Eddie Nketiah could prevent history repeating itself at Arsenal after Gabriel Jesus injury

The Gabriel Jesus injury has Arsenal fans scratching their head, praying history doesn’t repeat itself, but let’s not forget Eddie Nketiah.

Gabriel Jesus is the kind of transformational signing that club managers dream about. It’s only sometimes that teams find the right mix of a player that drastically improves the squad’s level and brings about results. The Brazilian’s arrival seemingly rejuvenated a top team needing a level-headed striker. And Arsenal were better for having Jesus and Eddie Nketiah as the striker options.

The Brazilian international has not scored as prolifically as some may have imagined. But that was never his strong suit while at Manchester City. Instead, Jesus has brought the whole attacking unit together and made them a lethal combination that defences have found it tough going against this season.

He has revitalised the centre-forward position and made Arsenal much better than they were with Alexandre Lacazette or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Despite Jesus’s well-publicised goal drought, Mikel Arteta has seen no reason to play without the striker. He was their talisman ahead of a possible title challenge.

We say ‘possible challenge’ because the media narrative surrounding Arsenal predicted their imminent collapse after the World Cup. The same things got mentioned before the season began and during the campaign. The Gunners stood firm to challenges of all sorts and ended five points ahead of Manchester City at the summit of the Premier League table.

But, something had to give way. And while Arteta was quietly hoping all his important stars return unscathed from the World Cup, Arsenal got struck by a big blow. Jesus injured his knee in his only start for Brazil in the group stage against Cameroon and now faces up to three months out of action.

The media narrative has grown stronger since the striker’s injury. Arsenal have since responded with a thumping win over West Ham United without the Brazilian. As it is only one game without their talisman, can the Gunners sustain the next two or three months without him and still maintain their title charge? Arteta and the fans will hope a certain part of their club’s history does not repeat itself.

Remember Eduardo Da Silva? Will history repeat itself for Arsenal?

Fifteen years ago, Arsenal lost a certain Thierry Henry to Barcelona, who the team relied on to get goals over many years. Only a few envisaged Arsene Wenger’s plan to replace the Frenchman. Doubts were cast after he signed Eduardo Da Silva, a Croatian striker with a Brazilian background of an unknown quantity.

In truth, nobody knew who Eduardo was and where he’d come from. But after a flying start to the season, Wenger was massively heralded for the masterstroke. The Croat got in the groove and made an exciting young squad comprising Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Theo Walcott and Alexander Hleb.

As Arsenal led the Premier League charts, a cold night in December and a bad tackle from Martin Taylor snapped Eduardo’s leg into two. With that, Arsenal’s season derailed as Wenger saw a title challenge slip away from their hands.

The recent injury to Jesus may not have the nastiness of the Eduardo incident but could have a similar impact on Arsenal’s season. The thinking may be a little far-fetched, but the reality could align similarly to that disastrous season.

Wenger did not replace Eduardo in the immediate aftermath, and the decision cost Arsenal a possible title. While Arteta finds himself in a similar place, the calls for replacing Jesus after the injury have increased exponentially. Former players like Paul Merson have cast doubts on their title challenge, even questioning their top-four credentials without the Brazilian forward.

As things stand, Arsenal are keen on bringing a new wide forward and may shelve any plans to sign a replacement striker. Some may see it as a strange decision considering the club’s strong position in the league. But unlike Wenger, Arteta may have an ace up his sleeve in Eddie Nketiah.

Time to have faith in Eddie Nketiah

As part of the whole, ‘Arsenal will collapse without Jesus’ narrative, Nketiah has a starring role, and the most significant one. The 23-year-old is a young star who is still developing his trade as a central striker. Years ago, two late goals against Norwich City brought him into prominence, and he has remained on the brink of breaking through ever since.

Critics and fans alike have no confidence whatsoever in Nketiah replacing Jesus. But wasn’t that the club’s original plan when handing him a big deal in the summer? The 23-year-old was prolific when Arsenal chased a top-four place last season. He proved to be an all-round striker in this system under Arteta.

Last season, the two goals against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge showcased Nketiah’s prowess in pressing and being clinical inside the box. Even during pre-season, there were no question marks over his displays as he seemed to gel together with Jesus in the frontline.

Unfortunately, Arteta’s system only allows one of the duo to play, and Jesus was miles ahead of Nketiah to start every game in the Premier League. The 23-year-old’s failure to score in the league this season is his only negative mark, but he also needs a consistent run of games. Nketiah has proven his worth in an Arsenal shirt when given the right opportunities. Hencem he should get the necessary support than the uncalled-for dismissive suggestions.

The fact that Arsenal handed him a big-money contract and the famous No.14 shirt showed Arteta has total faith in the striker. The idea of bringing in a replacement for Jesus makes sense from plenty of angles. Keeping faith in Nketiah is equally vital to maintaining the squad’s balance.

Will a new striker make sense for Arsenal’s title challenge?

As soon as the World Cup ended and the focus shifted to club football, Arsenal saw links with Dusan Vlahovic and Memphis Depay re-emerge with vigour. Much sooner, calls to bring in a replacement for the injured Jesus took charge. But will a new player overly help Arsenal in the title challenge?

For instance, Vlahovic became a target with a similar idea last January, as the Gunners wanted a presence upfront to replace Aubmeyang. By then, Arteta’s trust in Lacazette had waned, and Nkletiah was still of unproven quantity.Β Yet, the faith Arteta put into Nketiah’s talents to get results somewhat paid off.

The young striker is a different player from one year ago, and he could become Arsenal’s answer in the current crisis. If fans judge Nketiah based on his goals this season, the 23-year-old answered those critics with a brilliant showing against West Ham. He also scored the team’s vital third goal.

Moreover, fans must understand that Nketiah has played most of his games in the Europa League. There is a massive difference playing alongside Reiss Nelson, Fabio Vieira, and Marquinhos compared to having Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli in support. For those who do not know this, Nketiah is the second highest goalscorer under Arteta with only Saka ahead of the 23-year-old.

Nketiah certainly fits the ideas of Arteta and could prove a useful presence between now and Jesus’s return. He may not offer things the Brazilian does. But what the 23-year-old can do is score goals when set up with chances.

He is a much better finisher than the former Manchester City man. And with the right balance, Arsenal will benefit from his presence. Hence, keeping faith in Nketiah and backing him makes more sense than bringing in a hurried replacement.

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