Granit Xhaka, Danny Welbeck sloppy in Arsenal's loss at Stoke
Having broken the away day hoodoo at Stoke last season, Arsenal went into Saturday's game with more confidence than in the past, but paid the price in a 1-0 loss that featured a disjointed team selection by manager Arsene Wenger.
He left out captain Per Mertesacker, played the right-footed Hector Bellerin on the left, asked Nacho Monreal to anchor a back three, and shoehorned Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into the team on the right because of that.
Wenger's side dominated, should have had a first-half penalty kick when Bellerin was clearly fouled, and saw an Alexandre Lacazette goal wrongly disallowed for offside, but it all stems back to the team selection. This was compounded by making substitutes who not only had little impact, but who stifled the momentum the team was building.
The goal Arsenal conceded was sloppy, starting with giving the ball away high up the pitch, and once again every problem Arsenal had was of their own making rather than the quality of the fairly average opposition.
This performance and result will quickly open up old wounds.
Where to start? Team selection, as mentioned, was wrong. Poor passing from key players: Granit Xhaka in particular was so far off his usual standards that it was little wonder Arsenal found it hard to build. Decision-making. Chance creation. Too many players caught on their heels. Bad substitutions. All in all, a very poor day at the office.
Manager rating out of 10
3 -- Last weekend against Leicester, Wenger deserved credit as his subs had a positive impact. Today, he took needless chances with his initial starting XI, and his changes simply made things worse.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Petr Cech, 6 -- Had very little to do, really, commanded his area and claimed the crosses, but was left exposed for the goal and beaten by a tidy finish.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 4 -- The German had a poor first outing of the season, once again showcasing traits which were worrisome toward the end of last season, particularly his unwillingness to stay upright in the tackle.
DF Nacho Monreal, 4 -- He's usually such a consistent player, and a strong defender, so it's hard to understand the moment's hesitation that allowed Jese to get ahead of him and stroke the ball past Cech.
DF Sead Kolasinac, 6 -- Arsenal bought him because they saw him as a way to make their left-hand side better. They should do themselves, and him, a favour by actually playing him there.
MF Hector Bellerin, 5 -- He was involved in some good attacking moments and should have been awarded a penalty in the first half, but is restricted by playing on the wrong side.
MF Granit Xhaka, 4 -- His passing range is usually fantastic, but today his radar was off. It wasn't just long-ball stuff; a careless giveaway from a 5-yard pass in midfield led to Stoke's winner.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 5 -- The timing of his runs into the box is brilliant. He could have scored a couple today and was at least trying to push the team forward. However, those qualities need to be offset by a genuine defensive midfielder, and Arsenal don't have one.
MF Mesut Ozil, 5 -- On days like today it's easy to criticise the German, as Arsenal's lack of bite is seemingly tied to his languid style. However, he was far from the problem, although ultimately unable to provide the killer pass.
MF Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 4 -- He's not so good at right wing-back that you play your best right wing-back (Bellerin) on the left just to accommodate him. As ever, some eye-catching moments, but ultimately little or no end product.
MF Danny Welbeck, 4 -- He works hard, he runs all day, he's a pest to defenders, and he has incredible physical attributes -- but he's let down by his finishing. Had good chances today and missed them all.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 6 -- His goal should have stood, and the French international's work rate and willingness to dig in is admirable. Got almost no service, though.
FW Olivier Giroud, 6 -- Had one difficult chance late on, but Arsenal didn't play to his strengths when he came on.
MF Alex Iwobi, N/R -- Tried to get involved but found it hard against a packed Stoke defence.
MF Theo Walcott, N/R -- When you're chasing a game against a team that is sitting deep, his only real qualities are negated. His introduction was basically pointless, and his contribution negligible.
Andrew Mangan is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @arseblog.