six Premier League games, he’s leading the way for a young Arsenal team. Already a fan favourite and it’s clear to see why.
Gabriel is a special type of centre-forward. He excels in a lot of areas and has a unique skill set. Linking up play, goal instinct, pressing, power, intensity, tenacity… I could go on. But what positively surprised me since he arrived is just how effectively he uses his body in duels and pressing situations.
Arsenal were dealt a 3-1 loss in their Old Trafford encounter with Man United but Jesus looked great throughout the whole game.
In this article, I’ll specifically go over his game versus United and how he helped Arsenal with his back-to-goal play and winning all types of duels.
It was the first minute of the game where you could already tell Jesus is up for it. With only him up top, Lokonga went long to relieve the pressure off his backline.
The ball was in practically safe territory for Lisandro Martinez but Jesus puts the pressure on. At first, it looks like Lisandro has full control over the situation but watch how GJ smells the nerves. He doesn’t go all out pressuring fully until he sees a bad first touch. As soon as the touch looked suspect, he pounces immediately. Gets in front, secures the ball, and draws the foul.
What might go unnoticed when watching Jesus in duels from afar is just how incredibly coordinated and timed he is in his approach.
Here Ramsdale goes long into a somewhat difficult area to calm the ball down and ground it. Jesus does superb against Varane who isn’t exactly a pushover in aerial duels. Great action from Jesus, right?
It gets even better when you zoom it in.
He’s completely turned around facing the defender while the ball is dropping in about a second (look at the time stamp), initiates contact to throw the defender off who hasn’t placed his feet yet for a duel (watching the ball), and takes the ball down. Impeccable timing and positioning.
Jesus has plenty of ways of overcoming his somewhat under-average height compared to PL forwards who stand at 6ft on average.
His core strength and strong lower body, excellent technical base, big frame, and stocky build for a 5ft9 striker all provide an incredible base for bullying defenders.
Add how smart he is with his positioning and how aware he is of what’s around him and you’ll understand why Varane couldn’t get near him in the above clip (2,3).
Varane and Martinez had their hands full the entire game. These clips once again show how difficult it is to assert a favourable position to win the header/duel near him. He finds a good position very early, often nudges the defender to unbalance him, and makes a pathway for himself to take the ball down. That’s why you often see big defenders misjudging the ball when they’re around him. Jesus ends up being fouled on both occasions.
If you get too close, he’ll use your own momentum against you. Imagine how dangerous this sequence would be if he didn’t get fouled by McTominay. He not only retrieves the ball but once again shows how he uses his frame to full effect. McTominay is seemingly close to the ball but Jesus shields it in a way where he has no other way to foul but to rugby tackle him.
Jesus’s duel winning is a work of art sometimes and numbers back it up too with a total of 13 duels won against United. Arsenal have got a gem on their hands and someone who makes the team click in many ways, with duel winning being one of them.
Hope you enjoyed this mini breakdown, plenty more to come on here. Cheers!