Gabriel Jesus could miss Brazil’s World Cup after manager Tite axes Arsenal star for strikers Matheus Cunha and Pedro
Brazil’s last squad before the World Cup was good news for some Premier League stars – and disappointment for others.
Eleven England-based players were called up to face Ghana and Tunisia in this month’s FIFA dates – but it could easily have been 16, or even 17.
Douglas Luiz of Aston Villa began the qualification campaign in the starting line up. But he fell out of favour a while back, and will not have been surprised to have been left out once again.
It would now seem that only injuries in the central midfield positions will get him on the plane to Qatar. His club-mate Philippe Coutinho, meanwhile, may well have been shocked to have been excluded. Brazil coach Tite is a big fan, and brought him back into the squad even when he was in the doldrums at Barcelona.
Coutinho will probably be included in the World Cup squad. But after a disappointing start to the season, he is being handed a warning.
New Nottingham Forest signing Renan Lodi might have been dreaming of a recall. The left back also started the qualifiers in the starting line up – but carried the can for a mistake against Argentina in the final of last year’s Copa America, and was also not able to travel to Ecuador a few months ago because he had not been vaccinated in time.
But last week Brazil’s reserve left back Guilherme Arana suffered an injury that will keep him out of the World Cup.
A place was up for grabs. But it has gone to Sevilla’s Alex Telles, on loan from Manchester United, rather than Lodi – who swapped Atletico Madrid for Forest with the specific intention of getting enough game time to go to the World Cup.
Most surprising, though, is coach Tite’s cull of the three Gabriels from Arsenal.
The case of Gabriel Martinelli is the least controversial. The youngster was in Brazil’s last squad, back in June. But they have so many strikers in wide spaces that someone has to miss out.
Perhaps the most alarming omission from the point of view of the player is that of centre back Gabriel Magalhaes. He has been part of the squad for a while, but has yet to make his international debut.
As the only left footed centre back in contention, it might have been thought that these friendlies would be the ideal moment to have a look at him.
Instead, first call ups have been handed to Bremer of Juventus and Ibanez of Roma.
If Tite is casting his net wide at this stage, the logical conclusion is that he has not been convinced by Magalhaes, and presumably if one of the newcomers impresses this month then they will be in pole position for the fourth centre back slot.
Which leaves in form Gabriel Jesus, the most mystifying of all the omissions.
The social media reaction in Brazil that Jesus is a certainty for the World Cup squad. Perhaps. But so are Richarlison, Neymar, Raphinha, Vinicius Junior, Lucas Paqueta and so many others, and they have not been left out.
There is also the undeniable fact that Gabriel Jesus has not been functioning in the national team as well as all the above named. His last competitive goal was more than three years ago.
He went an extraordinary 19 games – starting most of them – without a goal before finally bringing the dry run to an end in stoppage time of a friendly against South Korea back in June.
He is a player who thrives on confidence, and would surely relish the chance to carry his Arsenal form into the national team.
So why leave him out? Perhaps the underlying reason is that as it stands he is unlikely to start in the World Cup, and so the priority is to have a look at fringe players.
There is a recall, for example, for Roberto Firmino – based less on current form, more on the conclusion that the Liverpool man is the best available back up for Neymar in the false nine role, and needs a chance to press his claims.
And then there is a dispute for the role of target man centre forward between Matheus Cunha of Atletico Madrid, one of last year’s Olympic gold medalists, and local hero Pedro of Flamengo, a player in such splendid form that almost the entire nation has been demanding his call up.
Pedro’s chances of going to the World Cup look good. Matheus Cunha looks more vulnerable, but is being given this last chance to impress.
Gabriel Jesus will surely be back when it matters – either for Cunha or maybe for Firmino.
But until then he will be sweating through the English Autumn – and the good news for Arsenal fans is that there will be no shortage of motivation in the coming weeks.