London: Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus is set to make his return soon after recovering from knee surgery but the Brazilian will have to fight for his place, manager Mikel Arteta said.
Jesus, who had five goals and five assists in the league following his 45 million pounds ($54.07 million) move, has been sidelined since he sustained a knee injury at the World Cup with Brazil, going under the knife in early December.
Eddie Nketiah has led Arsenal’s attack in Jesus’s absence while Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka have taken on the scoring burden to lead the club five points clear in the table.
Top of the league
But it was Jesus’s all-round game that helped propel Arsenal to the top of the league in the first half of the season and Arteta said his return to training was a huge boost as the title race with his former club Manchester City heats up.
“He’s doing certain things with the team and certain things outside the team. He’s not very close, but he’s not very far. The doctors feel confident with how he’s evolving,” Arteta told reporters ahead of Saturday’s home game against Bournemouth.
“It’s been pretty straightforward. At the beginning we were pretty concerned and thankfully it wasn’t that bad. Gabi has been through that before, his mentality is incredible and the team has done a really good job with him.
“It was a huge blow for the team, we knew the importance of Gabi, the way he transformed the spirit and the level of performances we could reach.” When asked if Jesus would walk straight back into the starting lineup when he was fully fit, Arteta said: “Probably that wouldn’t be fair on him.
“When he was in the team he was phenomenal. But when he’s back, like everybody else, he’ll need to earn his place in the team.” Arteta also said Arsenal were assessing Nketiah after he played only 18 minutes in their 4-0 home win over Everton in midweek while there were no concerns with midfielder Jorginho, who was taken of at halftime as he was coming back from illness.
Bournemouth are in a relegation battle but, despite sitting 19th in the league, Arteta said he was impressed with how aggressive they were in recent games.
“I watched the games against Brighton, Wolves, Newcastle and Manchester City and I am really impressed,” he said.
“They didn’t concede much and could have had different results in two of those four games.”
Bournemouth lost 1-0 at Brighton, drew 1-1 against visitors Newcastle, beat Wolves 1-0 away and lost 4-1 at home to City.