Gabriel Jesus is a Champions League specialist – Arsenal want to keep fit

Gabriel Jesus is a Champions League specialist - Arsenal want to keep fit

“He changed our world” was Mikel Arteta’s post-match assessment of the impact Gabriel Jesus has had since signing for Arsenal in 2022.

Last night in Seville, Jesus changed the game.

A daring piece of skill set up the opening goal for Gabriel Martinelli in first-half stoppage time. Then, eight minutes later, Jesus headed the ball over the corner for his own goal, which would eventually win the match.

“These games are for great players,” Arteta said. He showed it tonight.

At the age of 26, the Brazilian international is Arsenal’s Champions League specialist.

This was a Jesus show that had everything. A goal, an assist, a brief spell wearing the captain’s armband – and a worrisome exit for Arsenal fans with a puzzling leg. “He felt something in his hip. So let’s see,” Arteta told TV cameras. “He immediately asked to buy it, which is not good news, because Gabi is not a player who does that at all.”

Arteta described himself as “truly disappointed” by the injury.

The size will not be known until Jesus is assessed when the team returns to the London Colney training ground. Instead of heading down the tunnel for treatment, he sat on the bench when he was withdrawn on 81 minutes and appeared to be in good spirits and moving well before boarding the team bus. But it will only be when Arsenal name their starting XI to face visitors Sheffield United on Saturday that we will get the true gravity of the problem.

When it comes to squad news, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to take Arteta at face value – with the Arsenal manager using smoke and mirrors to obscure his selection as much as possible.

There is no disguising the importance of Jesus to Arsenal. He is part of the main management team, and took over the captaincy last night when he replaced Martin Odegaard midway through the second half.

There are many in this squad who have never qualified for the Champions League before this season. Some won’t be surprised by this – Martinelli was making his first appearance in the competition in his fifth season at the club and was a constant threat down the left. He scored after a great move by Jesus.

“Last night, I was in bed thinking about this moment and how it could be, and how I want it to be,” Martinelli said after the game. Perhaps the 22-year-old dreamed of hearing the Champions League theme before kick-off. The raucous crowd at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuan Stadium would have no such luck, drowning out that familiar chant.

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It made for a scary atmosphere. So how valuable is it for Martinelli and Co. to have a teammate as experienced as Jesus at this level?

Jesus can’t handle Champions League football alone. He develops.

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Jesus after the match with the Man of the Match award (Alex Caparros – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

In the year For the first time since 2017, Arsenal have scored in each of their three group games since returning to Europe’s top flight, making them the top scorer in the competition. In the last 17 games against Manchester City in the Champions League, Arsenal scored 14 goals and made 4 assists. It is an amazing story with any competitors in Europe.

Jesus manages an average of 0.36 goals per game in the Premier League. In the Champions League, this number rises significantly to 0.56 goals per game. Incidents like Erling Haaland aside, every other goal is seen as a desirable match for the top striker. Jesus has never been identified as particularly talented, but he lives up to that mark in the European game.

Martinelli had great admiration for his countryman.

“He helps me a lot, he talks to me, and that was important today,” said the younger Brazilian. “The guy is incredible, I’ve said it many times: he’s great and I love playing with him.”

The interplay between the two strikers for Arsenal last night was crucial.

Although many were looking forward to a clash with Sergio Ramos, Jesus’ inclination towards the left meant that the two had little contact.

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The opening goal was the result of Arsenal’s trio of Brazilian Gabriels. Center midfielder Magalehes called for Jesus, who brought a high looping ball under his spell.

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With two defenders on his back, he knocks the ball back in the middle and spins into space.

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Then a perfectly weighted ball was played by Martinelli and he raced out to score.

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This time it was great imagination and pure technique. Most of his teammates ran to Jesus when Martinelli went out on a feast. When Jesus scored Arsenal’s second goal, he was smothered by most of the traveling Arsenal team. Tahiro Tomiyasu gave another impressive performance of the night and simply stood to applaud.

“He came here for a reason,” Jesus Arteta said. “He brought a lot of confidence and energy to that team. He has to step in in those moments. He did that. That’s when a player becomes responsible for the team. We need those players to win games.

There’s another game around the corner. Arsenal hope Jesus will be fit for their next Premier League game on Saturday afternoon. This is the second time in 14 games this season that the trio of Jesus, Martinelli and Bucayo Saka have started together. Losing one of them so soon is especially painful.

More than anything, they will be desperate to have Jesus back in action for the next Champions League game when Sevilla come to North London on November 8.

These European nights are when the star seems to shine brightest.

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(Photo: Fran Santiago/Getty Images)