Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has warned returning star forward Gabriel Jesus that he won’t simply walk straight back into the team after recovering from a lengthy injury absence.
Jesus was revelation for the Gunners in the first half of the season following his £45m summer transfer from Manchester City, racking up 11 direct goal involvements in 14 Premier League games to really set in motion the title challenge that Arsenal are still mounting.
But a knee injury suffered while away with Brazil at the World Cup in December meant that three months out of action ensued. Jesus only made his return as a late substitute in Sunday’s comfortable 3-0 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Although no doubt a huge boost in the final stretch of the season, Arsenal had continued their excellent form without Jesus and found goals from other sources – Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli in particular have both been outstanding in 2023.
That means there is work to do to command the ‘number nine’ role he previously had.
“A big boost. It was the first step,” Arteta said of the Brazilian’s return.
“We didn’t know whether it was the right game but I looked him in his eyes [the day before] and he said: ‘I am ready’. Now he needs to earn his place, like any other player.”
Arsenal will now pause their Premier League title charge for a few days as attention turns back to the Europa League and the second leg of the last 16 tie against Sporting CP. The first leg in Portugal finished 2-2 last week, making this game at the Emirates effectively a one-off play-off.
Crystal Palace at home will then be Arsenal’s last game before the March international break.