How Arsenal repaired their key man


Gabriel Jesus of Arsenal during a training session ahead of their UEFA Europa League round of 16 leg one match against Sporting CP at London Colney on March 08, 2023 in St Albans

As soon as it became clear that Gabriel Jesus had injured his knee, back in December when he was playing at the World Cup, Arsenal had only one immediate priority: getting him on a flight to London. Jesus was far away in Qatar, with the Brazil squad, and the striker was in a state of considerable emotional distress.

To be ruled out of a World Cup is a painful blow for any player, of any country. But it was particularly galling for Jesus, who had been deeply affected by his struggles at the 2018 tournament and was itching to shine on the global stage. For him, Qatar represented a personal mission as well as a collective pursuit of glory.

As the reality of his injury became clear, there were tears of frustration and desperation. There were also calls and messages from all over the world, as various medical experts (some more reputable than others) got in touch to offer different treatments, methods or injections.

Some of these offers must have been tempting, especially those that suggested Jesus could yet feature again at the World Cup. But such ideas were, to be frank, the stuff of fantasy. The damage to his medial collateral ligament was severe, and Arsenal knew that Jesus needed to be brought home – away from all of these voices in his ear.

Gabriel Jesus (L) and Neymar of Brazil speak after the 0-1 loss during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group G match between Cameroon and Brazil at Lusail Stadium on December 02, 2022 in Lusail City, Qata - Matthias Hangs/Getty Images

Gabriel Jesus (L) and Neymar of Brazil speak after the 0-1 loss during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group G match between Cameroon and Brazil at Lusail Stadium on December 02, 2022 in Lusail City, Qata – Matthias Hangs/Getty Images

What followed was three months of careful planning, collaborative thinking and, above all else, sheer hard work. Under the supervision of Arsenal’s medical staff, Jesus effectively had a new full-time job: getting fit. These were long and often painful days for the Brazilian, who was unable to play his part on the pitch but still remained a hugely important figure behind the scenes.

The road of recovery ultimately led Jesus to Craven Cottage, where he made his return to competitive action at approximately half past three on Sunday afternoon last weekend. His journey towards full fitness then continued on Thursday night, when he played the first 45 minutes of Arsenal’s Europa League defeat by Sporting Lisbon.

Despite the final result, Jesus’s first start since November felt like a significant moment for Arsenal’s pursuit of the Premier League title, and it was no doubt a source of enormous pride for the player himself and those who helped him to come back so quickly.

A mental and physical test

Arsenal’s medical team, which is overseen by head of medical services Gary O’Driscoll, has plenty of experience with knee issues, having managed the rehabilitation of Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Gabriel Martinelli in recent seasons. Mohamed Elneny, another who has suffered a serious knee injury, is currently going through that process now.

The club has regularly worked with Andy Williams, the renowned knee surgeon, and there was no hesitation in contacting him again. Jesus went under the knife shortly after his return from Qatar, with Arsenal announcing on December 6 (four days after Jesus played for Brazil against Cameroon) that the surgery on his right knee had been a success.

Recovery from such an operation is not only a physical challenge. This was a mental test, too, and Arsenal’s physios had to be as conscious of the Brazilian’s brain as they were of his body. For the first few days, there was no mention of the future. The message to Jesus was simple, and similar to Mikel Arteta’s approach to this season: take one step at a time.

Jesus required a few days to digest what had happened but then, Telegraph Sport understands, after four or five days, it was as if a switch had suddenly been flicked inside his mind. Club sources have described to Telegraph Sport how, almost in an instant, Jesus was flooded with a sense of positivity and determination to come back as quickly as possible, to attack his rehabilitation programme with the same intensity that he would the opposition goal.

Gabriel Jesus of Arsenal during a training session ahead of their UEFA Europa League round of 16 leg one match against Sporting CP at London Colney on March 08, 2023 in St Albans, England - Getty Images/Stuart MacFarlane

Gabriel Jesus of Arsenal during a training session ahead of their UEFA Europa League round of 16 leg one match against Sporting CP at London Colney on March 08, 2023 in St Albans, England – Getty Images/Stuart MacFarlane

If the medical team set a target of 12 days, Jesus would try to do it in 10. If they said three weeks, he would try to do it in two and a half. As Arteta put it earlier this month, Jesus was “really pushing the boundaries” at every stage of his recovery.

Fundamental to the entire process has been Jordan Reece, the club’s head physiotherapist. Reece was so pivotal to the rehabilitation programme – restoring the range of movement, building the muscles around the knee – that when Jesus was allowed to return to Brazil, around a month after his surgery, Reece went with him.

Every little victory a target and a step

As the recovery progressed, Jesus worked closely with Sam Wilson, the club’s strength and conditioning coach, and sports scientist Tom Allen to make the key technical and physical progressions that would allow him to slot back into Arteta’s relentless first-team training sessions. Will Storey, a soft tissue therapist, also played a crucial role over the past few months.

This was a team effort and, throughout it all, the medical experts encouraged Jesus to celebrate the little victories. To take pride in each step forward and to view every small progression as a significant win. The bandages are off? Savour that moment. The first run on the anti-gravity treadmill? Enjoy it. The first day on the grass? Breathe in the fresh air, and look how far you have come.

Arsenal's Gabriel Jesus during a training session at the Arsenal Training Centre, London Colney. Picture date: Wednesday March 8, 2023 - John Walton/PA

Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus during a training session at the Arsenal Training Centre, London Colney. Picture date: Wednesday March 8, 2023 – John Walton/PA

The consequences of this were two-fold. Firstly, it helped to keep the fire burning within Jesus during those long, dark months. Secondly, the 25-year-old’s mounting excitement proved infectious, spreading through the rest of the squad.

Jesus is a charismatic and influential personality at Arsenal, so much so that he was promoted to vice-captain only a few weeks after signing from Manchester City last summer. He was often with the team during his recovery, in the dressing room and at many of their matches, and with each stride forward he made, the players could feel his presence growing.

While he was out, Jesus would speak every day to Eddie Nketiah, his replacement in the starting lineup. The pressure on Nketiah was intense and Jesus was there to put his arm around his younger team-mate, to help where he could. When Nketiah struck the last-minute winner against Manchester United in January, Jesus waited for him on the touchline after the match. As soon as Nketiah came off the pitch, the pair shared an enormous bear-hug

The day Jesus returned to full training, meanwhile, was a day of genuine celebration for the first-team squad. The Brazilian is one of Arsenal’s leaders, on and off the pitch, and the players know what he means for them and their chances of winning the Premier League title. With Jesus back in the team, and likely to start Sunday’s match against Crystal Palace, Arsenal will feel that anything is possible.



Source link: https://sports.yahoo.com/gabriel-jesus-tears-desperation-arsenal-104332501.html?src=rss

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