Premier League • England

Mikel Arteta discusses ‘totally unrealistic’ Gabriel Jesus return date, as Arsenal reject transfer approach for midfielder

Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has spoken about when Gabriel Jesus may return to the starting eleven, amid the Gunners receiving an approach from Monaco for one of their players.

Jesus made 20 appearances for Arsenal in the first half of the season, notching five goals and seven assists, before going to the World Cup with Brazil. He played twice for his country but picked up a knee injury during the 1-0 group stage defeat to Cameroon.

On December 6, Arsenal released the following statement regarding their striker: ‘Gabriel Jesus has successfully undergone surgery to his right knee after suffering an injury during the Brazil v Cameroon World Cup group stage match on Friday.

‘Gabby will now begin his rehabilitation programme.

‘Everyone at the club is supporting Gabby and will be working hard to get him back on the pitch as soon as possible.’

Jesus has missed Arsenal’s last five Premier League matches because of the knee issue. However, they have done well in his absence, winning four of those games and drawing the other 0-0 with Newcastle.

Jesus also missed the FA Cup third round clash with Oxford United. But Arteta’s men eased to a 3-0 away victory in that match. And this set up an encounter with Manchester City in the next round.

That match is Arteta’s main focus right now, as it will take place on Friday at 20:00. At the pre-match press conference, the manager was asked whether Jesus could make a surprise return to the pitch in the coming weeks.

Mikel Arteta reacts to Gabriel Jesus return claim

This is because the 25-year-old recently featured in a video on social media in which he told former UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov he would be back in ‘four to five weeks’.

But Arteta has downplayed the situation, saying (via Metro): “With him I don’t know. With him he wants to be here next week but it’s totally unrealistic.

“He’s pushing and driving everyone to the limits. I cannot give you an answer. Hopefully it will be weeks and not months but it was a serious injury and we need to respect that process as well.”

Arteta’s comments come amid interesting reports on Albert Sambi Lokonga’s future. As per the Daily Mail, French side Monaco have tried to sign the central midfielder on loan.

Monaco know Lokonga is relatively low in Arteta’s pecking order, having made just six appearances in the Premier League so far this season. They believe they can help his development by giving him regular game time in Ligue 1.

However, it looks like Lokonga will be remaining in north London. Arteta has opted to reject Monaco’s advances as he does not feel he can let many squad players go during the club’s title charge.

The decision is slightly harsh on Lokonga. It means he will not play often in the second half of the season. But it could be worth it if he ends up having a Premier League winners’ medal by the summer.

Plus, an injury to Thomas Partey is all it would take for the Belgian to get another league opportunity. And given Partey’s poor fitness record, this could well happen.

Meanwhile, Arsenal are reportedly planning a huge swoop for an electric Serie A forward.