Mikel Arteta refused to verify Gabriel Jesus traveled to Arsenal‘S Europa League last 16 first match clash with Sport.
The Brazilian striker is not in the squad due to surgery due to a knee injury at the World Cup, but has recently returned to training.
A potential return date was a closely guarded secret in London’s Colney, and Arteta has already answered questions about whether she expects Jesus to return before the international break later this month.
UEFA rules mean that on the eve of matches, the 15-minute opening practice is open to the media and Jesus is seen preparing with his teammates.
However, when Arteta arrived in Lisbon, he was tight-lipped and insisted that any news about his team would be published before kick-off.
The news about the team will come tomorrow,” he said.
“We’ve brought in a few players and you’ll see who’s available tomorrow.”
Arsenal’s official social media channels showed several players boarding their flight to Lisbon, which was delayed due to adverse weather conditions in England, and Jesus was not one of those filmed.
When asked directly whether Jesus was traveling, an Arsenal spokesperson also declined to comment.
However, Arteta said that despite Eddie Nketiah and Leandro Trossard’s disappearance due to injury, he would try not to quickly bring Jesus back into action.
“We’ll try not to rush him,” he said.
“We will try to make a fair assessment between what he needs and when he is comfortable, and at the same time give the team the support they will definitely need over the next few weeks.
“Everything is going well, he needs time to gain that confidence and physical condition to compete with a free mind, and when he is free to do so, we will throw him in.”
Arteta may want to mix up his pack with the Gunners, who are returning to European action with a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
When asked why he isn’t a manager who rotates frequently, the Spaniard replied: “Because we have a team and we have to play games with the best possible players to win.
“There were moments when we made eight changes.
“Players have their moments throughout the season, players are available throughout the season and they don’t. Of course we will try to pick the best team to win the game.
“Of course everyone wants to play. That’s also true when we want to rotate injured and unavailable players. That could be the case tomorrow.
“Sometimes it’s hard and players deserve to play the minutes. It is very difficult to be fair in football. Our priority is two competitions. In order to continue as long as we want, we have to win our right in that competition.
“Tomorrow we will face a really tough opponent. The best way to prepare for any competition is to have that confidence and the appropriate feeling to win the previous match and approach the next match.
“If we play well tomorrow and win the game, we will definitely be able to prepare better for the next game.”