Striker Gabriel Jesus was not with the team as Arsenal took on AS Monaco in the Emirates Cup on Wednesday.
Jesus will be out for the start of the season and maybe more after undergoing a minor operation on the same knee which required surgery last December after he was injured during Brazil’s World Cup campaign.
The timetable is very vague as Arteta told the media that his #9 “was going to be out for a few weeks.” Jesus will likely miss the Community Shield and Premier League fixtures Nottingham Forrest, Crystal Palace, Fulham, and Manchester United. All big fixtures as the Gunners look to challenge for the title after spending over £200m this summer in the transfer window.
Jesus will be missed, but how much?
Concerning end to a rather good summer
Arsenal have spent money in this transfer window retooling as they prepare to compete on multiple fronts next season. They bolstered their defence and added to the midfield and attack, with Gabriel Jesus expected to lead the line. While there are concerns about Jesus’ clinical finishing, he still finished with 11 goals in 26 matches and assisted six other goals in the league last season. That’s 0.65 goal contributions per match.
Arteta had raved at how good Gabby played in the Barcelona match and how disappointing it was to lose him before the start of the season. “It is a big blow because we had him back to his best, especially the way he played against Barcelona [in Los Angeles last Wednesday], and he was in good condition and we lost him. But he has been feeling some discomfort in the last few weeks and we had to look at it, we had to make a decision and the best one is to protect the player and get him back as quickly as possible so we decided to do it,” the manager said.
Fitness concerns have to be rising with Jesus at Arsenal. Since the 2016/17 season, Jesus has missed over 60 matches with injuries coming every season apart from 2021/22. For a club devastated by injuries down the stretch last season, there has to be some concern with Arsenal moving forward if they are to stay with Jesus as their #9
Arsenal will miss his quality on the ball, his ability to rotate, and his contribution to the build-up. While his finishing can be questioned, Jesus has shown he’s able to break down defences with his ball skills and dribbling abilities. At the very least, Arsenal fans will miss what an Arteta side will look like with new additions at full strength for the start of the season.
Jesus is a loss, but how big of a loss?
Jesus missed almost three months with a knee injury last season. While Jesus was out, a lot was said about the goals and where they would come from. Most pundits thought Arsenal would lose their lead at the top of the table.
However, the goals came from all places. Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, and new arrival Leandro Trossard picked up the slack and kept the Gunners’ lead at the summit intact. While it helps to have a strong #9 like Erling Haaland, Arsenal showed they could cope without their striker.
Where Arsenal truly lacked was depth in the midfield and defence. It was no secret once William Saliba went down in the second leg of the Europa League round of 16 match against Sporting CP, that Arsenal’s tight defence had cracks and it showed. The midfield play suffered with no real supplement to the likes of Thomas Partey, whose form dropped off down the stretch. Whether it was injury or fatigue, Manchester City terrorised Arsenal in the midfield and their own half in both head-to-head duels as they could not keep up with the Cityzens during the run-in.
Since it’s the start of the season and Arsenal have other attacking options, the loss of Jesus shouldn’t be so glaring. However should it linger, then more questions have to be answered for a player Arsenal spent £45m on.
Who fills the role?
The obvious answer is Nketiah. He’s already proven to be capable and Arsenal have confidence in their #14. The Gunners were keen on selling Folarin Balogun if a substantial offer came in, but this may be a chance for the newly minted USMNT striker to get a chance to prove that his loan spell at Reims last season can transfer over to the Premier League. It wouldn’t hurt to give Balogun a chance, especially if Jesus’ injury woes continue.
Much like last season, it may be all the attackers that contribute to the goal sheet. Martinelli, Saka, and Odegaard together notched 44 goals between them in 2022/23. Trossard has shown he can be counted on with three goals this summer, and let’s not forget Arsenal spent over £60m on Kai Havertz who has scored twice in pre-season.
While it’s not ideal to lose your leading striker, Arsenal have options and goal-scoring shouldn’t be the concern to begin the season.