Arsenal return from the winter break on Sunday against Newcastle with their numbers increasing and morale on the up after an encouraging trip to Dubai for warm-weather training and team bonding.
There is reason to hope that at least one of Bukayo Saka, who picked up a knee knock against Burnley, and Sead Kolasinac, out with a thigh strain since last month, will be available when the Magpies visit Emirates Stadium, if not both.
Indeed Arsenal’s defensive numbers have grown further with the addition of Pablo Mari. The Spaniard was not deemed ready for the tough introduction to English football a 0-0 draw with Burnley would have brought but after two weeks of training with his new team-mates he will hope to play some role against Newcastle.
However both David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi, so impressive in keeping Burnley out a fortnight ago, would feel harshly done by if they were to make way for Mari.
Fellow new signing Cedric Soares is not expected to have overcome his knee ligament injury in time to make his debut though Reiss Nelson (thigh) could return to contention. Defenders Kieran Tierney (dislocated shoulder) and Calum Chambers (ruptured knee ligament) are more long-term…