Arsenal are already coping well without their star striker Gabriel Jesus, but two pundits disagree on the striker’s current replacement.
The Gunners have lost their Brazilian frontman for at least three months due to knee surgery. Jesus linked up with Brazil already dealing with a recurring knee injury, but it worsened during his participation at the World Cup, and he has since had surgery to correct the issue. Jesus will now miss up to three months of action, which is a problem for Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal spent £50million on Jesus in the summer, and he has lived up to the billing, scoring five times and assisting six. Beyond that, he has been an invaluable resource in Arsenal’s build-up game, and Arteta must now attempt to maintain his side’s current trajectory without that resource, at least for the coming months.
Currently, Eddie Nketiah is the only like-for-like replacement, though Gabriel Martinelli can also be utilised centrally. Nketiah is an out-and-out striker with a striker’s instict, and he has already got off the mark, scoring in Arsenal’s win over West Ham on Boxing Day. But before that game, former Arsenal star Paul Merson raised concerns over Nketiah’s ability to fill the void.
“I like Nketiah, don’t get me wrong,” he told Sky Sports News. “He might be able to do it for one or two games, I don’t see him being able to do it for three months, and that’s where the problem starts. Time will tell, if there’s any time you’ve gotta find out, it’s the Christmas spell where you have three games in a few days. I think the lad (Jesus) is top drawer.”
After seeing what Nketiah did on Boxing Day, former striker Michael Owen was much more convinced, telling Premier League Productions: “When he gets in that position, this guy can finish. He’s a born finisher. You can just tell.”
Time will tell how well Nketiah can fill Jesus’ boots, but it will also be interesting to see whether Arteta moves to sign another striker in the January window, be it on a temporary deal or otherwise. In the meantime, Nketiah holds the shirt, and it’s so far, so good.