Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has seemingly been dropped for his smoking incident, with David Ospina starting in goal for the Gunners as they host Stoke City at the Emirates live at 8:30am ET on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.
The Gunners star shot-stopper was reportedly caught smoking in the showers following a New Year’s Day loss to Southampton. It would appear manager Arsene Wenger has taken exception to that event, just as he punished Jack Wilshere for similar incidents last year.
Mesut Ozil returns to the bench for his first appearance on a teamsheet since early October thanks to a knee ligament injury.
The Gunners are looking to avoid back-to-back defeats for just the second time this season, coming off the Saints loss. That game saw the return of what is believed to be Arsenal’s first-choice back four after months of injury struggles for Arsene Wenger’s defense, but Kieran Gibbs has dropped out of the side completely as Hector Bellerin is the only defender on the bench today.
Olivier Giroud is also a return, and will move right back into the starting lineup, and fit pair Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini are both back as well and on the bench.
Meanwhile, Stoke City has run off three unbeaten since a pre-Christmas loss to league leaders Chelsea, including a solid home draw with surging Manchester United and a victory on the road at Goodison Park.
Mark Hughes has brought creative force Bojan Krkic back into the side after missing out against Manchester United, and he is back in time to face former Barcelona teammate Alexis Sanchez.. He replaces Mame Diouf in the squad, who drops out completely. Mark Muniesa and Victor Moses also both return from injury layoffs, and both are on the bench.
New signing Philipp Wollscheid makes his Stoke City debut in the central defense partnership with Ryan Shawcross, while American Geoff Cameron starts as well on the back line.
Arsenal: Ospina; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky; Cazorla, Alexis, Giroud.
Bench: Szczesny, Bellerin, Flamini, Ramsey, Ozil, Campbell, Walcott.
Stoke City: Begovic; Cameron, Wollscheid, Shawcross, Pieters; Nzonzi, Whelan; Arnautovic, Bojan, Walters; Crouch.
Bench: Butland, Muniesa, Ireland, Wilson, Moses, Adam, Sidwell.