How big of a miss will Gabriel Jesus be for Arsenal’s title hopes?
There’s no doubt that Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta would have been watching the World Cup in Qatar from north London with bated breath, praying that one of his key players doesn’t pick a serious injury representing their country in the Middle East.
The Gunners are, of course, flying high at the top of the Premier League table after the first half of the season following what has been their best ever start to the English top flight. However, this is a campaign like no other due to the World Cup stoppage, and a lot can change when the season resumes on Boxing Day.
That’s why it was imperative for the Emirates outfit that their 10 World Cup representatives made it back to the Arsenal Training Centre in Hertfordshire unscathed upon the conclusion of the tournament on December 18 — especially as they are back in Premier League action against West Ham United just eight days after the final.
That hasn’t been the case for Arsenal, however, as the one player Arteta perhaps didn’t want to get injured the most has — Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian picked up a knee injury in the defeat to Cameroon in the Selecao’s final game of the group stages and was forced to return to London for surgery as a result, but there is no timeframe on his return.
Indeed, Jesus’ goalscoring form had dropped after he shot out of the blocks with five strikes and four assists in his first nine Premier League games for the Gunners — making them more favoured for the title in the betting on football markets. But he is still a key player, starting 15 of Arsenal’s 16 games, and Eddie Nketiah isn’t exactly a like-for-like option as backup.
There’s no doubt this it is a major blow for Arsenal in their pursuit of their first Premier League trophy since their famous invincible season under Arsene Wenger in 2003-04. Not having a striker and having to rely on Nketiah is a problem Arteta has had to face before, with the issues caused by star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last January a real turning point in their campaign.
How not having Jesus is going to affect them when the season resumes on December 26 remains to be seen, but this Arsenal side appears to be a different beast this campaign — playing with a certain swagger and panache that we haven’t seen them on a consistent basis for a long time — and they still have Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli in attack to fill the void.
The good news for Arsenal is that the transfer window opens on January 1, so if they can get through a few games unscathed and get a striker in through the door before the crucial ties against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United on the 16 and 22 January respectively, then they might be able to survive this period without Jesus.
Who they can get their hands on in January is a completely different story for another day, the main concern for Arteta now is how they can continue to win games with the presence of Jesus leading the line — and hoping Saka and Martinelli can both hit the ground running when they return from Qatar.