Monday, May 20, 2024

Jesus playing through the pain

Morning.

It’s quite funny, when we were not in the Champions League, those games became a bit of an afterthought to me – probably until the semi-finals when the fixtures got a bit tasty. And here we are just one year out of the Europa League and I forgot it was even on. Just call me Mr Fickle.

It wasn’t a good night for English clubs. Liverpool got beaten 3-0 by Atalanta, at Anfield! I don’t think it will have an impact on their Premier League form, but it might and obviously that’s what I hope for. West Ham were beaten 2-0 by Bayer Leverkusen, but that’s not really a shock given the game was in Germany and Xabi Alonso’s side have yet to lose a game this season.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s opposition, Aston Villa, were involved in the Europa Conference Zenith Data Systems Floodlit Cup and beat Lille 2-1 at Villa Park. They played a pretty strong side in this one, so let’s hope they’re knackered for the weekend. Ollie Watkins and John McGinn scored the goals, they’ll be danger men for us on Sunday too. Watkins with his impressive scoring this season, McGinn with his out-sized leathery arse that has its own gravitational pull.

Anyway, let’s worry about that later. For now, let’s chat a bit about Gabriel Jesus who had such a big impact on our midweek game against Bayern Munich. There’s been a lot of talk about him this season, but the unfortunate news is that his knee is not good, and he probably needs surgery to fix it. He spoke about it after the game on Tuesday, in the context of whether or not he’d be available for Brazil’s Copa America campaign in the summer, and said:

I honestly don’t know if my knee will be good enough to be available, but it’s still three months away, so we’ll see what happens.

He also referenced his previous injury, which happened at the World Cup but it sounds like it was something he was playing through before that in order to help his club and country:

In my best moment, one of my best moments in my career, I went to a World Cup and ended up getting injured and today I still have these little problems with my knee.

Today I have a different mindset, today I think I have to look after myself a lot, take care of myself, because if I’m 100 per cent I’ll help and if I’m not, I won’t help. My desire is always to be available for both Arsenal and the national team, but it doesn’t matter if, at the end of the season, I have to open up my knee and correct what’s getting in the way and end up missing out on a chance to play in the Copa America.

What’s clear now is that he is being nursed through the final part of this season. It’s interesting to go back to what Mikel Arteta said after the 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest at the end of January, in which Jesus opened the scoring and got an assist for Bukayo Saka’s crucial second goal:

He was magnificent two days ago because he had a slight problem with his knee and everybody was trying to keep him away and he said, ‘I want to be there’ and he trained and he trained, and he looked really sharp in training. When someone has this desire and the ability he has, good things are going to happen.

Which is obviously admirable, but it was worrying at the time, and I don’t think it’s any less worrying now. I also think it’s important to have this context because there has been a lot of discussion about him and his place in the squad. There are games of late where I think he, had he been fully fit, could and should have started ordinarily, but didn’t. If a player’s  form is often directly linked to availability and rhythm, we need to understand that it’s difficult to produce your best when you are in and out of the team and trying to manage what sounds like a pretty serious issue with his knee. This doesn’t sound like the usual kind of ache/strain that most players deal with routinely, so it’s a hard situation to deal with for the player and for the club.

It sounds like Jesus has decided that he will prioritise his own health above the needs of Brazil for this summer, and I’d be very surprised if this situation didn’t result in another operation once the season ends. However, he is still putting Arsenal first at the moment because I’d imagine there’s every chance this is the kind of problem that could be taken care of today or tomorrow, but he’s digging in and doing his best to help us at a crucial point of the season. That deserves credit and respect.

I also think that when we consider our squad for next season, whatever happens in the summer in terms of transfers and departures, having a fully fit Gabriel Jesus is a fantastic option. Let’s imagine we bring in another forward, let someone like Reiss Nelson go, and have Jesus as a player who can start games and make an impact as a sub, the floor is raised quite considerably in my opinion. So, let’s hope he can get this issue sorted once and for all this summer, and that he can get through these last few weeks because as Tuesday demonstrated, he’s a player capable of making an impact in the biggest games.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. We’ll bring you all the stories from Mikel Arteta’s press conference later on this afternoon on Arseblog News, and we’ll also look ahead to the Villa game with our preview podcast over on Patreon.

Until then.

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