Arsenal told they will not finish top four with Jesus replacement ‘even Wolves would not sign’
Former Arsenal playmaker Paul Merson ‘would be shocked’ if the Gunners achieved a top-four spot, if the current back-up to Gabriel Jesus is leading the line for the next three months.
Arsenal suffered a huge blow to their title hopes after the Brazilian suffered a knee injury at the World Cup that looks likely to rule him out until late February or early March.
The 25-year-old forward has played a crucial role in leading Mikel Arteta’s men to the top of the table, scoring five goals and adding six assists to give the Gunners a five-point lead over Manchester City.
But without him, Merson is convinced his old side will struggle, especially with Eddie Nketiah filling the void.
Arsenal face London rivals West Ham on Boxing Day, with Nketiah almost certain to face the Hammers.
However, the 23-year-old is yet to score a league goal this campaign. Indeed, he has played just 140 minutes of league football this term.
And Merson is not confident Nketiah can keep the club’s title dream alive, and also has doubts over a top-four finish.
He told the Daily Star: “It’s a massive worry that they’re now relying on out-of-form Eddie Nketiah.
“They could go eight points clear if they beat West Ham before Manchester City play a game and you still wouldn’t fancy them to win the title without Gabriel Jesus.
“It’s hard because even though he doesn’t score an awful lot of goals, he is still so effective. If he’s out for three months, I’d be shocked if they got in the top four. I just don’t see where the goals come from.
“Without being horrible, what Premier League team does Eddie Nketiah get in? Wolves are bottom for instance, they’re desperate for a goal and they wouldn’t go and get him.
Nketiah not a patch on Jesus
“For me, it’s really worrying. This is no disrespect to Nketiah or the other players but Jesus gels everything together. Nketiah might deliver for three games but I just don’t see him doing it for 10 or more matches.”
The Gunners have been tipped to make a move in the January market to offset the loss of Jesus. However, Merson is still not convinced that would be the answer.
He added: “I’ve mentioned Cody Gakpo in recent weeks. But he actually looked poor against Argentina for Holland at the World Cup.
“After scoring a hat-trick against Switzerland, Portugal striker Goncalo Ramos looked like he’d never played football before in the quarter-final defeat against Morocco.
“Ramos should have been full of confidence but he looked half the player, it just didn’t make sense. Additionally, Benfica are also going to ask for silly money on the back of the World Cup.
“Top target Mykhaylo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk looks a good player but he’s a winger and Arsenal need a striker.”
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