Duel between Jesus and Richarlison gives derby battle an extra dimension


Roberto Carlos wants to speak in Portuguese and it has been decided that Gilberto Silva will translate into English for him. “I need to be paid double for this,” Silva says with a smile. It is the premiere of Brazil 2002: The Real Story, an excellent documentary that charts the Seleção’s fifth World Cup triumph, and the legends are on stage for a Q&A.

It is Wednesday night in central London and one of those events where plenty of people are either famous or look as if they should be. The Arsenal and Brazil winger Gabriel Martinelli is there. So is Jorginho, Chelsea’s Brazil-born Italy midfielder.

The host asks Carlos in English how he thinks England will do at the World Cup in Qatar and Carlos cracks up, which does not bode well for his answer. “Did you understand the question?” Silva asks. “Yes,” Carlos replies and by now everyone is laughing.

Carlos is only joking, as usual. He believes England will do well and one of the reasons is that the presence of so many stars from around the world in the Premier League makes the domestic players better.

He looks at Martinelli and Jorginho and mentions them, then namechecks Richarlison, the Brazil striker at Spurs. Gabriel Jesus, Brazil’s other key No 9, has been on fire for Arsenal in the early weeks of the season and the thought occurs that a Brazilian influence is likely to lift and, possibly, define the north London derby at the Emirates on Saturday. The sight of Silva, the Arsenal Invincible, merely fires the derby vibe. Seemingly everyone at the after-party wants to talk to him about it.

Gabriel Magalhães is set to start in central defence for Arsenal, Emerson Royal is in contention at right wing-back for Spurs and Martinelli is in vibrant form. But, really, the top billing goes to Richarlison and Jesus, two players who want the same thing at the World Cup – the starting centre-forward role – and have a good deal else in common.

Both 25 – they were born a month apart; Jesus is the elder – they are preparing for their first north London derby, having made expensive summer moves to bring something fresh and needed to their new clubs. Spurs inquired about Jesus before they took Richarlison from Everton; Jesus, though, was set on going to Arsenal from Manchester City. It was partly because Arsenal have a major profile in Brazil, which owes much to Silva and Edu, another Invincible, who is the club’s technical director.

Jesus and Richarlison have had fine careers so far; the former won four league titles with City. And yet there is also the sense that both are primed to go to another level as individuals.

For Jesus, City was an education and a privilege, a route to the big time. But for all his hard work and influence, he felt like a member of an extensive support cast. At Arsenal he has quickly become the main man, a leader on and off the pitch, and it was significant to hear the Spurs manager, Antonio Conte, talk him up – together with Arsenal’s other summer signing from City, Oleksandr Zinchenko.

“Arsenal are better this season,” Conte said. “They made good signings, especially Jesus and Zinchenko – players that are used to winning and having a winning mentality. I can see they’ve improved the level at Arsenal, not only the quality but the mentality.

“With Jesus, I’m not surprised because I know him and his value. He wanted to go to Arsenal to play regularly and it was the same for Raheem Sterling [who left City for Chelsea]. They are really top, top players that, in the past, were on the bench. This also shows you the quality of Manchester City’s squad. This is the difference between the title contenders and the other teams.”

Jesus’s four goals and three assists in seven league games for Arsenal do not tell the full story. He has inspired his teammates, particularly Martinelli, setting the tone in matches with his pace and mobility, the confidence of his touch, the aggression of his pressing.

With Jesus on board, Arsenal are harder to play against, more intense, even nastier, and the same is true of Spurs with Richarlison. He is a player that opposing fans love to hate; ditto opposing players – remember his beef with the Spurs centre-half Cristian Romero when he was at Everton last season? At the same time, he is loved by his own supporters and teammates; Romero has now become a friend.

In some ways, Richarlison did not feel like a priority signing for Spurs, given they already had Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski up front. In many others, he was exactly what they needed, someone to add cutting edge, depth and, yes, aggro. It is easy to feel that he will thrive on the hostility at the Emirates.

“The first thing that I saw in Richie is that he has no fear,” Conte said. “He is scared about nobody … nor about the atmosphere, the noise. He is really strong.”

This year, Richarlison has started four of Brazil’s eight games – including the most recent three – and come on in two more, scoring seven times. In the same period, Jesus has started none, made four substitute appearances and scored once. He was rested during this past international break. Richarlison appears to be ahead of him. For the moment, all that matters is local supremacy.

About the author

Marta Lopez

I am a content writer and I write articles on sports, news, business etc.

By Marta Lopez


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