Jesus nears return but Arteta calls for patience
MIKEL ARTETA warned Arsenal supporters last night that Gabriel Jesus will need time to rediscover his best form once the striker makes his much-anticipated return from injury.
The Brazilian, 25, who has been out since suffering a knee injury at the World Cup, trained with the team yesterday before they flew to Portugal for tonight’s Europa League last-16 first leg at Sporting Lisbon. Manager Arteta refused to confirm if Jesus (below) was part of the squad but said: ‘He needs time as well to get himself that confidence and physical state that is necessary to compete with a free mind and once he is free to do that, we will throw him in. ‘We will try not to rush him back, we will try to make a fair assessment between what he needs and when is comfortable and as well giving the team a boost that it’s going to need in the next few weeks for sure.’ Gabriel Martinelli could lead the line for Arsenal in Lisbon, with Eddie Nketiah and Leandro Trossard injured. Martinelli joked: ‘I don’t mind. If I am on the team, I can play as a goalkeeper.’
But the Brazilian is nevertheless relishing the return of his fellow countryman Jesus. ‘It will be a big boost. He is a great guy and a great player,’ Martinelli said. ‘For me he is one of the best in the world. He is going to help us a lot in the next few months.’ Sporting dropped into the Europa League despite beating Tottenham in their Champions League group. It means a reunion for Hector Bellerin with the club where he spent a decade. Arteta said: ‘He was a really important player for our club, he left something beyond just his career but as a person. It will be great to see him.’
Kieran Tierney will not feature after falling ill. The left back has been linked with a move this summer and Arteta said: ‘We discussed the situation. He understands the situation and he needs to challenge the situation.’ ARSENAL (probable, 4-3-3): Turner; White, Holding, Gabriel, Tomiyasu; Vieira, Jorginho, Xhaka; Saka, Martinelli, Nelson. TV: Sporting Lisbon v Arsenal, 5.45pm. LIVE on BT Sport 2 from 5.15pm.