Jesus 'not far' from return but Arsenal striker not ready for Bournemouth
Gabriel Jesus is closing in on an Arsenal return after four months on the sidelines, but the Premier League leaders will not have the striker available for Saturday's meeting with Bournemouth.
Jesus made an immediate impact upon his arrival from Manchester City last year, but he has not played since suffering a knee injury while representing Brazil at the World Cup in December.
The 25-year-old returned to light training last month, and while his first club outing since November is not imminent, Arsenal fans will not have to wait much longer to see him in action.
Manager Mikel Arteta said of Jesus at Friday's pre-Bournemouth press conference: "He's not far now. I don't want to give a timeline – he's not very close, but he's not far at all, and he's feeling better every day.
"The doctors are confident with the way the injury is evolving and we are in a good place with him, I think.
"It's been pretty straightforward. Obviously at the start we were really concerned about the extent of the injury. Thankfully it was not that bad, but it was a long-term injury and required surgery.
"Knowing Gabi, he's gone through this before. His mentality is just incredible and I think the team has done a good job to put him in the position he's in today."
Asked if Jesus could play before the international break later this month, Arteta added: "We don't know. We're not far away but he needs to do much more with the team.
"Lets see how the next week or 10 days develop, then we'll have a much better picture."
Despite Jesus' absence, Arsenal are five points clear at the summit after winning seven of their 11 Premier League games since the World Cup.
Arteta is proud of his players' reaction to Jesus' injury, with Eddie Nketiah among those to have stepped up to fill the void up top.
"That was a huge blow for the team. We knew the importance of Gabi and the way he transformed this period and the belief," Arteta said.
"But to be fair, the team made a step forward and players took more responsibility individually. They were keen to maintain the level and we have done it so far.
"What he was producing for the team was phenomenal. But it's true that we now need to see what level he comes back at, how we are going to fit him in.
"Like everybody else he will have to earn his place, but we know what Gabi can give to the team, that's for sure."
Meanwhile, two other stars of Arsenal's bid for a first league title since 2004 – Bukayo Saka and William Saliba – have entered the final 18 months of their contracts with the Gunners, who are keen to tie them down to long-term deals.
Arteta, however, is unwilling to publicly discuss their futures until Arsenal's title charge is concluded.
"Every player is very important. Obviously there are players with special circumstances contractually, and we are trying to deal with them," he said.
"But I don't want to cause any distractions in this moment with those conversations. When something is done and it's good news, we will announce it."