Any hope that Gabriel Jesus’ knee injury wasn’t as severe as feared has gone out the window. Arsenal report that the Brazilian striker had successful surgery to repair the damage and will soon begin his rehab. Yesterday, The Telegraph confirmed that the Arsenal striker had damage to his medial collateral ligament (MCL) and would be out for several months. It’s not clear what grade the MCL sprain is, but given the surgery and recovery timetable, it was at least a Grade 2 tear (partially torn) and could be Grade 3 (fully torn). Reports out of Brazil indicate that he also had meniscus damage, which isn’t uncommon with knee injuries.
With Jesus set to spend an extended period out of the lineup, Arsenal need to sign an attacking player in the January transfer window. Whether they have the funds and appetite to do so is another question. And as with every transfer, it’s not as simple as “Arsenal want, Arsenal get” a new player. You need the right player, a willing seller, and a reasonable price.
Arsenal don’t necessarily need to buy a replacement striker. They have Eddie Nketiah, who has shown he can get it done over a short period of matches. Hopefully Mikel Arteta’s trust in him to do the same over a longer period is well-placed. I’d expect to see Gabriel Martinelli leading the line at some point, and perhaps even Emile Smith Rowe as a false 9. They could buy another attacker and shift guys around to find the right combination.
The Gunners could also recall Folarin Balogun from his loan to Reims, where he’s scored 8 goals in 15 appearances, but that seems unlikely. He’s probably better off playing more frequently in France and continuing his development there. I’m not sure how much he’d be able to provide in the Premier League at this point.
Any decision that Arsenal make cannot be about just this season. As supporters, we want to see the club go for it right now. We’ve waited and suffered for several seasons, it’s been great so far this year, and we all want to see that continue. But it would be foolish for the club to make a decision for half a season that sets them back in the medium to long term.
Case in point: Balogun. It’s probably more important for him to continue to develop towards being a viable Premier League option in a year or two than for him to return to sit behind Eddie Nketiah and play a few games.
The Gunners worked hard to reset the wage structure and get the locker room culture right. It would be a shame to wreck that with a desperation move. At the same time, I don’t think title challenges are going to come around every season for the Gunners. They’re building a team that should qualify for the Champions League more often than not, with the occasional title challenge. But given the competitiveness of the Premier League and the comparative resource deficit facing the Gunners, it’s naive to think they’ll always be able to punch with Manchester City. As we’re being painfully reminded right now with Jesus’ injury, in addition to building a great squad, you also need to get lucky with injuries.
The season LFC won the title, their 7 best outfield players played 34-38 league games. That’s the luck you need to pip city to a title these days. pic.twitter.com/PYUHUaLIEG— YankeeGunner (@YankeeGunner) December 6, 2022
Is there somebody out there that Edu and Mikel Arteta could bring it that really would preserve the 35% chance (or whatever it is) at winning the league this year? Do they think they should “go for it” this season even with Jesus’ injury? How would that affect the overall project moving forwards?
And that’s just a handful of the questions they have to answer when potentially making a move in a couple of weeks. Heck, there are likely considerations we don’t and can’t identify from the outside looking in. It’s a really tough decision to make, and I don’t envy Mikel Arteta and Edu having to balance all the different factors. If you take one thing away from this post it’s that the decision to do (or not do) something in the January transfer window is far more complex than any of us think it is.
That and the fact that Gabriel Jesus needs MCL surgery and will miss several months really, really sucks.