Arsene Wenger has received some welcome news on the injury front, with the Arsenal boss revealing Robin van Persie and Kieran Gibbs both had successful surgery.
Van Persie, 26, suffered an ankle injury while on international duty with Holland and will be out for around five months, but Wenger is relieved that there were no complications with his operation. Left-back Kieran Gibbs, who has gone under the knife for his fractured foot, also came through as well as could be hoped.
"Kieran is doing very well,'' Wenger said. "I had him on the phone and it looked to be completely fine. I have not talked to Robin yet but there again the news I got from the surgery was it went very, very well. There was a lot of disturbance on our side recently [about his injury] but the surgery went well.''
Andrey Arshavin has highlighted the problem of holding the ball up in attack without Van Persie. The previously free-scoring team have not found the net in three domestic league and cup games since Van Persie's injury, although they managed a 2-0 win over Standard Liege in the Champions League.
Arshavin told L'Equipe: "Since the injury to Van Persie, we have scored only two goals in three matches. No-one is able to keep hold of the ball.''
Van Persie's absence as a central striker cannot be filled against Stoke tomorrow by Theo Walcott as the England international has picked up a hamstring injury. The hamstring complaint is described by Arsenal as "short term'', and Walcott will be desperate to return as soon as possible as he is yet to complete a match this season after shoulder and knee problems.
Wenger also has Alex Song suspended for the Stoke game at the Emirates Stadium but right-back Bacary Sagna has recovered from his ankle injury.
"We had Sagna out injured but, normally, he will be available,'' said Wenger. "However, Theo Walcott will not be available. He has a hamstring injury. As for the other players we had injured, the long-term ones I do not even speak about. But the players who looked to be shorter - like (Gael) Clichy, (Abou) Diaby and (Nicklas) Bendtner - will not be available. And, of course, Song is suspended for the weekend.''
Van Persie's injury has been part of a controversial fortnight for Wenger. The Frenchman was upset with the Dutch FA for the handling of Van Persie's injury and in the last two weeks there has also been a defeat to Sunderland, a bizarre outburst over players looking ahead to the World Cup and his assertion that Didier Drogba "does not do a lot'' after scoring twice against Arsenal.
The 60-year-old has also been criticised for failing to shake hands with City counterpart Mark Hughes after Wednesday's defeat at Eastlands.
"Whether I like or dislike someone, you have a responsibility to show the right spirit of the game,'' said Stoke boss Tony Pulis.
Bolton manager Gary Megson added: "In my view you can do whatever you want, say whatever you like during the game, but after the game you should shake hands, even if you don't particularly mean it. You should shake hands because people are watching and will draw their own conclusions if you don't. I don't think that is particularly good on Arsene's part and I think he has done it before.''