Gabriel Jesus next? 12 key Premier League stars who missed a big chunk of a title-winning campaign

Will Ford
Robben Keane Seaman

Gabriel Jesus was probably Arsenal’s best player before he was struck down by an injury which was supposed to derail Mikel Arteta’s side. But the Gunners have retained their five-point lead and are now favourites to win the Premier League.

The Brazilian won’t be the first key player to miss a big chunk of a title-winning campaign should they go all the way. Here are 12 others whose absence could have been costly but wasn’t…


Andy Cole (Manchester United, 1996/97)
Cole started just 10 Premier League games after Neil Ruddock broke his leg in two places. Initially the defender said it was an “honest challenge”, before revealing the truth having retired from football.

“I didn’t mean to break both of his legs if I’m honest – I only meant to break one. It was excellent because he let the ball run past him and I absolutely destroyed him. Again, I know it’s not big and it’s not clever, but it was great.”

Apparently Ruddock didn’t like Cole as the striker didn’t get on with Ruddock’s pal, Teddy Sheringham. Deserved it, then.


Ian Wright (Arsenal, 1997/98)
Wrighty top-scored for Arsenal in each of the first five Premier League seasons and scored 10 goals in the opening 19 games of 1997/98 before picking up a hamstring injury, and that was sort of it for him at Arsenal. He came back briefly at the end of the campaign but had by that point been usurped by Nicolas Anelka. Wright left for West Ham in the summer.


Ryan Giggs (Manchester United, 1998/99)
Jesper Blomqvist started as many Premier League games as Giggs (20), who missed three of United’s Champions League group games with one injury and recovered just in time for the final at the Nou Camp having missed the semi-final second leg win over Juventus with another.


David Seaman (Arsenal, 2001/02)
Richard Wright and Stuart Taylor stepped up as shoulder surgery ruled Seaman out for 19 Premier League games. There was a bit of a concern Seaman may miss the World Cup in the summer of 2002, but he returned in plenty of time for Ronaldinho to end his career with that lob.


Roy Keane (Manchester United, 2002/03)
United didn’t feel the effects, because Keane was already out with a knee injury, but he was suspended for five of the 15 Premier League games he missed  for revealing to the world in his autobiography that he meant to f*** Alf-Inge Haaland up.


Arjen Robben (Chelsea, 2004/05)
The sidekick to Mateja ‘Batman’ Kezman, it’s fair to say Robben rather overshadowed his fellow arrival from PSV Eindhoven. He started just 14 games in his debut Premier League season, with kicking him to the treatment table the only method opposition teams found to prevent embarrassment. He got seven goals, nine assists, and didn’t lose any of the 18 games he featured in, winning 16 of them.


Gary Neville (Manchester United, 2007/08)
Does it say more about Neville or Manchester United that the club managed to win the Premier League despite their captain not playing a single minute? Wes Brown filled in admirably at right-back in Neville’s absence.


Michael Essien (Chelsea, 2009/10)
Essien, Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack was a very Chelsea midfield, consisting of no little skill but mainly extraordinary power. Fortunately John Obi Mikel, another brute, was ready and waiting to replace Essien, who got injured at the start of December and didn’t return.

Essien Chelsea


Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United, 2010/11)
Ferdinand missed the 2010 World Cup with a knee injury which kept him out for the start of the Premier League season, and later missed a further dozen games with a calf problem.

As it turned out, Nemanja Vidic was so good that you could play pretty much anyone alongside him and Manchester United would still be brilliant. That’s probably more than a tad unfair on John O’Shea, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans.


Carlos Tevez (Manchester City, 2011-12)
Tevez was initially suspended for two weeks and fined £500,000 for refusing to come off the bench against Bayern Munich in the Champions League in late September, but he didn’t make another league appearance until March. Tevez notched 20 goals in the previous Premier League season, but a certain Sergio Aguero arrived in the summer of 2011 and changed everything.


Vincent Kompany (Manchester City, 2017/18)
Kompany missed big chunks of the preceding two seasons as well, which quite possibly played a significant role in them ceding those titles to Chelsea and then Leicester, but his 21-game absence in 2017/18 didn’t prove so costly, in large part due to the arrival of Aymeric Laporte.


Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City, 2018/19)
De Bruyne got 19 Premier League assists in 2016/17, 16 in 2017/18, but only managed two in 2018/19 having been reduced to just 11 starts through injury. Man City got 98 points without their best player.