Once again the Gunners are without the likes of Mesut Ozil, David Ospina and Jack Wilshere but there is positive news emerging ahead of the tricky fixture tomorrow- though not all of it will immediately affect the team.
The big news is that Wojciech Szczesny returned to training today after a hip injury and could return in goal, though the impressive performances of Damien Martinez in his absence could mean the Polish stopper has to sit on the bench for this one. Mathieu Debuchy has also returned for full training but this game comes to early for him.
After overcoming a problem to start in midweek, Nacho Monreal is sidelined for the game tomorrow but the hope is that Kieran Gibbs, who was on the bench in midweek, will be available for selection. Should he also be unable to play then Mathieu Flamini could feature at left-back.
Theo Walcott will receive an injection today in order to push him closer to a return from injury but he will not feature tomorrow, whilst he is also unlikely to play against Galatasaray next week. Abou Diaby is also unavailable but is ‘on the brink of returning to training’, according to Arsene Wenger.
Stoke City have injury problems of their own with Jonathan Walters, Glenn Whelan and Robert Huth all nursing injury problems and being rated as a doubt for contention tomorrow. On top of this, the hosts are also without Steve Sidwell, Peter Odemwingie, Victor Moses and Dionatan Teixeira.
A big decision will have to be made in goal if Wojciech Szczesny is available, as Damien Martinez has performed admirably, and it would seem unfair to drop the young goalkeeper. However, as Szczesny has just returned it is possible he could make the bench and not feature as a precaution, as there is no reason to bring him back immediately.
Defensively there is only likely to be one change from the side that defeated Southampton in midweek, with Kieran Gibbs coming in to replace the injured Nacho Monreal. Calum Chambers will continue at right-back after an impressive display going forward against the Saints, alongside a defensive duo consisting of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.
The deep-lying pair of Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey is also unlikely to change, with this being a big fixture for Ramsey due to his history against Stoke and his recent loss of form. However, he did grab a late assist for Alexis Sanchez’ goal in the week, which could earn him some leeway.
Arsenal’s attacking trio is also likely to be changed after the late improvement following Olivier Giroud’s introduction at the weekend. Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are expected to be the trio selected- though this is up for debate as Santi Cazorla showed signs of improvement against Southampton. He could be selected ahead of Welbeck.
After an impressive performance off the bench, playing a part in the winner, Olivier Giroud is expected to start up-front against Stoke and this could be the first time we see Arsenal adopt a new system, with Welbeck, Alexis and Oxlade-Chamberlain providing support.
Arsenal XI: Martinez, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Alexis, Giroud
Stoke, who have lost their last three, will continue with Bosnian goalkeeper Asmir Begovic in the net. He’ll have a back-line consisting of Phil Bardsley, Ryan Shawcross, Marc Wilson and Erik Pieters ahead of him, which in truth Arsenal shouldn’t have too many issues breaking down.
Steven N’Zonzi and Geoff Cameron will mimic Arsenal’s deep-lying pair ahead of the defence, behind a more attacking midfield trio of Marko Arnautovic, Bojan Krkic and Stephan Ireland. Whilst Arsenal will need to watch the space provided to this trio, again they shouldn’t have too many problems against them.
In an isolated position up front, where he is likely to get extremely limited service due to Arsenal’s possessional play and control of the game, Mame Biram Diouf will be feeding of scraps and looking to grab a goal for his team-mates to defend.
Stoke City XI: Begovic, Bardsley, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters, N’Zonzi, Cameron, Arnautovic, Bojan, Ireland, Diouf