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Don't panic! Why Arsenal chiefs should forget Gabriel Jesus replacement (& encourage Xhaka attitude)

COMMENT: It could be one month. It could be three. But no matter how long Gabriel Jesus is sidelined, Arsenal can't just rip up their market plans in response and start again...

On paper, the setback doesn't look so bad. With the Gunners sitting five points clear at the top of the table, Gabriel Jesus' record of three goals in three months before the World Cup recess suggests the impact of his absence can be managed.

But that's in statistics. Numbers on a screen. Gabriel Jesus is much more than goals. His value runs even deeper than what he offers on the pitch. It's his character. His mentality. Even just his sheer presence. All these qualities have helped drive this young team to the summit of the Premier League. They're the immeasurables. The intangibles. And it's why Arsenal's brainstrust would be wrong to waste energy and resources on attempting to find a January stop-gap to cover the Brazilian.

For the moment, we can see what Edu, the club's technical director, and manager Mikel Arteta have planned next month. Indeed, it's becoming so obvious that we can put names together. In the middle of the pitch, at the base of midfield, Edu favours the young Brazilian Danilo, of Palmeiras. For a versatile winger, capable of playing across the front three, Shakhtar Donetsk's Mykhaylo Mudryk appears to already have one foot on the Hale End pitches. Certainly, the Ukraine international is doing his best online to engineer this move from his angle.

Talented. Youthful. But with good, winning experience. Danilo, 20, is a veteran of the Copa Libertadores. Mudryk, at 23, is of similar background in Europe and the Champions League. They're a model of what Edu seeks in the market. A prototype. Players for the here and now, sure, but the emphasis being on what they can grow into.

But Gabriel Jesus' injury has put such plans in jeopardy. At least that's the speculation. Concern around the Brazilian's absence has some chatter emerging that deals for Danilo and Mudryk will be shelved in January. Instead, all resources will be pored into finding cover for Gabriel Jesus.

But again, what will Arsenal be seeking? Five goals in the Premier League this season shouldn't set the alarm bells ringing. But losing the personality of Gabriel Jesus should be of concern. But it's also something that Arsenal simply cannot go to market and buy.

Indeed, for this column, the actions of Granit Xhaka this week were worth as much as any short-term striker signing Edu has in mind. Just hours after Switzerland's World Cup run came to an abrupt end, Xhaka was on a jet for Dubai to join the Gunners' training camp.

“Of course, emotionally it is not easy," said the Swiss after being thumped 6-1 by Portugal. "But this is part of our business, part of football.

“You have to recover well. The Premier League is waiting and, of course, I wanted to be here longer than this. But we lost the game today and I am happy to go back now with the team.

“I have something to achieve there, and I know the team is in Dubai at the moment doing the pre-season.

“I'm flying back to Dubai, going back to the team, and going back to the training and trying to forget the tournament now."

You can't buy that. And you certainly can't understate it. That commitment. That leadership. While so many of his peers are now putting their feet up after a shortened World Cup, Xhaka has done the complete opposite. And with the blow of Gabriel Jesus still being felt, to see the most senior player walk through the hotel lobby yesterday surely lifted every member of the Gunners' training camp.

And that, more than any short-term addition, is what Arsenal need.

In contrast, we've had Takehiro Tomiyasu insisting he needs the break. Okay, losing on penalties to Croatia is a little different to a hammering by Portugal. But Tomiyasu is a senior player at Arsenal. His young teammates need him. They need to see his face. To feel his presence on the training pitch. There's a league title to be won. Inches matter. Hours matter. Why create room for regret by staying away? In five years' time, do you think Tomiyasu will look back and think, "I'm really happy I took that holiday after Qatar '22'"?

It's ridiculous. Which is why Xhaka's actions are so distinct. Again, you can't buy that. Just as Arsenal cannot hope to buy next month what Gabriel Jesus offers. On the pitch, five goals in three months can be covered with what they have. There's simply not the talent nor the opportunity in January to replace what Gabriel Jesus truly has brought to Arsenal this season.

Instead, Edu and Arteta should stay on course. Work to their long-term market plans. And hope the club's medical staff can do their wonders. Arsenal cannot afford to rip it all up in response and start again.



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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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