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Mikel Arteta has explained his decision to start Gabriel Jesus in Arsenal’s crucial Europa League round of 16 second-leg clash against Sporting CP at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners head into the game tied at 2-2 on aggregate after failing to gain an advantage in the first-leg.
Speaking ahead of the clash in his press conference this week, Arteta was delighted to have Jesus back after the Brazilian came on as a substitute in the 3-0 win against Fulham last weekend. “It was great to see him back, you can feel the happiness of everyone, the players and the staff around him – we missed him and now he’s back,” Arteta said.
The Brazil international has missed the last 15 Premier League fixtures before making his return and is now set to help the Gunners challenge for the Europa League and Premier League title. Jesus Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard have both been rested by Arteta, with an eye on Sunday’s Premier League clash with Crystal Palace, replaced in the team by Fabio Vieira and Reiss Nelson.
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Eddie Nketiah is absent through injury and is not set to return until after the international break. Speaking to BT Sport ahead of kick-off, Arteta explained why he decided to hand Jesus a start against Sporting as he rotated his squad.
“We always said from the beginning of the season that we are going to approach every competition daily. The fact that you start in one competition doesn’t mean you will continue [to start],” Arteta said.
“I think we’ve been very consistent on that. Today we picked the best team we believe is the best to start because it will be a long game.
When asked about Jesus’ return to the starting XI, the Arsenal boss responded: “It’s great! We really missed him.
“He’s been out for almost four months and we all know that he has changed something in this team. To get him back, now we need him in the rhythm, scoring goals and transmitting what he transmits to the team, so hopefully he’s in the right mindset today.”
Jesus has not started a game for the Gunners since the 2-0 win against Wolves prior to the World Cup in Qatar. The Brazilian will hope he can grab a goal or two on his full return to the team and help Arsenal progress into the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
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