Chris Sutton thinks Arsenal will struggle without Gabriel Jesus and has tipped the Premier League leaders to draw at home to West Ham on Boxing Day.
The Gunners have only lost once in the top flight this term and are five points ahead of reigning champions Manchester City.
They are facing a huge test over the next few months, however, with summer signing Gabriel Jesus ruled out for around three months due to a knee injury.
Eddie Nketiah will probably come in for Jesus and start against the Hammers on Monday.
There are some concerns over Nketiah’s ability to fulfil the role, though people do seem to be forgetting about his form towards the end of last season.
He kept captain Alexandre Lacazette out of the team and earned a new £100,000-a-week contract in the summer.
There are no doubts that Nketiah is not on the same level as Jesus, but he is still a great back-up option to have.
One-time Premier League winner Sutton thinks we will see what Arsenal are made of over the next few weeks with the “irreplaceable” Jesus absent.
The pundit has actually predicted a 1-1 draw at the Emirates between the two London clubs.
Sutton wrote in his BBC predictions column: “Arsenal are five points clear at the top of the table but we are going to find out in the next few weeks whether they really are title contenders, aren’t we?
“The break probably came at the worst possible time for them, because of the form they were in, and there isn’t a more significant player they could have lost to injury than Gabriel Jesus.
“People might point at his lack of goals before the World Cup but Jesus is integral to them in the way they press, and with his link-up play.
“He is irreplaceable, certainly from within their squad, so the seriousness of his injury will probably decide whether they try to make some signings in January.
“I feel like I have backed West Ham to be better than they have been on plenty of occasions already this season, but the one thing they should be here is tough to beat.”
Sutton is not the only pundit to say the absence of Jesus might have a detrimental effect on Arsenal’s title push, with Paul Merson going as far to say they will finish outside the top four if Mikel Arteta does not bring in a new forward in January.
The Gunners have been linked with PSV Eindhoven talisman Cody Gakpo, though he looks certain to join Manchester United.
Shakhtar Donetsk’s Mykhaylo Mudryk is another target and is believed to be the north Londoners’ top priority.
However, the Ukrainian is a natural winger and doesn’t offer much of a solution with Jesus out, though it does give Arteta the option to play Gabriel Martinelli through the middle.
Jesus joined Arsenal from Manchester City for £45million in the summer transfer window and has scored five and assisted seven in 20 appearances across all competitions.
The Gunners’ only defeat in the Premier League this term came against Manchester United at Old Trafford in September.
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