Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Oh Jesus …

For the first time in weeks, this blog won’t open with World Cup news. Well, not specifically World Cup news, but it does involve an Arsenal player at the tournament.

No doubt most of you will have seen the stories by now; it’s being reported that Gabriel Jesus’ knee injury is worse than first feared, may require surgery, and could keep him out for three months. This is, it’s fair to say, very bad news.

The Brazilian has been so pivotal to the side this season, so transformative, that his absence will hurt us. We don’t have much in the way of depth at centre-forward, and there is – to my mind anyway – a big drop off between Jesus and his deputy, Eddie Nketiah. Which isn’t to say Eddie can’t do a job, I think he can to an extent. He showed last season that he can score goals in the Premier League, but the difference between the two players is substantial.

I don’t think that’s criticism of Eddie, by the way, and I hope he can do a great job when he comes in, but it’s just reality. Jesus is older, more experienced, and while Nketiah’s all-round game has improved, I don’t think he can give the team what the former Man City man can. Some might look at the lack of goals in the Brazilian’s game and question his influence, but you only need eyes to see how much he brings to the team.

I think this means that Arsenal have to source a striker in the January window. Not simply because we need more firepower, but with just one recognised centre-forward until the end of February (potentially), we can’t expect Eddie to play every minute of every game. To be fair, you could make a decent case for Gabriel Martinelli as a centre-forward option, but he talks often about how his preferred position is on the left. Not to mention, that would leave us light on that side of the pitch.

It’s a huge headache for Mikel Arteta and Edu, and while they surely have a plan in place for how they want to augment the squad, circumstance can dictate what you need to do – regardless of how good that plan is. You only have to go back to the end of the last window when we were clearly after a winger, then injuries to Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny meant we had to pivot to try and find a central midfielder. I would say that right now – perhaps in the initial stages of considering life without Gabriel Jesus for three months – our need for a striker in January is far greater than our need for a central midfielder at the end of August.

So, fingers crossed Jesus can recover more quickly, but also that the club can do the business required to ensure we don’t suffer his absence as greatly as we might otherwise. We’re still in a great position, and we have to make sure we keep going until the third month, when Jesus rises again.

At the World Cup, there was no drama yesterday really. The Netherlands and Argentina looked favourites on paper, and on the pitch that turned out to be the case. I don’t know if it was just a bit of tiredness, but there was a defensively sloppiness to the US that wasn’t present in their first three games. Still, I thought Matt Turner played very well, one double save in particular was really excellent. Meanwhile, Lionel Messi ran the show as Argentina beat Australia 2-1, a closer scoreline than game.

Today, France take on Poland, and the Poles will need to be a lot better than they were in their last game to stand a chance. Later, it’s England v Senegal, and I’ve seen some reports that Bukayo Saka is set to start. I think this could be a really interesting one, it’s certainly no slam dunk for England.

Right, I’m gonna leave it there for this morning. Maybe play a soundtrack of sad songs to deal with the Jesus injury. You might want to listen to a new Arsecast Extra though, recorded yesterday when we understood the injury to be a 3-4 week situation. Happier,  more innocent times.

All the links you need are below. Have a good one.

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