Arsene Wenger had to play a makeshift defence in that game with the three central positions taken by two left backs and a relative novice. Injuries and suspensions left him with no real options on the day, but his options will increase for the trip to Stoke. Laurent Koscielny won't be available as he serves the last game of his suspension, but Shkodran Mustafi and Per Mertesacker are both pushing for a starting place.
I would expect Mustafi to play and Mertesacker might get the nod, but he has a few awkward choices to make elsewhere too. The chances are Hector Bellerin will continue on the right with a straight choice between Sead Kolasinac and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left. I think Kolasinac has to play there considering how good he has looked already, but I have a feeling he might be deployed as a central defender again to keep Chamberlain in the team.
With only a year to run on his contract Chamberlain is in demand and there is talk of Arsenal cashing in on his value before they lose him on a free transfer next summer if he doesn't sign a new contract. I think he's more or less a nailed on starter until at least the transfer window closes, but I'm not so sure it's the best thing for the team. I can remember Granit Xhaka having to bide his time after arriving last summer and it could well be the same with Kolasinac.
Speaking of Xhaka his name is now one of the first ones on the team sheet and it's a matter of who plays alongside him. For me it has to be Ramsey after he looked so dangerous when he came off the bench last week. I think he was only on the bench because he was carrying a slight knock and I would be surprised if he didn't start at Stoke.
The other big decision to make is who makes up the attacking trio along with Mesut Ozil and Alexander Lacazette. Giroud got a great late winner last week and it might earn him a starting place, but I think he's doing his best work when he comes off the bench. His contribution in defensive set pieces against Stoke could be important and it might just see him in the team. Danny Welbeck did well last week and got his name on the scoresheet, but this game could be more suited to Giroud's skill set.
Until last season we had a poor record at Stoke, but that changed with a 4-1 win up there. We were cruising at 2-0 until a handball goal got them back into the game and we nearly crumbled under the pressure before adding two more goals for a comfortable victory in the end. That man Giroud got two of those goals and again that could be a factor in the manager selecting the team. In all of this I'm assuming Alexis Sanchez is still "injured" and he won't be available.
Stoke lost 1-0 at Everton last week and they haven't exactly set the world alight with their exploits in the transfer market. The loss of Marco Arnautovic was a real blow for them and expectations aren't too high for this season. Besides playing Arsenal they also have games against United, Chelsea and City early on in what looks like a tough start to the season for them.
Anything they can get from today would be a real bonus for them and I have no doubt they will be up to their usual antics to try to disrupt us. Other teams might pressure the ball and target our dodgy looking defence, but Stoke simply like to put the boot in and it's very rare for referees to even consider punishing them. The one time they were properly dealt with it was only because Ramsey had his leg shattered and he's still a villain to their fans because he wasn't happy with almost having his career ended by Ryan Shawcross. He was a mere 19 year old at the time and the songs they still sing to him to this day are nothing short of a disgrace.
Such is the way with football though and you can't expect more from a club like Stoke or the Neanderthals that support them. The only way to shut them up is to put goals on the board and give them the sort of beating we gave them last season. It's something we're capable of doing if we can get our game right and I really hope we do.
I have no doubt Stoke won't get the better of Kolasinac and he's more than strong enough to stand up to them. I've already said Giroud's strength might be needed and I don't think Xhaka will shirk away from them either. It could be a real eye opener for Alexander Lacazette and I hope he will be up to the task and continue on from where he left off last week.
The three points last week were important, but we need to follow them up with three points against Stoke before we go to Liverpool next week. If we are going to challenge for the title this season it's vital to take three points against the lesser sides in the league and I think Stoke fit into that category. I'm not so sure our squad as it is can challenge, but with the right start and the confidence it might bring you never know.
We're certainly a team with a lot of goals in us and we can do better than last season if we can tighten things up at the back. We've being saying that for a long time now though and the signs last week were far from encouraging, but it was far from our first choice defence too. I have no doubt we will improve at the back when Koscielny comes back next week, but until then we need to defend as best as we can today.
In other news we have sold Gabriel Paulista to Valencia as the summer clear out is finally getting underway. There are rumors of the possible sale of Mustafi too, but I can't imagine we will sell him too unless we have someone like Virgil can Dijk lined up. Our current options in central defence aren't so good that we can afford to offload Mustafi without having a top class replacement absolutely certain to sign. There are other players we need to offload first and I would be surprised to see Mustafi go.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.