Arsene Wenger is sometimes thought to be insufficiently ruthless, to be slightly too relaxed about falling standards, but he has shown a hard edge at the Emirates this afternoon.
Wojciech Szczesny has been dropped and is replaced in the starting eleven by David Ospina. The Colombian, of course, played Arsenal’s last game here against Hull City in the FA Cup last weekend. But this is their first Premier League game since their 2-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day and Szczesny has not retained his place.
Szczesny was poor that day, but compounded his errors by childishly smoking in the dressing room afterwards.
Wenger was not impressed, but Szczesny did expect to keep his place for this game. Instead Ospina starts, for just his third game for Arsenal and his first in the Premier League.
It has not been an easy start to his Arsenal career, having struggled with a thigh injury he brought back from the World Cup, but he will have to deliver today.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger said in his pre-match TV interview the decision was not based on disciplinary reasons, the Pole having been in the headlines for smoking in the showers after the defeat at Southampton on New Year's Day.
Striker Olivier Giroud returned after a three-match suspension, while Mesut Ozil was on the bench following his recovery from a knee problem, along with Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Matheiu Flamini.
Stoke, who beat Arsenal at home before Christmas, were looking to Bojan Krkic to again supply the attack, with Peter Crouch out to keep up his good form against the Gunners.
Arsenal XI v Stoke: Ospina; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky; Cazorla, Alexis, Giroud
Stoke XI v Arsenal: Begović; Cameron, Wollscheid, Shawcross, Pieters; Nzonzi, Whelan; Arnautović, Bojan, Walters; Crouch.