Gabriel Jesus is injured again. It’s a bitter blow right at a moment when Arsenal’s No. 9 was flexing his muscle as a world-class centre-forward. Fortunately, manager Mikel Arteta has options, including shifting Jesus’ fellow Brazil international Gabriel Martinelli through the middle.
So it’s official, Gabriel Jesus is injured again. This time he’s out for at least “a few weeks,” according to Arteta. The Arsenal boss knows this is a blow because Jesus was reaching peak levels, showcasing the pace, power and flair that makes him a truly special player on those rare occasions he’s 100%.
Losing Jesus again needn’t be a death knell for Arsenal’s chances of winning the Premier League title. Not when Arteta can call on Eddie Nketiah, the academy-reared whirling dervish who deserves more respect than he gets.
Arteta could even finally (finally) give Kai Havertz an extended run up front, where he’s most likely to make a positive impact. If that doesn’t happen, Arteta should consider putting Gabriel Martinelli into a central role.
Gabriel Martinelli ready for striker role
Martinelli has been a demon from the left flank, but the same qualities that help him thrive out wide can make him a menace through the middle. Qualities like pace, the timing of his runs and a calm, clinical approach to finishing.
All of those traits were obvious when Martinelli netted during Arsenal’s fine 2-1 win at Sevilla in the Champions League.
Finishes like this have been common from Martinelli ever since technical director Edu plucked the player from the nether regions of Brazilian football. Martinelli has proved one of the best signings of the post-Arsene Wenger era. Along with Bukayo Saka and William Saliba, the 22-year-old is one of three potentially world-class talents Arteta was lucky enough to inherit, a trio that’s made his job easier and inflated his reputation somewhat.
Arteta has been reluctant to move Martinelli centrally in the past, but things are different now. For one thing, Arteta has better options to fill in on the left if Martinelli switches positions.
Martinelli position switch can be great news for Leandro Trossard
The presence of Leandro Trossard means Arsenal have a skilled, Premier League-proven commodity to slot in on the left flank. Trossard has shown off his vision and technique several times in an Arsenal shirt.
One of his best contributions was this deftly taken equaliser to salvage a point Arsenal barely deserved at Chelsea.
Putting Trossard into the starting XI would mean Arsenal don’t lose as much quality along the front three while Jesus is on the shelf.
There are other alternatives, including playing Fabio Vieira, Emile Smith Rowe or even Havertz on the left. Options are the key to surviving injuries, and Arteta has more at his disposal this season than he had during the ill-fated business end of the last campaign.
Yet, even with more to choose from, perhaps Arteta takes the most straightforward option.
Eddie Nketiah still the safe choice
Swapping Jesus for Nketiah is the safest way for Arteta to solve this problem. It’s the tactic he’s used before, so the gaffer knows what kind of return he’ll get.
Arteta has already endorsed Nketiah when asked by reporters if the Hale End graduate will replace Jesus:
"What you see where he’s coming from and what he’s done the last three or four years. At a club like Arsenal, to play as a nine, he’s made some huge strides, and it’s merit to him and his mentality."
Nketiah will press from the front with intensity and get his goals. He’s an exceptional player, but he doesn’t have the kind of game-changing influence Martinelli can exert.
It’ll be a risk to shift Martinelli away from his familiar wide berth, but a bit of a gamble can pay off handsomely for an Arsenal side with big ambitions this season.