Paul Merson fears Premier League leader 'Arsenal' will miss out on top-four unless they sign Man Utd target

Paul Merson fears Premier League leaders Arsenal could miss out on the top-four unless they sign Manchester United transfer target and World Cup sensation Cody Gakpo.

The Gunners, who last won the league title in 2004, will be five points clear of defending champions Manchester City when the Premier League resumes on Boxing Day.

Mikel Arteta’s side enjoyed a fantastic start to the 2022-23 campaign, taking 37 points from a possible 42 to emerge as Man City’s biggest title rivals this season.

But Merson fears Arsenal could soon slip down the pecking order after Gabriel Jesus suffered a serious knee injury at the World Cup.

As well as being ruled out of the remainder of Brazil’s World Cup campaign, Jesus could be sidelined for up to three months after the knee issue required surgery earlier in the week.

Granit Xhaka has backed Arsenal youngster Eddie Nketiah to step up in Jesus’ absence but Merson is not convinced the 23-year-old is capable of leading the line for a title-chasing side.

As a result, Merson has told his former club to beat Manchester United to PSV and Netherlands forward Gakpo if they are serious about winning their first title in almost 20 years.

Gakpo has been one of the stars of the World Cup, scoring three goals in four games to help Louis van Gaal’s side reach the quarter-finals, where they will face Argentina.

‘Arsenal have got to go and get Cody Gakpo after Gabriel Jesus’ knee injury,’ Merson told the Daily Express. ‘They’ve got to go and get someone and they’ve got a free swing.

‘If he is out for up to three months as some reports suggest, they will be out of the top four, let alone the Premier League title race.

‘They need to go and get someone. This is the first time since 2004 that they’ve had a serious, serious chance of winning the title.

‘If they carry on doing what they’re doing they’ll get in the top four and they would get all of their money back anyway from qualifying for the Champions League.

‘Eddie Nketiah can’t keep it up, no disrespect to the kid. Of course he can’t. It’s too much to ask.

‘He is brilliant to come on as a sub but they’ve got to go and get a focal point. I’d get Gakpo, he’s lively and scores goals. I would take him over Joao Felix, all day long.

‘It doesn’t matter if it costs £100m. You get this chance once in a blue moon.’

Merson added: ‘Arsenal need Jesus to be fit as soon as possible. I can’t see them not sliding down that league without him.

‘Especially at Christmas when there are quick rounds of three or four games. We know how quickly it changes.

‘They have hard games as well, West Ham, Brighton and Newcastle before facing Tottenham and Manchester United in January.

‘I’m starting to think how will Arsenal win a game without Jesus when previously, I was thinking they didn’t look like losing a game with him in the team.’

Arsenal mark their return to Premier League action on December 26 against London rivals West Ham.

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