Arsenal have received a major boost ahead of the title run-in, with striker Gabriel Jesus returning to full training.
Injured during the FIFA World Cup 2022, the Brazilian has missed the Gunners’ last 12 Premier League matches, but he is now set to play a key role as his current club try to stay ahead of his old team Manchester City at the top of the table.
Mikel Arteta is planning to reintroduce Jesus carefully.
“We will try not to rush him back,” Arteta told arsenal.com. “We will try to make a fair assessment between what he needs and when he’s comfortable, as well as give the team a boost that they will need in the next few weeks.
“Everything is going well. He needs time to get himself that confident and physical state to compete with a free mind, and when he is free to do that we will throw him in.”
Arteta’s willingness to give Jesus time may be largely due to the fact that his team have actually been performing well without their No 9.
While Jesus initially scored five times in his first eight Premier League appearances for the Gunners, he then went six matches without a goal up until the World Cup.
In his absence, there has been little discernible difference to Arsenal’s attacking threat.
The Gunners’ averages for goals per match and Expected Goals have stayed almost the same, with the former dropping slightly by 0.2 and the latter rising minimally by 0.1.
|Premier League||With Jesus||Without Jesus|
|Shots on target/match||5.8||4.8|
|Touches in opp. box/match||35.4||41.4|
That reflects well upon the impact of back-up striker Eddie Nketiah, and then of January signing Leandro Trossard.
Arteta certainly deserves credit for his recent use of Trossard. The Belgian has been deployed up front in a role similar to Jesus’s, moving out to the left side to create space for Gabriel Martinelli, who has burst into the box to score four goals in his last four matches.
Nonetheless, the statistics above also show what Jesus brings to the team.
While Arsenal have had more shots without him, they have had fewer attempts on target. That suggests the lack of a clinical edge at times, which was perhaps most evident in the 3-1 home defeat to Man City, when nine of their 10 attempts missed the goal.
Overall, the simple fact is the Gunners average more points per match when Jesus plays, with 2.6 compared to 2.2, and that difference could be decisive in the title race.