Jesus gives Arsenal an extra edge in championship push
Following the 3-0 win over Fulham, Mikel Arteta was asked about the return of Gabriel Jesus to his side after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
“He has to earn his place like in any other team,” the Arsenal manager said. “We have alternatives who can play in different
positions and we have different goals as well to fill in relation to the chemistry of the players and what we ask them to do. It’s a great problem to have, believe me.”
It remains to be seen how much that will apply to Jesus, given that he is still the star of this Arsenal team. The player who really raises the level of their forward line. The wider point, however, is just how varied that forward line can be. That’s the “great problem”.
It is first of all a credit to Arsenal that they have come through three months without Jesus and are still five points clear at the top of the league. There was an expectation among fans and pundits that his absence would upset the side’s title challenge. But it shows a deeper strength to this Arsenal team that they have remained so potent even without their best forward.
Trossard has added another layer to Arsenal’s attack, and there are multiple possible configurations, especially with Gabriel Martinelli growing as a threat and Bukayo Saka’s continuing evolution. The England winger has in the last few weeks become one of the most influential players in the Premier League.
There’s then the option of Eddie Nketiah, and the revelation that is Reiss Nelson. If it remains true that the primary front three are Martinelli, Jesus and Saka, the manager is now in a situation where he is not dependent on them working in the same way.
“We try to adapt to the quality of players that we have, to put them in their strengths and positions where we want as much as possible,” Arteta said. “Leo has very different qualities to Gabi, Martin complements him really well in terms of the space and understanding with him. It’s great to have that versatility.”
With so many options in attack, it’s more difficult for the opposition to set-up against Arsenal. There’s no longer any guarantee that the Gunners will put out their first-choice front three, or that they will even play in the way they usually do. Fulham almost seemed surprised by the way Arsenal attacked them.
As we approach the last 10 games and European football returns, it was expected that Arteta’s side would start to flag. Instead, they have fresh legs – especially in Jesus – and fresh ideas, with the attack looking deeper than at any point in the season. It offers great hope for a run-in that, much more like the lastminute heroics against Bournemouth than the routine victory over Fulham, is going to push Arsenal right to the limit.
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