You should probably just get used to the fact that Gabriel Jesus is going to miss a lot of big chances.
There are a number of ways which we can determine something is a “big chance”. The most often used metric is one designed by Opta where they literally just decide that a shot is a big chance and tag it as such. They have some defining characteristics (which is how you do data collection) such as one-v-one with the keeper, shots from close range, open net, etc. But they are, like all stats, subjective.
A slightly different way to decide if something is a big chance is to use the xG from the shot. Anything over 15% is generally considered a big chance because most shots in the box are around 9%, shots outside the box are in the 3% range and so on. So, any time you get a shot that generated 0.16 xG or higher, it’s actually a pretty good quality chance, even if it doesn’t carry the “big chance” moniker.
Opta does tag big chances but annoyingly none of the opta-based sites break down goals scored into regular and big chances. There are, however, a few places which publish “big chances missed” (such as sofascore) which is incredibly odd to me. Why carry just the number of missed big chances?
It’s also easy to find Gabriel Jesus’ xG and actual goals scored. Fbref carries his xG data back to 2017, in which case in the League his xG is 69.5 and actual goals scored is 56 in that same period. That’s a pretty big negative of -13 goals under expected. Understat is a little less generous and has his data all the way back to 2016. On that site he’s -21.37 goals under expected goals. All this means that Jesus finishes somewhere between 2.5 and 3 goals a season short of his expected goals with a one season high of -7 (according to Understat) and -4.2 (according to Fbref/Opta).
Gabriel Jesus’ goals scored record is slightly unusual in that he almost never scores regular goals. Most strikers rely heavily on “big chances”. In fact, the big chance is usually a forward’s bread and butter with some forwards getting 75% of their goals netted from big chances. Of Haaland’s 17 goals this season, only 4 have had an xG below 0.15. Mbappe has scored 11 goals and 6 of them were big chances. Lewandowski has 13 goals and 9 of them are big chances. 9 of Kane’s 10 goals this season are big chances. All of this is to say that for a striker, these are the shots that really matter.
And across his career, this has held true for Gabriel Jesus. Of his 63 goals since 2016, 54 of them were big chances, 86% by my count. But, and here’s why he underperforms his xG, he’s also missed 80 big chances since 2016, which is a conversion rate of 40% on his big chances. The guideline for strikers is that they should finish about half of their big chances. I know that seems weird to say but during my years of data collection I ended up just using 0.45 xG for any shot that was tagged as a “big chance” by Opta. Of course, this is a rough estimate but it worked in terms of generating a fairly accurate xG number across several years of Premier League football.
So, that’s what’s happening with Gabriel Jesus’ xG. He has a high percentage of big chances as goals scored and a slightly low big chance conversion rate. He’s also not much of a goal scorer (so far anyway) from non-big chance shots. He’s scored just 9 times from a non-big chance shot in 7 seasons and he’s never scored a goal from outside the box.
All of this points to a below average finisher. Now, that’s not necessarily a huge problem. What Jesus offers is more than just finishing. He is going to get you some goals that he scores but we’ve already seen him create tons of great chances for his teammates. In fact, here’s where he’s better than expected. His actual assists since 2017 are 30, his expected assists are 18.9 on Fbref/Opta. On Understat, it’s a similar number: 34 assists on 22.88 expected assists.
The unquantified things he offers as well are just as important. He is excellent at battling for high balls, despite being just 177cm tall. He drops deep to provide an outlet for the midfielders and CBs when they are looking to move the ball laterally. His close control and dribbling takes opponents out and creates space and time for the other forwards. And his off-ball movement is excellent, creating space and time for teammates as well. Without his movement and intelligence, I don’t think there’s space in that center forward area for Martinelli’s header to open up the scoring against Forest.
And he’s also a tireless worker off the ball, pressing and harassing every minute he’s on the pitch.
So, yah, he’s going to miss a lot of chances but.. he give you so much more in the forward role that he’s not only worth it, but probably the reason why Arsenal have been playing so well at the start of the season.