Mikel Arteta admits the injury sustained by Gabriel Jesus on international duty is a “huge blow” for Arsenal but he’s confident the club will find alternative options to cover up front.
Having undergone surgery on his knee, it’s unclear how long the Brazil international will be sidelined but it’s more than possible he won’t kick a ball in anger until the end of February.
Jesus joined from Manchester City in the summer and has made an immediate impact, scoring five goals and making six assists in 14 appearances to help the Gunners to the top of the Premier League table.
As the club prepares to return to action following the World Cup, pressure is mounting on Eddie Nketiah to fill the void while teammates, including the returning Emile Smith Rowe, regain full fitness.
“It’s a huge blow for us, obviously,” said Arteta of Jesus’ injury.
“He’s such an important player: he’s brought something very different to the team and it’s impossible to replace him. But we have other players, other alternatives and we’ll try to get that sorted. The transfer window is another option.”
“I think [Jesus] is a unique player but Eddie [Nketiah] has incredible qualities as well for the way we want to play. We have other alternatives in that we can play Martinelli up front as well.
“We are currently a little bit short in terms of upfront positions but getting Emile [Smith Rowe] back is going to be a big one.”
Arsenal have been heavily linked with a move for Shakhtar Donetsk’s Mykhailo Mudryk but it’s possible we may well have other irons in the fire.
Despite the loss of Jesus, Arteta is buoyant about the mood around the club and says the recent warm weather training camp in Dubai was just the ticket.
After a hectic first portion of the season, staff and players were given some time to switch off before the analysis and preparations kicked off again.
While friendly victories against Lyon and AC Milan were sandwiched by defeats to Watford and Juventus, performances have been solid.
“We had a lot of players at the World Cup. We had only ten players here at Colney, so the fact that we could change the environment, it was great,” he said.
“We allowed some families to participate and spend some time with us as well. We trained hard. We had two very competitive matches. We could load players with minutes. It was great.
“[Our players] loved it, obviously. Having four weeks here in London and just trying to break it up a little bit is something that they really appreciate. It worked as well because some players went straight from Qatar to Dubai. It was a good decision.”
In the aftermath of the last league game – a 2-0 win over Wolves at Molineux – members of Arteta’s backroom staff, Carlos Cuesta and Nicolas Jover, spent three days observing the France rugby side at close quarters.
The meet-up formed part of a wider project to get a broader understanding of where Arsenal can improve across all areas.
“We decided to analyse what we’ve been doing in the first part of the season to get a good understanding of where we are. Is it something that we need to continue doing? Are there things that we can still develop? We also got other people to assess how we were doing as well.
“We looked at other sports and then it was time to prepare the preseason that we had in Dubai with the friendly matches.”
Now attention turns to West Ham United on Boxing Day and the job of maintaining a five-point gap on Manchester City. It’s going to be a tough assignment but one that Arteta is excited about.
“We have to take it game by game. Football changes so quickly and what is very good can be very different in a week’s time. But we know our reality.
“We know what we are capable of. We deserve the position that we’re in right now. Now, we have to do the same for the next 24 matches and that’s a big challenge considering the level in this league.”