Gabriel Jesus Returns and the Left Back Conundrum
When Gabriel Jesus suffered that unfortunate knee injury in November and required surgery, everyone associated with Arsenal were legitimately concerned, but in Eddie Nketiah, the Gunners have found a dependable deputy that has done his bit to stake a claim for a first team berth. Prior to featuring consistently due to Gabriel Jesus’ injury layoff, Nketiah had scored two goals in the Europa League against Zurich and Bodo/Glimt as well as Arsenal’s solitary goal in the Carabao Cup home defeat to Brighton. After the World Cup, Nketiah has made eight starts and has scored seven goals, including a brace against Manchester United that helped the Gunners gain a foothold at the top of the table.
Manchester United has been in a rich vein of form lately, with their star player, Marcus Rashford, having a mean scoring streak, so watching them drop points against Leeds United was quite satisfying, even though it was an enjoyable game for a neutral.
After spending some valuable time with his family back home in Brazil, Gabriel Jesus has returned to London Colney to continue his rehabilitation from his lengthy injury layoff and news of his imminent arrival to the field of play brings butterflies to our collective tummies. It’s not like he was absolutely missed with Arsenal winning four of the six Premier League games he was absent for but Gabriel Jesus offers a whole lot to the team, just like Nketiah. The two games the Gunners dropped points in Gabriel Jesus’ absence were Newcastle (home) and Everton (away) – these are teams with dogged defenses that the Brazilian forward’s style of play would have come in handy.
We were told from the onset that he was going to return around February / March, and I’m pretty sure Mikel Arteta will be working with the medical staff for up-to-the-minute information on his alpha male in attack, but we will keep tabs on that.
To more positive news, new signing, Oleksandr Zinchenko, has been named the January Player of the Month, by Arsenal fans for his superb performances in the month. Zinchenko began his January with 90 minutes in the 0-0 draw with Newcastle before making a substitute appearance for Kieran Tierney in the 3-0 win over Oxford United in the FA Cup. Zinchenko starred in the back-to-back Premier League victories over Tottenham and Manchester United, before replacing Tierney yet again in the FA Cup defeat to Manchester City.
It’s evident that Zinchenko is an undoubted first teamer because of the sheer quality he offers the side, as well as the additional positions he takes on the field, giving the Gunners a tactical edge in attack as well as allowing the likes of Granit Xhaka to make further forays forward to support in the attacking third. However, Zinchenko’s presence on the pitch ultimately means that Tierney’s time on it is limited, as they are direct competitors for the left back slot.
Tierney joined the Gunners in 2019 and has always been a regular at the team, even though he always had his usual injury layoffs that sidelined him for months and months, leaving the club to use his deputies to hold the fort, or that failed experiment of Xhaka in the left back slot that saw us exposed in midfield. This season, he has been rather fortunate with injuries and had an extended run with first team football when Zinchenko struggled with some muscular issues, but the manager’s tactics ensures that when both men are fit in the Premier League, Zinchenko will be the one that gets the nod.
With Tierney falling down the pecking order despite being a player of immense quality, Arteta has tried to keep him happy by featuring him in the other tournaments Arsenal has competed this season, with Tierney playing and starting all six Europa League matches, scoring a goal against Zurich, as well as starts in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup. However, he has started only three Premier League games, coming on as a substitute in 13 other games.
One would imagine that Tierney would not be content playing second fiddle to Zinchenko in the Premier League and with 18 months left on his contract, Arsenal might be at crossroads with him this summer, if the Scottish lad agitates for pastures anew. I’m very grateful with the quality has this season, and having Tierney and Zinchenko vying for the same spot in the team can only bode well for both players.
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Posted on February 9, 2023, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League and tagged Arsenal, Football, Gabriel Jesus, Kieran Tierney, Oleksandr Zinchenko. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.
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