Premier League • England

Arsenal leader hints who’ll replace Gabriel Jesus with four options open to Arteta

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka

Arsenal veteran Granit Xhaka hinted at which route Mikel Arteta will take to cover the injury absence of Gabriel Jesus.

The one hope all club managers held when the winter World Cup was announced was all their stars would return home injury-free. Unfortunately for Arsenal, that has not transpired.

Gabriel Jesus suffered a medial ligament injury in his right knee in Brazil’s final group game against Cameroon.

Arsenal recently confirmed Jesus has successfully undergone surgery to repair the issue and his road to recovery has begun.

While no official timescale has been put on his return, the Sun and Fabrizio Romano suggested Jesus could miss up to three months.

That could rule Arsenal’s starting centre-forward out for two months of their title charge between late-December to the end of February. The Gunners hold a five-point lead over Man City and are chasing their first domestic title since 2004.

Speaking to reporters while with Switzerland in Qatar on Tuesday, Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka revealed he’s been in regular contact with Jesus, and admitted the blow is significant.

“I spoke with him [Jesus] straight after the Cameroon game,” said Xhaka (via the Mirror). “We have contact with each other, with all the players we have here in the World Cup.

“It’s a shame because you saw in the first round of the Premier League how important he is for us. I don’t know how big the injury is, maybe two or three months, I think. But he is a strong guy.

“It’s a small injury for him I think, and we will support him. He knows that we are behind him and hopefully we can get him back as quick as possible.”

Arteta has four options to cover Jesus injury

Like Jesus, Xhaka has been a revelation this season, with his past antics that previously saw him stripped of the club’s captaincy firmly put to bed.

Xhaka is a leading figure in a youthful Arsenal side, and showcasing his leadership, threw his backing behind the man he expects will deputise for Jesus.

Four options are open to Arteta, and as yet, which route he’ll take is unclear.

Arsenal can recall Folarin Balogun from his loan spell at Reims. The 21-year-old has eight goals in 15 for the French side and would act as a de facto new signing.

Alternatively, Arsenal could push ahead with their Mykhaylo Mudryk pursuit, with the left winger then allowing Gabriel Martinelli to play up front.

An out-and-out centre-forward could also be signed. Cody Gakpo is liked by Arsenal, though he looks destined for Man Utd – despite another huge price hike.

Xhaka hints fourth route will be taken

Finally, Arsenal may keep it simple and give Jesus’ primary back-up, Eddie Nketiah, an opportunity shine.

Nketiah was lethal in the second half of last season and duly earned a lucrative new contract through his displays.

He’s taken a back seat since Jesus arrived, though Xhaka hinted Nketiah is the man Arsenal will pin their hopes on to maintain their title charge.

“We have the option with Eddie, of course,” continued Xhaka.

“He showed great games as well in the past and we need to support Gabi first. We need to support Eddie as well, because he will be a big, big part of the next two or three months.

“But I am looking forward to it because we have the quality to bring Eddie there and to help him.”

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