Gabriel Jesus has given Mikel Arteta “a great problem” after the Arsenal forward returned from injury with a cameo appearance in Sunday’s 3-0 victory at Fulham.
Manager Arteta saw Jesus impress in the opening months of the season as the Gunners began their title challenge, but they have learned to cope without him since the former Manchester City man suffered a knee injury on Brazil duty at the World Cup.
There is still no mistaking Jesus has a role to play in the Premier League run-in, but Arteta, while delighted to have the £45million man back, said the 25-year-old “needs to earn his place”.
Arteta brought on Jesus as a 77th-minute substitute at Craven Cottage, in place of Leandro Trossard, whose three first-half assists paved the way for the London derby victory.
“We didn’t know whether it was the right game for him today,” Arteta said. “A few days ago, he told me he was missing something, and then yesterday he looked me in the eyes and told me he was ready.
“Today we had the opportunity to throw him in because it’s that first step to give him the boost. He looked free and generated two big chances straight away, and it’s great to have him back.
“Now he needs to earn his place like anyone else in the team. We have alternatives that can play in different positions, and we have different roles to fill in relation to the chemistry of the players and what we ask them to do. It’s a great problem to have, believe me.
“I was so happy. He put a lot in the last few months, and all the staff spent so many hours together to try to fulfil all his needs. He wanted more and more and more, and he was very willing to get back. Just to see him there with a smile on his face was just a joy.”
Jesus shared that emotion, writing on Twitter that he was “so happy to be back”.
So happy to be back. And feels like i never left… What a win from this group! Let’s go, gunners! #gratidão#alômãe pic.twitter.com/Sam2K6VAtD
— Gabriel Jesus (@gabrieljesus9) March 12, 2023
Arteta praised his team’s “love for defending” after the clean sheet and called it an “outstanding performance”, with Arsenal reasserting their five-point advantage over Manchester City, with 11 rounds of games remaining.
Trossard, a January recruit from Brighton and Hove Albion, set up the goals for Gabriel Magalhaes, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard.
Arteta commended the Belgian winger, saying: “When we talk about composure and finding the right pass, and looking to the right player in the box, it’s very blurry and some other players make rash decisions, and he created three goals.
“He could have scored two – I think he was really impressive. His contribution was superb.”
Victory took Arteta to 100 wins as manager of Arsenal, and the former club captain said: “Hopefully there will be many more.”
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