Arsenal vs Stoke
When the team sheets came out for Sunday’s Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke, there were a couple of shocks in the Gunners XI.
Due to postponements and the international break, Arsenal’s last Premier League match was on 11 March – a 3-0 home win over Watford.
The disruptions came at a bad time for Gunners, who are on a three-match winning streak which includes a 5-1 aggregate win over AC Milan.
With a top four finish seemingly beyond them, the focus for the Gunners is their Europa League campaign.
Arsenal’s XI vs Stoke
The team sheets were as follows.
Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Chambers, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, Welbeck, Aubameyang
Subs: Macey, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette
Stoke: Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Bauer, Badou, Allen; Ramadan, Shaqiri, Diouf.
Subs: Haugaard; Ireland, Berahino, Cameron, Crouch, Campbell, Sorensen.
Where were Petr Cech & Laurent Koscielny?
The two biggest absentees from the Arsenal starting XI were Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny.
Cech, who recently recorded his 200th Premier League clean sheet, wasn’t even able to take his place on the bench.
That’s because the goalie was out with a fresh groin injury.
For the record, Cech’s injury handed David More Ospina a first Premier League start in 364 days. His last Premier League start was in a 2-2 draw with Manchester City. The goalie only has 20 minutes in top flight this season.
As for Koscielny, the French centre-half was left on the bench against Stoke.
Rob Holding was given a starting berth against the Potters instead.
Koscielny, who recently featured for France during the international break, was left out the XI for tactical reasons.
It’s believed Koscielny was rested ahead of Thursday’s Europa League clash with CSKA Moscow.
And what about Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Granit Xhaka? Those midfielder were also left on the Arsenal bench, seemingly with the UEL match in mind.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 1, 2018
Cech not ruled out for Thursday, though whether he plays is another matter entirely. Wenger is not exactly one for breaking promises.
— James Benge (@jamesbenge) April 1, 2018
Cech has a minor groin problem. Koscielny and Mkhitaryan rested with Thursday in mind.
— James Olley (@JamesOlley) April 1, 2018
Wenger on Cech: "He woke up yesterday with a sore groin. I hope he will be available for Thursday."
— Charles Watts (@charles_watts) April 1, 2018