Granit Xhaka says Arsenal need to support Eddie Nketiah as the striker looks to fill the void left by Gabriel Jesus who underwent surgery yesterday.
For the most part, Nketiah has had a watching brief in the Premier League in the opening 14 games but is set to be handed the responsibility of leading the attack for the Gunners when the action resumes on Boxing Day against West Ham United.
With Jesus likely sidelined for three months, the 23-year-old has both an opportunity to emerge from the Brazilian’s shadow and the pressure of expectation that comes with matching his impressive performances.
Mikel Arteta turned to Nketiah at the tail-end of last season in place of Alex Lacazette and the former England under-21 international made a very decent fist of things scoring five goals in the final seven games.
His form persuaded the club he was worth keeping on big-money terms and he subsequently signed a new five-year contract.
Speaking from Qatar following Switzerland’s World Cup exit at the hands of Portugal, Xhaka was asked whether table-topping Arsenal can cope without Jesus.
“We have to. We have no different option,” he told the Evening Standard.
“We have the option with Eddie, of course. He showed great games as well in the past and we need to support Gabi first.
“We need to support Eddie as well, because he will be a big, big part of the next two or three months. But I am looking forward because we have the quality to bring Eddie there and to help him.”
On Jesus’ injury situation, Xhaka added: “It’s a shame because you saw in the first round of the Premier League how important he is for us. I don’t know how big the injury is, maybe two or three months, I think.
“But he is a strong guy. It’s a small injury for him I think, and we will support him. He knows that we are behind him and hopefully we can get him back as quick as possible.”
Xhaka also confirmed that he will fly straight to Dubai to join Arsenal’s warm-weather training camp.
A 27-man squad flew out last week and that number is expected to grow with Matt Turner, Thomas Partey and Takehiro Tomiyasu likely to join them after a few days rest. It’s unclear at this point when Ben White may be available.