Coach Arteta was quite flustered when asked how to keep all of his strikers happy after the long-awaited return of Gabriel Jesus. “It is a difficult problem. Trust me,” he said.
It’s no surprise that Arteta is feeling content with his attacking options at the moment. Because just a few weeks ago he was struggling to find the best men for the front line.
In the space of a few days, Arteta lost Eddie Nketiah and Leandro Trossard to injury, alongside a long-term sidelined Jesus.
But Arsenal welcomed the return of Jesus and Trossard against Fulham on Sunday. And Nketiah can return from an ankle injury after the national team gathering. Suddenly, Arteta had real power up front, as was evident at Craven Cottage.
No Jesus – no problem
Arsenal had faced a three-month absence of Jesus due to a knee injury, but the Gunners did it impressively.
They led the Premier League with a gap of 5 points more than Man City when Jesus was injured. When he returned after 12 games of absence, they still kept a 5 point gap. Many people feel that Arsenal’s championship hopes will crumble without Jesus, but that is not the case.
Gabriel Martinelli now has 12 goals this season, Bukayo Saka has 11 and Martin Odegaard – who scored the third in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Fulham – has 10.
Only one other team in Europe’s top five leagues, PSG, has had three players hit the 10-goal mark this season. And that says a lot about Arsenal’s squad.
They have shared the scoring burden as a team and now also have a hugely impressive Trossard to add to the squad following his move from Brighton in January.
Trossard’s Immediate Impact
It was the Belgian international who was the star of the performance at Craven Cottage. He contributed 3 assists when operating in the virtual 9 position in Arteta’s flexible attack.
Trossard currently has five assists and one goal in his first nine games for the Gunners. He settled into his new environment with ease and made Arteta very difficult to get out of.
But with Jesus now fit, Arteta will have to let “someone” down if he gets the Brazilian back into the starting line-up.
For now, however, that is not what Trossard is worried about. In fact, the 28-year-old insists that he is enjoying active competition.
“A lot,” said Trossard, when asked after Sunday’s win if he was looking forward to fighting Jesus for a starting spot. “I knew that when I came here. It’s not like I got into the starting lineup from the first week. I had to fight for it.”
“I think we have such a strong and competitive team that, as you’ve seen in the last few weeks, we need everyone to win games.”
Jesus needs time
It is unlikely that Jesus will immediately start before the holiday to save land for the national team, so Arteta may have a little time before having to make some tough decisions.
Because the former Man City player has been out of action for so long, it is likely that he will slowly return in the next few matches. Jesus played 13 minutes plus injury time against Fulham, and Arteta will look to give him extra game time against Sporting Lisbon on Thursday and Crystal Palace on Sunday.
But Arsenal won’t want to take any risks. They want Jesus back quickly. But they knew they couldn’t let him overwhelm him after such a long time out. “He needs to earn his place just like anyone else on the team,” Arteta said when discussing Jesus’ return.
When fully fit, it is expected that Jesus will lead the front line in the title race. With Saka and Martinelli on either side, his experience is seen as key to Arsenal’s title hopes.
But Trossard’s arrival and immediate shine means Arteta now has options that can really help Arsenal push the boundaries. He is possessing a quality squad thanks to sublimated pillars and valuable rookies.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Arteta has always been smiling all the time.