Gabriel Jesus return gives Arsenal a welcome headache with firepower to stay on title track
hen Gabriel Jesus suffered a knee injury at the World Cup, there were fears that Arsenal’s title race would be derailed.
But the Brazilian returned with the team in the same position as when he left. Arsenal were five points clear of Manchester City at the top when Jesus was ruled out for three months, and they restored that lead by beating Fulham 3-0 on Sunday.
Jesus looked sharp and came close to scoring as he came on for the final 13 minutes at Craven Cottage, but Mikel Arteta warned he would face a fight to get back into the squad.
Arsenal excelled in the absence of Jesus. Initially, Eddie Nketiah scored six goals in as many games. More recently, Leandro Trossard has taken center stage and shown why the Gunners paid £26m to sign him from Brighton in January.
Since losing 3-1 to Manchester City last month, Arsenal have won five Premier League games in a row, and Trossard has started them all.
The Belgian shone on Sunday, earning a hat-trick of assists in the first half. There were shades of Jesus in Trossard’s performance. He traded regularly with Gabriel Martinelli, as the pair swapped between playing on the left and in the middle.
Their interaction confused the Fulham defense and all three of Arsenal’s goals came from the left. The second and third goals were similar, with Trossard twice beating Fulham right-back Kenny Tete and crossing for Martinelli and then Martin Odegaard to score.
Arsenal’s initial target in January was Mykhailo Mudryk, but it’s increasingly looking like a blessing in disguise that Chelsea beat them to the Ukraine international.
Trossard has taken off, largely thanks to playing in the Premier League for almost four years. At 28, he brings his experience to a young team.
Jesus also offers this know-how and he will of course play a key role in the title race. His mere presence lifted the mood on Sunday, with traveling fans applauding each of his contacts as he arrived. Trossard’s form, however, means Arsenal don’t need to rush Jesus before two big games this week.
The Gunners host Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League on Thursday, with the knockout stages hanging in the balance after a 2-2 draw in Portugal last week. Then, on Sunday, they will face Crystal Palace. A win would put Arsenal eight points clear going into the next international break, given Manchester City are in FA Cup action at the weekend.
The title break-in will begin in earnest after that, when Arsenal have just 10 games between them and their first title since 2004.
After looking out of options earlier this season, the battle between Jesus and Trossard underscores how Arteta now has the weapons to get Arsenal over the line. His biggest headache seems to be deciding where to start.
“It’s a big problem to have, trust me,” Arteta said.
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