Monday, March 13, 2023

Gabriel Jesus could face familiar problem at Arsenal after Mikel Arteta warning

For Arsenal fans, the sight of Gabriel Jesus entering the fray in the 77th minute of Sunday’s comprehensive 3-0 win over Fulham was the icing on the cake.

After all, Mikel Arteta’s side had already long sewn up the points at Craven Cottage courtesy of a fine first-half performance which blew their beleaguered hosts away.

Ironically, Jesus’ presence on the bench turned out to be a luxury which Arteta didn’t actually require. And in truth, the Gunners have coped admirably without the services of their marquee summer signing, who underwent surgery after picking up a knee injury during Brazil’s World Cup campaign – better perhaps than anyone could have envisaged.

Leandro Trossard sets astonishing Premier League record as Arsenal demolish Fulham

With Jesus watching on, Arsenal thrived without an orthodox No.9 – Leandro Trossard may have been primarily acquired as a support act to the Gunners’ first-choice attacking trifecta, but Arteta could be hard pressed to deny the versatile Belgian forward a starring role after he tore Fulham apart.

Trossard has only been an Arsenal player for a couple of months, but his knack for ghosting into space has quickly become a penchant of his performances. On Sunday, he punctuated his intelligent movement with a hat-trick of assists to propel the Gunners to another priceless victory in the title race.

He received a standing ovation from the jubilant travelling support as he was replaced by Jesus for the final quarter of the game. And while Jesus may have taken Trossard’s place on Sunday, the idea of him doing so on a more regular basis over the coming weeks may not be the foregone conclusion some think.

Given the current form of Arsenal’s front three, it’s hard to see how Arteta can accommodate Jesus in his starting XI. Arteta alluded as much in his post-match press conference when he outlined that Jesus “has to earn his place in the team like anyone.”

And although he went on to insist that such competition is a “nice problem to have”, it certainly has the scope to develop into a bigger issue going forward.

Naturally, Trossard would be the obvious odd man out given how consistently excellent Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have been this season. But after Sunday’s electric performance, his spot is surely locked down for the foreseeable future.

And if Trossard can sustain the type of form he showcased at Craven Cottage, then Jesus could face a similar problem to the one he encountered under Pep Guardiola, where he would often play second fiddle to a midfielder or a winger who was preferred to play as a false striker.

If Arteta decides to pinch another play from his former mentor’s blueprint by playing with a false nine, then Jesus could encounter a major case of deja vu in the coming weeks.

The former Manchester City man was deemed by many to be the missing piece of the Arsenal jigsaw when he was snapped up in the summer.

And while Jesus is, of course, still nailed on to play a prominent role – both in the title run-in and in the long-term for the Gunners – it no longer feels like a foregone conclusion that he slots straight back into this Arsenal team.

That would have been unthinkable back in January – even after Trossard had been snapped up. But all of a sudden, it doesn’t seem quite so unrealistic.

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