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Jesus' replacement, January signings and tying down key players: Six questions Arsenal must answer after the World Cup break

09:00 WAT 26/12/2022
Mudryk Arteta Jesus GFX
The Gunners have the chance to do something very special when the Premier League returns, but there are issues that still need ironing out

With the World Cup behind us, attention now turns to the return of the Premier League. And for Arsenal, that means the chance to do something truly special following their record-breaking start to the season.

The Gunners sit five points clear at the top of the table having won 12 of their 14 league games before the break.

So can they now go on and claim a first Premier League title since 2004? Or will Manchester City do what most people expect and reel in Arteta’s side during the second half of the campaign?

Ahead of the Premier League’s return, GOAL has taken a look at some of the big questions hanging over Arsenal as they prepare to face West Ham on Boxing Day...

  • Gabriel Jesus Arsenal 2022-23

    How can Gabriel Jesus be replaced?

    This is the big question facing Arsenal as the Premier League returns.

    Jesus may have only scored five goals for the Gunners before the break for the World Cup, but the overall impact he had on his new club was huge.

    From his pressing ability to his clever movement in and around the penalty, Jesus completely transformed the way Mikel Arteta’s side attacked.

    So to potentially lose him for up to three months is a huge blow, and Arsenal must find a way of playing without him if they want to continue competing with Manchester City at the top of the table.

    It looks certain that Arteta will initially turn to Eddie Nketiah to fill the void left by Jesus. Arsenal’s manager fought hard to keep Nketiah last summer when he looked set to move on and he will now hope the 23-year-old can repay the faith he showed in him.

    Nketiah showed towards the end of last season that he can score goals at the top level when given an opportunity in the side, and he will be looking to do the same this time around.

    But replacing Jesus is not just about goals. The Brazilian's game is about far more than that, and that is going to be the big test for Nketiah.

    Can he match Jesus’ incredible work rate? Can he press in the same way? And can he create space for the likes of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli with his movement across the final third?

    Those are all questions that all need to be answered positively if Arsenal are to continue setting the pace once the Premier League returns.

  • Mykhailo Mudryk Shakhtar Donetsk 2022-23

    Is Mykhailo Mudryk worth the money?

    There is, of course, another way of trying to replace Jesus, and that is by bringing someone in when the January transfer window opens.

    As it stands, however, the priority for the Gunners going into the winter window is not to sign a central striker. The focus instead is on looking to land another wide attacker.

    Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mudryk is a target and the Ukrainian star has already publicly stated his desire to potentially seal a move to north London.

    But Mudryk will not come cheap, as several key figures at Shakhtar have pointed out in the past couple of months.

    The Ukrainian club’s director of football, Darijo Srna, has stated he believes the young attacker is worth around £90 million ($109m) and has pointed to the transfer fees commanded by the likes of Jack Grealish and Antony as proof. 

    It’s unlikely Arsenal would go that high for Mudryk, however, so the question is what would they pay to land a player who could come in and make a big difference over the second half of the season?

    The Gunners must decide whether the 21-year-old is worth pushing the boat out for, because there will be plenty of other clubs in the running for the forward, who has scored 10 goals and laid on eight assists in 18 appearances this season.

    It’s a big decision for Arsenal, and one that could have major implications on their second half of the season.

  • Thomas Partey Arsenal 2022.

    Have Arsenal got enough in midfield?

    Arsenal also have a big decision to make when it comes to their midfield. It’s another area in the squad that they know needs strengthening, but the decision they now face is whether to do so in January or wait until the summer.

    The question they will be asking themselves is whether they can rely on Thomas Partey to stay fit for the remainder of the season.

    History suggests that is unlikely, and while Mohamed Elneny is a dependable squad player, he is way off Partey’s level and Arsenal would struggle should they have to use Egyptian as their holding midfield player for a lengthy period of time.

    That’s something Arsenal are aware of and they did try to sign Douglas Luiz from Aston Villa last summer to bolster their options in the heart of midfield.

    Luiz has signed a new contract since then so is not on the agenda anymore, but Youri Tielemans is a long-term target, while young Brazilian midfielder Danilo at Palmeiras is another player Arsenal have looked at.

    Both could be available in January if the price is right, so Arsenal must decide whether to make a move or not.

  • Cedric Soares Arsenal

    To sell, or not to sell?

    Another key thing for Arsenal to decide on is whether to let any players leave in January.

    The Gunners do not have the biggest of squads, but there are still some fringe players who are expected to generate some interest once the window opens.

    Cedric Soares is one, with Fulham hovering in the background for the Portugal international, while teenage Brazilian Marquinhos is another.

    Arteta is not a manager who would stand in a player’s way of leaving should a good opportunity arise, but he is not blessed with huge amounts of players to call upon.

    And with so many games to come following the World Cup break, including the Europa League knockout stages, Arsenal have to weigh up whether or not it would be wise to let squad players leave.

    While Cedric has found game time difficult to come by the season, he is still a valuable member of the squad and can play in a number of positions if needed.

    So letting him go if an offer arrives will not be an easy decision. It’s something Arsenal will have to consider carefully.

  • Mikel Arteta 2022-23

    How seriously do Arsenal take the FA Cup?

    Arteta made a whole host of changes when Arsenal travelled to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round last season.

    The result was an abject performance and a costly 1-0 defeat, one that the manager labelled as unacceptable.

    So one of the big questions facing Arteta as January’s third-round trip to Oxford United approaches is what will he do this time around?

    Does he back his squad players and do the same thing as last season and hope for a different outcome? Or does he risk some of his established Premier League starting XI at the Kassam Stadium on Monday, January 9?

    With games against Tottenham and Manchester United immediately following the trip to Oxford, whatever he decides could yet define the Gunners' season.

  • Bukayo Saka Arsenal 2022-23

    Can Arsenal get key contracts sorted?

    Arsenal were hoping to have contract talks with some of their biggest names done and dusted before they went off to the World Cup.

    That didn’t happen, however, with the futures of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and William Saliba still to be decided.

    Arsenal understandably want all three deals sorted sooner rather than later, with Arteta keen to avoid any sort of distractions that could harm their chances in the Premier League this season.

    So the Gunners will be working hard to try and bring a successful and swift end to the ongoing contract talks once everyone has settled back in following their exploits in Qatar.

    The question is: How quickly can they get things done?

    Saka, Saliba and Martinelli are players every single club in European football would want on their books and Arsenal do not want any sort of speculation disrupting the work they have done building their squad in recent years.

    So they will be desperate to get all three tied down to extended spells in north London.