Gabriel Jesus on his roots and ambitions

Jesus prog

The matchday programme caught up with Gabriel Jesus ahead of last week's win against Chelsea.

Our Brazilian forward has had a frustrating season but he's never down for long. Here, he looks back on his footballing roots, assesses our season and sets out his ambition for this summer and beyond.

Gabriel, we’re fighting for the title again, but do you think that overall we are stronger than last season? 

We are building a very good side. From last season to this season, it’s a little different how we play and I can’t say if it’s better or not, but it’s very good. We’ve improved on the defensive side and we’re fighting for the title. Obviously we didn’t make it through in the Champions League, but it was good to come back after seven years away and overall I think we’ve improved a lot. I think it has been a good season. Apart from the second half against Aston Villa the team has been playing well for a long time now and we now we just need to focus on each game at a time. 

What do you think went wrong against Villa? 

I think we played a very good first half but didn’t score, and then the second half wasn’t so good. The game changed and it’s different when you’re at home because you have to push harder to open more space, and then we conceded when we were trying to score and were a little bit high up the pitch. After that you have to push to try to draw or win, and you’re even more open. Villa have a good team and sometimes football is like this. If we’d scored in the first half, the chances are we would win the game. 

"I'm hoping to stay fit so I can do a full pre-season. Then it's a different story."

A lot has been made of our form since the trip to Dubai… 

People think it was some sort of magic moment in Dubai but it wasn’t. I think we focused really hard, played with a smile on our faces and we started to play really well when we got back. We worked really hard in Dubai and it was important. 

How have you dealt with the injuries this season? 

It’s tough. I’ve loved playing football since I was three years old so being injured is hard. Last season I think I played my best six months before the World Cup, when I got my knee injury, and everyone knows what happened after. This season has been tough – I missed pre-season, had surgery again and then had a couple more injuries. I’m doing my best to help the team, and hoping to stay fit so I can do a full pre-season this summer. Then it’s a different story. 

What do you make of how Kai Havertz has settled in? 

Everyone here knows how important it is to be fit and playing, and Kai has been fit and playing well, scoring goals. The coach believes in him and that’s so important for a player’s confidence. It wasn’t easy for him at first but we supported him and now he’s playing with a smile on his face. 

Kai Havertz celebrates his second against Chelsea

Describe your relationship with Mikel Arteta. What have you learned from him? 

I’ve learned a lot because I have known him for more than seven years now. Obviously we had a break of three years when he left Manchester City to come to Arsenal before me. I was with him at City for three seasons and he did a lot of work with me, then I came here. He knows me and I know him very well. He’s helped me a lot in the past and he’s helping me now. 

What’s the secret of the chemistry between you, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli? 

Unfortunately this season we haven’t played together a lot, mainly because of me having some injury problems and then Gabi sometimes as well. It’s a shame because last season we were flying together and the connection was really good. We played with a lot of freedom and movement, and I hope we can come back and play together more because I think we understand each other on the pitch. 

Let’s talk about some of your team-mates, starting with Gabriel Martinelli. What is his best attribute? What is it that makes him a special player? 

I first met him when I was at a training camp with the national team. Brazil call in young players a lot to help us out and try them out, and I think I first saw him in around 2018, 2019. I was like, “Wow. What a player – this guy can really fly.” I followed him after that and when he came to Arsenal it was quite a jump from Ituana in Brazil, but he just played his game, straight away. On the pitch everyone knows what he can do, but off the pitch what makes him special is his hunger. He wants to learn, he wants to improve, he wants to play. He’s there all the time, asking for the ball, taking on the opposition. He just goes again and again. He gives us a different type of player. 

Martinelli team news

Is that combination of hunger and flair a Brazilian trait? 

One hundred per cent. I think not only Brazil, but the Latinos are like this. A lot of the skill comes from playing beach football and on the streets, but we also have that hunger and we want to work hard for our teammates. Gabi is only 22 and he has played at the World Cup, on big stages, and I hope he carries on working hard and getting better. I hope he doesn’t change the way he is now, because he is a machine. 

William Saliba is known for being something of a joker in the dressing room, but it’s a different matter on the pitch. How is it for you knowing that he’s behind you when you’re playing? 

Everyone knows how good he is, but not only him – he and Gabriel match up perfectly, and I think Gabi has helped him a lot. Off the pitch he’s one of the funniest guys here, but not because he’s joking all the time. It’s just the way he is. He’s very special.

How does he compare to the best defenders you’ve faced? 

It’s hard to play against him! I’ve never played against him in a match, only in training, but even then it’s hard because he’s so sharp and hard to beat. We are all working hard to improve and if he carries on doing that he can be one of the best, for sure. 

Saliba against Man City

Arsenal have had great defenders through their history – can our centre backs get to the level of the likes of Tony Adams and Sol Campbell? 

For sure. The way they play together is so important, and defending is hard, especially away from home, against top teams. I think they’re still getting better and will carry on getting better. 

How important is the chemistry off the pitch when it comes to fighting together on it? 

It’s so important, not only here but everywhere I’ve been in my life. It was the same at Palmeiras, where I won the title in my second season, because off the pitch we were together, everyone was happy and helping each other. Even the players who weren’t playing were trying to help. The chemistry is so important – if you have just one negative player the whole mood can change a lot. You need the whole squad to be together. It was the same with City, with the national team, and it’s the same here. 

Going back to your roots, how important was playing football in the streets? 

Well, that’s a good question because I still have a lot of the street in my football, I think. Most of the time people don’t know what you’re going to do with the ball and I try to create something different. It has helped me a lot right up to today, and I think until I die I will carry on playing this way. Also I watch – I have some friends who are still playing in the street, in amateur football, and in Brazil there are some very good amateur footballers. When I go to Brazil I love to watch them and I always play with my friends. They still help me a lot. 

You grew up with your mother and brothers. How did has your mum helped to shape your career?

Where I grew up, the way I grew up, she was like an angel for me. Most of the players and their mums were the same. In Brazil many of our footballers have the same sort of history – they come from poor areas where everyone dreams of being a footballer, their mums help them a lot and they don’t have a father. My history is quite similar to a lot of players in Brazil, and if you ask them they will say exactly the same. We try to keep our focus on one thing – the football – and not get distracted by bad things, and our mums were always reminding us of that. And that’s what I tried to do when I was growing up. 

Jesus phone

Talking of your mum, isn’t your telephone goal celebration for her? 

Yes, I do it for my mum because she made all the difference for me – the way I live my life, she taught me everything. I have three older friends who are almost like my brothers, and if my mum couldn’t get me on the phone she would call them. So we talked about it one day and came up with the celebration for her, and then when I was with the national team they asked me to do it. It’s for my mum but not just for my mum, it’s for all the mums who call their sons and can’t always get hold of them! 

You’re close to Brazilian legend Ronaldo. Has he helped you on the pitch? 

So, he’s one of my references in football. I grew up watching him, Ronaldinho, Kaka, so the first time I met him it was unbelievable for me. From there we built a very good relationship and he’s a really nice guy, but it’s more than just friendship now because we are partners in business. We’re very close and I know I can ask him questions whenever I want. Back in the day he gave me some advice about being a footballer that really helped me, and now it’s still the same. 

Finally, what’s your message to the fans as we enter the final few weeks of the season? 

Please keep supporting us and believing in us, and sometimes if that doesn’t work, keep supporting us! Because football is like this – sometimes you win, sometimes not, but we are working hard to make the fans happy and we’re going in the right direction to fight for titles every season. It doesn’t happen straight away. Last year was important but unfortunately we didn’t win. We’re fighting again this year and if we don’t win it this time we’ll go again next season. That’s the most important thing.


Who are the three best strikers you’ve played against? 

Harry Kane, Karim Benzema and I don’t know if we count Cristiano Ronaldo as a striker but I have to say him. 

Toughest goalkeepers? 

I’ve faced a few. I’d say Ederson, Allison and Thibaut Courtois. 

Who’s the toughest to play against in training? 

Gabriel, or maybe Tomiyasu. Neither of them give you a moment’s peace! 

Who would you love to have played with?

Simple – Ronaldinho. 

Favourite memory in an Arsenal shirt? 

I think the first one at the Emirates, against Leicester City. That was nice! 

Favourite Arsenal match? 

Our first at the Emirates in the Champions League this season. 

Who’s the funniest in the dressing room? 

It’s between Saliba and Zinchenko. 

Who’s your closest friend in the club? 

I could say the Brazilians but I think Zinchenko because we’ve played together for years and we’ve got to know each other really well. He’s just a great guy to be around, and he’s a great player. He gives us something different.

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