In light of Gabriel Jesus’ knee injury, Eddie Nketiah has stepped up to the plate in emphatic fashion for Arsenal.
There were initial concerns surrounding the Gunners after it was revealed Jesus would undergo a knee operation on an injury suffered during the World Cup, keeping him out of action for months.
Arsenal’s No.9 had impressed massively up to the mid-season break; when Jesus made the switch from Manchester to North London in the summer of 2022, understandably, there was an abundance of excitement surrounding the new recruit. Jesus brought experience from winning numerous titles under Pep Guardiola, including 4 Premier League titles.
However, after signing a new contract up to 2027 and being handed Arsenal’s historic No.14, Eddie Nketiah has filled that void since; demonstrating his continuous upward trajectory since making his debut for Arsenal in 2017.
So, how do both centre forwards differ, and what do they bring to Mikel Arteta’s side?
The most popular metric to judge strikers on, the two forwards’ stats differ interestingly.
Jesus currently has 5 goals and 7 assists this season; amounting to a goal contribution every 121 minutes.
Meanwhile, Nketiah himself has 9 goals and 1 assist; totalling a contribution every 129 minutes.
The opposition they have faced is also worth noting; a large proportion of Nketiah’s minutes coming in the Europa League. However, since the restart of the Premier League, Nketiah has proven he has what it takes to succeed in England’s top flight, scoring 4 goals in 4 games, including the heroic brace against Manchester United.
Jesus’ stats other than G/A reflect his true value to Arteta’s side; the Brazilian averages 1.6 key passes, winning 7.7 duels, and 1.9 successful dribbles. (all per 90).
To put this into perspective, Nketiah compares to this at 0.2 key passes, 2.2 duels and 0.5 dribbles respectively.
The contrast in operating areas:
In comparison to Nketiah, Jesus brings a lot more in different areas of the pitch, despite Nketiah visibly improving this part of his game.
Jesus likes to operate in the wide flanks; often rotating with Gabriel Martinelli mid-game to function as a left winger at times.
This is best reflected in Arsenal’s opener at Molineux, where they put 2 past Wolves.
Jesus receives the ball out wide, while Martinelli is in the centre-forward position. The 25 year-old proceeds to cut inside and play a through ball into the area, making the key pass for Martin Odegaard’s opener.
Jesus’ tendencies to drift into wide spaces are evident; below is his heatmap at Molineux.
Jesus inclines to operate outside the area even more than inside the 18-yard box.
In contrast, Nketiah rarely operates in these areas; however he has enhanced his hold-up play, often dropping deep to receive the ball.
His heat-map vs West Ham on Boxing Day shows a reflection of his ability to drop deep, but his tendencies are still primarily to operate within the 18-yard area. Nketiah has shown significant improvement in this area; retaining possession and pushing Arsenal higher up the pitch with ball carries from deep.
From the two heat-maps, it can also be interpreted that Jesus is the far busier player on the pitch; Jesus’ touches per 90 exceed Eddie’s by over triple. (52.8 to 16.5)
Both strikers’ importance to Arsenal’s title charge cannot be understated; both strikers provide a different dynamic and have even played alongside each other at times.
As Nketiah continues to impress; it looks like Arteta will have a tough decision on his hands when Jesus makes his long-awaited return from injury.
Whoever steps out onto the pitch, Arsenal fans will hope both strikers will continue to answer the call.