Mikel Arteta explains starting Gabriel Jesus

Gabriel Jesus is back! (Photo: Getty)

Gabriel Jesus made his first start for Arsenal in four months in the crucial Europa League clash against Sporting Lisbon.

Following a 2-2 draw in Portugal, Thursday night’s game in the Emirates is a must for the Gunners if they hope to progress to the quarter-finals.

As such, Mikel Arteta put together a very strong starting XI, with Jesus notably in the line-up after returning as a substitute in last Sunday’s 3-0 win at Fulham.

The Brazilian striker was a key player for Arsenal ahead of the World Cup break but suffered a protracted knee injury at Qatar 2022.

In his absence, Eddie Nketiah, Leandro Trossard and Gabriel Martinelli have taken the lead, but despite their success, Jesus’ influence has been missed.

“It’s great to have him back, we really missed him,” Arteta told BT Sport ahead of kick-off.

“He’s been out for almost four months and we all know he’s made a difference on this team. We have him back and now we need him in rhythm, in scoring and in the team.’

With Arsenal also in contention for the Premier League title, some thought Arteta would change sides to keep them fresh for Sunday’s game against Crystal Palace.

But it’s more or less a full-strength eleven, with Aaron Ramsdale even replacing Matt Turner in goal.

“We said from the start of the season that we will approach each game on a daily basis and just because you start in a competition doesn’t mean you will continue,” added the manager.

“You’re in or you’re out [of this competition] So you need to field a team capable of winning at the highest level. It’s a big game and it’s going to be a long night.’

“It’s a big deal, especially because with Covid we haven’t had one for a while. We expect the team to reach the level that is required today with our people and win the game.”

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