Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, is keeping his fingers crossed that key midfielder Lee Cattermole could return from injury a month earlier than expected.
The 21-year-old was ruled out for at least three months after suffering medial ligament damage during the 1-0 Premier League victory over Liverpool on 17 October.
However, having worked with Cattermole at Wigan last season, Bruce has a strong gut feeling that the Stockton-born enforcer, in whom he invested £6m this summer, might be ready sooner.
He told the Sunderland Echo: "Catts has been out for three weeks already, but after the Spurs game this weekend, there is another fortnight before we play Arsenal and, all of a sudden, he has been out for getting on towards five or six weeks.
"And Cattermole being Cattermole, I would think he will be back more quickly than the doctors have predicted.
"The kind of person he is, I have got this gut feeling that he might be out for eight weeks rather than the 12 weeks that was said at the start.
"Of course, ultimately I will have to be governed by what the medical people say, but knowing Lee's mentality, he will be keen to get back as quickly as possible.
"For instance, already he can't wait to get the brace off his knee and it won't be long now before that does come off."
Bruce worked hard to lure Cattermole to the Stadium of Light 12 months after paying £3.5m to take him from Middlesbrough to Wigan, and he has been richly rewarded since. The England Under-21 international has formed a formidable central midfield partnership with Lorik Cana, the captain, and that has been a major factor in the Black Cats' promising start to the campaign.
It is perhaps no coincidence that they have won none of the three games he has missed, with a league defeat at Birmingham having been followed by a Carling Cup exit at the hands of Aston Villa, on penalties, and a hard-fought 2-2 draw with West Ham.
With Cana also missing this weekend's trip to Tottenham with suspension and striker Kenwyne Jones facing a three-match ban, Bruce's resources will be tested to the full.
With that in mind, Roy O'Donovan will hope to have caught the manager's eye with a hat-trick for the reserves last night during a 6-1 victory over Bolton. He is desperate for regular football following his return from a loan spell at Southend.
The striker, 24, something of a forgotten man, looked particularly sharp in front of goal after being teamed with Northern Ireland international David Healy up front.
O'Donovan dragged his side level early in the first half and scored two further goals after the break before being tripped for a late penalty, which Healy duly converted.
The frontman, who hasn't played for Sunderland this season, was delighted afterwards, saying: "I think I'm just about getting a run together now. I had appendicitis at Blackpool last year and that knocked me back.
"I haven't played that much football in the last year and a bit, so it's nice to get a run of games together. Hopefully, I can carry on getting a run of games and get my career going again."
"It's good to get a run of games together; I've come back after being at Southend, the reserve games have been brilliant and Keith [Bertschin, the reserve team coach] has been superb," the striker added.Reuse content