Thomas Partey & Gabriel Magalhaes Return
Midfield will receive an upgrade. Defence? Well, that’s actually been handled very well in Gabriel’s stead.
The Brazilian has missed the trio of wins having contracted COVID-19, a period that was expected to be a troublesome one for matters on the pitch.
"“Gabriel previously tested positive for COVID-19. He is feeling well and is showing no signs of illness. Only on the successful completion of the necessary protocols and medical checks in the coming days will Gabriel be able to return to full training with the squad,” the official Arsenal website said. “Thomas is now back in full training with the squad after recovering from an injury to his left thigh. Thomas will continue to work hard to establish match fitness after being out of action for a month. He will be assessed regarding his availability ahead of Saturday’s match.”"
Newcastle will come too soon for Gabriel although Partey could feature. Given Gabriel won’t play, it likely means another start for the impressive Pablo Mari.
That three-game stretch was made more soothing by the Spaniard’s composed performances. Playing in a similar vein to Gabriel, a high-line with aggressive pressing out from the back, his lack of pace was expected to be a weakness. Not at all, really.
Very intelligent with his movement, Mari has accounted for his lack of speed admirably. In the air he’s been solid, and his distribution down the line has held its own against the 22-year-old’s weight of pass.
Gabriel still comes back in for Premier League matches, though. Both Partey and Gabriel are upgrades on what Arsenal have put out of late. The team has done well, but it can do better. The duo returning in place of their counterparts means Arteta, for the first time this season, has his best players available.
There are no excuses for the shambles we’ve seen this season – Arsenal are still 11th – but throughout that time the manager has had to feed off the poor options given to him. He has shot himself in the foot in that regard with more than questionable allegiances to certain players, but finally he’s appeared to turn a corner.
Arsenal can now begin to push on. Every player prefers coming into a winning side and the missing pair will be desperate to get a piece of the action. Partey (in his tiny sample size) and Gabriel have been superb and there is still more to come from both of them.
Progression has been shown in small doses in the past few weeks. Add these two in and they’ll protract that growth.