When Gabriel Jesus robbed James Maddison of possession in the first half of the North London Derby, Arsenal fans must have already been celebrating a goal. The Brazilian caught Maddison completely off guard, but blazed his effort over. Bukayo Saka's reaction, stood frozen with his arms aloft and a look of bewilderment, mirrored that of the home support.
Arsenal were 1-0 up at the time, and the goal would have put the home side in a commanding position against their north London rivals. 10 minutes later, and Tottenham were level. The pair played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the Emirates on Sunday, however had Jesus not missed his clear-cut chance on the half hour mark, Arsenal would have fancied their chances of claiming yet another win over their rivals.
"If that’s Haaland, that ball is in the back of the net. Jesus cannot do what he did there. That is horrendous, not good enough," former Liverpool and Scotland right-back Steve Nicol said after the stalemate, and it's hard to argue with the 61-year-old. Those are the sort of opportunities strikers should be putting away, and it's the difference between silverware and a runners' up medal. If Jesus puts that chance away, then it's likely Arsenal go on to secure a huge three points. After the weekend's action, they are now four points behind league leaders Manchester City.
While Jesus has never been a prolific goalscorer in his career - his record goal haul in a Premier League season is 14 - a lack of consistency in the opposition box may well cost Arsenal the title again this term. That's not to say that Jesus doesn't have a role to play for this Gunners side. The 26-year-old's movement off the ball is one of his biggest strengths and allows those either side of Jesus in attack - notably Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka - the opportunity to wreak havoc in the final third.
However, combined with Eddie Nketiah, a lack of prolific frontman will ultimately prove costly for Arsenal. Indeed, of the 157 players to have made 30 or more appearances and missed at least one big chance since the start of last season, Nketiah (107.1) and Jesus (128.8) rank third and fifth, respectively, for the fewest minutes per clear-cut goalscoring chance missed in the Premier League. For a team harbouring title aspirations, that isn't good enough.
😩 Fewest minutes per big chance missed in the Premier League since the start of last season (30+ apps):— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 26, 2023
1️⃣ Darwin Nunez - 73.8
2️⃣ Erling Haaland - 89.3
3️⃣ Eddie Nketiah - 107.1
4️⃣ Callum Wilson - 112.7
5️⃣ Gabriel Jesus - 128.8 pic.twitter.com/Rct9TdADXO
Granted, Erling Haaland (89.3) is second on the list, however the Norwegian hitman has also scored 44 league goals over the same period, over the double the return of Nketiah and Jesus combined (18). It's for that reason that Arsenal are reportedly still looking to bring in another striker, and do so in January.
Ivan Toney is banned from all football activities until mid-January. The England international is able to train with his team Brentford, but he can't feature for the Bees, or any other side for that matter, until next year. Nevertheless, Toney is subject to interest from a number of Premier League sides, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham believed to be monitoring the 27-year-old. That shouldn't come as a surprise either. Despite having his season cut short, Toney scored 20 league goals last season. The three London teams in theory need to bring in a player to lead the charge and the Bees star fits the bill. For Arsenal, he could prove the perfect addition in the second half of the season.
The Gunners had success in the January window this year, with Jorginho and, notably, Leandro Trossard both excelling at the Emirates in the second half of the 2022/23 campaign. Toney could have a similar impact provided Arsenal win the race to secure his services. While his age could put off potential suitors, that didn't stop the Gunners from signing the former pair at the turn of the year and in such a youthful Arsenal squad, experience is key.
In Toney, Arsenal would land a striker who knows how to put the ball in the back of the net more consistently than Jesus, and offers that physical presence in a similar fashion to Nketiah. Toney also missed a clear-cut chance far less frequently than both frontman on the Gunners books, doing so every 184.6 minutes. While that ranked 11th using the aforementioned metrics, it's still a far better return than the current Arsenal pair.
For an Arsenal side that routinely creates big goalscoring chances, Toney would again thrive. 80 clear-cut goalscoring opportunities created since the start of last season ranks sixth in the Premier League, while Toney has scored 17 big chances over the same period, that ranking fourth. He may not have the same off-the-ball movement Jesus provides on the Arsenal frontline, but the Brentford striker's willingness to bring others into play would benefit the current crop of attackers at Mikel Arteta's disposal.
He'd offer an alternative attacking outlet in the final third, which would benefit Arsenal against teams that look to sit deep. A fluid frontline is effective, yet less so against a deep block and an opponent that puts men behind the ball to frustrate a side. Toney isn't a battering ram per se, yet would prove far more effective at punching a hole in an opposition defence on these occasions.
As was evidenced against Tottenham on Sunday, too, Arsenal need a striker who can put the ball in the back of the net with greater regularity than the strikers available to Arteta at present. Toney may not fit the young profile the Gunners would perhaps like, but he's a prolific Premier League experienced striker that would undoubtedly aid their push for silverware.