Mikel Arteta hails Arsenal players for ‘leadership’ development in absence of Gabriel Jesus
Mikel Arteta believes his Arsenal players have developed into leaders in the absence of Gabriel Jesus.
Striker Jesus has been out since the World Cup with a knee injury but he is closing in on a return to action.
Arteta has said the Brazilian is “feeling better every day” and his return to the squad will be a major for boost for the Gunners’ Premier League title charge.
Arsenal have had to cope for three months without Jesus and Arteta believes it has strengthened the resolve of his players.
“It (losing Jesus) was a huge blow for the team first of all,” said Arteta.
“We knew the importance of Gabi, what he was bringing to the team and the way he transformed this period and the belief and in the end the level of performance we could reach.
“But to be fair the team took a step forward, individually players took more responsibility and they were really keen to maintain that level.
“We have done that so far, it’s really pleasing to see players are not looking for an excuse or look aside and expect someone else to do it, but they took initiative and developing those leadership qualities is really important.”
Eddie Nketiah is one of those who has stepped up in the absence of Jesus, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup.
The 23-year-old scored six goals in as many games, but he has dropped off since then and is a doubt for Saturday’s match against Bournemouth due to an ankle problem.
“We are assessing him,” said Arteta. “It’s a bit uncertain what will happen with him to be honest in the training sessions. Let’s see, let’s keep the options open. He’s very positive about it and hopefully he’ll be fine.”
Arsenal are reluctant to put a timeframe on Jesus’ comeback, but there should be a clearer indication of when he could return in the next week.
The striker is currently working outdoors on the grass, however he is not involved in full-contact training.
“He’s not far now,” said Arteta. “I don’t want to give a timeline but certain things are with the team and certain things are outside the team.
“He’s not very close but he’s not far at all. He’s feeling better every day and the doctors are confident with the way the injury is evolving. We are in a good place with him, I think.
“I think it (Jesus’ rehab) has been pretty straightforward. At the beginning we were really concerned with the possible extent of the injury because we were talking about a few options there.
“Thankfully it wasn’t that bad. But it was a long-term injury, it required surgery and it’s not [pleasant], especially the first few weeks.
“But knowing Gabi, he’s been through that before. His mentality is incredible and the team has done a really good job with him to put him in the position he’s in today.
“I’m saying we’re not far away but obviously he has to do much more with the team. Let’s see how the next week, 10 days develop and we’ll have a much better picture.”