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Arsenal boss Arteta welcomes Jesus’ return with Nketiah still out

Mikel Arteta said on Wednesday that Gabriel Jesus’s return is perfectly timed for Premier League leaders Arsenal as Eddie Nketiah is still several weeks away from recovering after his ankle injury.

Brazil forward Jesus made his first appearance since undergoing surgery on the knee problem he sustained at the World Cup when he came off the bench in Sunday’s 3-0 win at Fulham.

Nketiah deputised impressively for Jesus, scoring six goals in 12 games before he was sidelined by an ankle issue suffered in the 4-0 win over Everton on March 1.

The Gunners have maintained a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League despite lacking a recognised striker in the absence of Jesus and Nketiah.

With the title race entering the final furlong and Arsenal also hoping to win the Europa League — they host Sporting Lisbon in the last 16 second leg on Thursday — Arteta is glad to have former Manchester City star Jesus back in the fold.

“It was great to see him back. You can feel the happiness of everyone,” Arteta told reporters.

“We missed him and now he’s back. We have to manage his minutes, his involvement in the squad and the team.

“He’s feeling good and every day he’s training he says his sensations are better and better, so that’s really positive.”

Nketiah is unlikely to be back in action until the final days of the season and Arteta revealed the young striker was lucky to avoid a worse injury.

“He’s getting better,” Arteta said. “He’s still in the boot. He’s still a few weeks away and we need to be patient. It was a nasty injury and he has a big challenge ahead of him.

“Thank God, it could have been worse. So he’s not in a bad place.”

Forwards Gabriel Martinelli and Leandro Trossard starred in Arsenal’s comprehensive victory at Fulham, giving Arteta a selection headache with Jesus now in contention to face Sporting.

The tie is finely poised following a 2-2 draw in Lisbon last week and, despite going all out to win the English title, Arteta is not about to throw away the chance to lift a European trophy as well.

Asked if the Europa League was a distraction from the title race, Arteta replied: “No. We haven’t had big European nights for three years. Due to Covid especially.

“Tomorrow (Thursday) is the first one for a while. Hopefully we will build a big atmosphere and enjoy with our supporters against a really good team that is going to put a big challenge in front of us.”

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