When the transfer rumors that Arsenal are interested in Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus, it made me pretty excited (especially because it came from the very reputable David Ornstein).
One of the biggest things I heard on Twitter is that he isn't a good fit for Arsenal because he's not a good finisher (plus a few that he is just bang average, which I most certainly do not believe.
The he isn't a good finisher part tho...
That is a much more interesting question. Looking at the publically available data on Understat. He has 69.97 non-penalty expected goals and 54 non-penalty goals. He has been under his xG every season of his career according to understat:
2021/2022: 7.88 +1.88
2020/2021: 9.65 +0.65
2019/2020: 20.25 +6.25
2018/2019: 11.86 +5.86
2017/2018: 13.84 +0.84
2016/2017: 6.48 +0.48
The big question is what does this mean and what should we expect going forward?
My data tells mostly the same story. He creates lots of chances but he has hovered pretty consistently about 25% below his expected goal tally with actual goals for his career. This is something that at this sample size (over 350 shots!) I think we can lean towards at a minimum saying that he is below average at finishing.
Finishing is something that isn't super stable and doesn't mean that with absolute confidence that it can't or won't get better (even a probably bad finisher like Jesus will go through hot spells), especially considering his age, but it is something that given his overall sample to this point shouldn't be optimistic about.
Using a long-term expected goals simulation for each of Jesus's shots you get the above distribution. In these simulations, you would expect them to score around 76 goals, give or take 5 for "normal" variance. His 62 goals were -2.8 mean absolute deviations from the expected mean. At that level it is really hard to say too much beyond he is not a good finisher.
So let's start breaking this down a little more, starting with his overall shot chart:
My first impression is that this is a very good overall shot chart. This includes all of his Premier League shots, plus the last two seasons of the Champions League. The vast majority of his shots are in the box, with almost half within 12 meters of the goal and just over 3% coming from long distance. It is pretty close to the ideal striker's shot chart.
Looking at the distribution of his shots, there are a lot of medium-quality chances here and actually a pretty surprising amount of really high-quality chances.
Looking at things by xG group, Jesus's biggest issue is with the lower quality (less than 0.15 xG) type chances and then a bit more is with really high-quality (greater than 0.45) chances.
One of the other interesting things in this is that Jesus is actually a very accurate shooter. Overall he has put 46% of these shots on target, 29% of his "low quality" shots, 61%(!) of his "medium quality" shots, and 79% (!!) of his "high quality". So actually hitting the target has not been the problem, considering that the average forward puts around 30-40% of their shots on target.
Interestingly breaking it out by foot he is worse with what is his "strong" foot, he is 85% right-footed according to StatsBomb with his passing. He is a bit more willing to his off-foot when he shoots with 73% of his footed shots coming from his right. For a 5'9" player he also comes out pretty good at taking headers.
To put his finishing into perspective here are the top 50 for total under xG performance going back to the 2017-2018 season. Jesus ranks 41st highest on this list.
|Player||Non-Penalty Goal||Non-Penalty xG||Goal - xG|
|Karl Toko Ekambi||61||69.4||-8.4|
The crazy thing is that even with his underperforming he has scored the 43rd most total goals over that span for players in the top five leagues and that isn't even adjusted for his playing time.
Jesus is with little doubt a below-average finisher.
Jesus is still a good player.
Both of these things can be true.
If Arsenal were to sign him, he would probably frustrate people with his missed chances but for his career, he has been one of the best all-around forwards in Europe.
Even doing some adjustments to control for the Manchester City "Super Team" effect he looks good.
Would he be the best or most elite forward? Maybe not but he sure looks like a player that could be very valuable to a team like Arsenal, especially considering that he plays in the same League and in a similar system at Manchester City.
If this rumor progresses further we will dig more into what he does.