Jesus’ finishing

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.



  1. Yes.

    He’s so mobile, versatile, technical, and tireless that his non-goal scoring impact is glaringly obvious. There was a clip of Wrighty observing (criticising?) his off the ball movement and suggesting he’s not scoring because he’s in all the wrong places, i.e. not in the box when the ball is played there.

    But in the clips he played, two were literally the only time he dropped that deep and the other one created acres of space for Xhaka/Martinelli to run into, space that wouldn’t have existed without him creating it yet strangely also the same space that Wrighty said he should occupy. And he still had great chances to score anyway.

    The only thing I’ll say is that he looked desperate to score on Sunday, snatching at his chances a bit (while still not being selfish-what a bloke!) Feels like he’ll have a coaching session with Carlos Cuesta a la Laca last season

  2. Very good article that explains Jesus. As Jonathan Liew wrote, Jesus is not the perfect striker, but he may just be perfect for Arsenal, and might I add, Arteta.

  3. So this is really the thing. Fans say they want a player who will do it all. But if you offer them one of the below, which do you think they would take?

    – Striker A: average finisher, average everythingelser
    – Striker B: below average finisher, above average everythingelser
    – Striker C: above average finisher, below average everythingelser

    Say those three are Kane, Jesus, Haaland (ignore quality gaps for a moment). In theory, you should be ambivalent (assuming the deltas between finishing and everythingelse average out in terms of overall impact).

    In practice, I think the order would be Haaland, Kane, Jesus. Because goals are king, and it’s very hard to shake that bias towards the ultimate tangible (goals) vs less tangibles (tackles, headers won, assists, shoutiness).

    If we got Vlahovic, and he scored 10 more goals than Jesus but Saka+Marti+Xhaka scored 10 less, we’d be hailing him as a great signing and not worrying about his overall contribution (or at least, worrying less).

    1. But Saka+Marti+Xhaka may well score 15-20 less and we’d be worse off. Who knows! I’m enjoying the ride anyway…

  4. Curious how Eddie’s finishing compares. He often seems able to get shots off, but I can’t imagine his conversion rate is much better than Jesus’.

    1. He’s missed his 2 big chances this season
      4/7 last season
      2/2 the season before
      2/6 in 2019/20

      0 big chances before that.

      So.. 8/17? About normal.

  5. Jesus: Tremendous work rate, terrorizes the opposition, produces havoc in the box, tracks back to defend, leads the line and creates for his teammates.

    All that more than compensates for his lack of scoring right now. I just hope that it doesn’t become a self-imposed role-change because he’s lost confidence in his finishing.

    The more desperate he is for goals, the more challenging it will be for him. If he can a find a way to calm down and take the pressure off himself, it may well keep us in first place until we meet (and yes, beat) Manchester City!

  6. Can’t believe how Fulham looked like they were the ones playing with a man down for most of the match. Utterly disappointing…

  7. Feng, indeed. Mixed emotions here. I have no sympathy for Fulham because as a premier league team playing with a man advantage, you have to be better than that. How can you be dominated so thoroughly despite such an advantage? I have little time for such negative football even at even strength but with a man advantage it makes me cringe all the more. City deserved the win, and I hate to say that, but there can be no doubt about it. Haaland’s earlier goal should have stood as well, as there was no clear and obvious error on the no offside call initially.

    On the other hand, the penalty was only a penalty because de Bruyne threw himself down when he felt contact. That’s no different to what Bukayo Saka did, but the Arsenal man was booked for simulation and the City man won a game winning penalty kick. Just a few minutes before that, Bernardo threw himself down after feeling minimal contact and the referee played on, not giving either a foul or a booking for simulation. Yet, in the penalty box, the same type of contact and reaction was deemed a foul minutes later and VAR did not intervene either.

    I know we’ve been through this before. The laws of the game are subjective and I should just accept it, but I can’t because it influences the results and the spectacle to such a degree that it cannot be ignored.

    1. Yeah, certainly a lot of variation in those calls. The shirt tug on Eddie in the box in the last match was a much more obvious and worse foul than what happened to DeBruyne. But Eddie didn’t go down, so nothing happened.
      On the Haaland call, I don’t think the same “clear and obvious” standard applies to offsides where a goal is scored. I think they get reviewed no matter what.

  8. Our best start ever, said the commentator on the stream I watched. Not in the Premier League era, gooners. In a century and a half. That is absolutely stunning, and barely believable. Arteta, staff, players, take a bow.

    For all our dominance, it took sloppy defending of a bad corner kick to get us that goal. Jesus and Odegaard missed great chances. Ode on the chance also failed to see and play in a wide open Martinelli.

    But Jesus is a ferocious workhorse, isnt he? I’d love to see him play with a classic nine. We’d be unstoppable. Who’d miss out, though? The whole front line is performing. Even Ode’s GI returns (as frustrating he can be in taking his chances) are pretty good.

    I love the World Cup and have no problems with it being hosted in the Middle East in November, but dang. We dont want this to stop, do we?

  9. Wow, I am buzzing! That was one of the best 1-0 wins I’ve ever seen. Chelsea have their issues but they are still formidable at home and have lots of top players, many of whom have given us fits down the years and/or are used to dominating us. Not today. Joe Cole apparently said before the game that Chelsea are on a different level to Arsenal. Arsenal proved him right. As Robbie Earle said, that was a 1-0 hammering.

    The other Robbie said that this is not just some run and that this version of Arsenal is here to stay. I think he must be right. We are not dependent on 1-2 top individuals who will get poached by City or Barcelona or United. We are not getting lucky goals against the run of play or riding an unsustainable streak of opponents missing big chances against us. If anything, our dominance has not been rewarded enough, particularly with respect to the number of goals scored, as supported by Tim’s excellent discussion of big chances above.

    The team’s depth has been criticized in recent games, but with the returns of El-Neny and Zinchenko, that department suddenly looks much more rosy too. Watching Zinny in the 1st half reminded me of how much we missed him. He’s this team’s control rod, the tempo setter, the orchestrator and deep midfield playmaker, not to mention ridiculous press resistant close control skills. That’s an ingredient we have been missing, as pointed out by Devlin on the last thread. His presence just ticks our dominance on the ball up one more notch.

  10. I wonder how Jesus recovers with the ridiculous amount of damage that he takes from the entire opposition team. He must be God’s favourite Brazilian son to appear on the pitch so often that he does. Thankfully, while our Jesus keeps his powder dry for yet another week, our monster of a defender Gabriel arrived to mop up the Monday Blues. Never in my twenty over years of following Arsenal, at least in the past decade where we have utterly dominated and pinned the ex oil rollers back. Was a bloody good match and boy were the one touch passing on point and with such poise – wet pitch against such difficult opponents no less. Amazing. We are on something special. #COYG

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