The problem with having only one dependable forward on the books is there is something of a Bermuda Triangle when he is not there. For three quarters of this match Robin van Persie watched from the sidelines, having been given the well-deserved breather that Arsène Wenger had been summoning up the courage to give him for some time.
Poor Marouane Chamakh, a man who appears to have mislaid so much confidence that he looks as if he would struggle to find his shirt on his peg, was given his first Premier League start of the season, but laboured for just over an hour. Park Chu‑young, the South Korea forward signed in the summer transfer window, has played once in the Carling Cup. The bottom line is this: no Van Persie, no va va voom.
With Arsenal straining for cohesion their top-scoring captain came on in the 66th minute. It took him around a quarter of an hour to score twice, swat aside any semblance of threat from Stoke and lift the mood immeasurably. Van Persie's outstanding record of 30 goals from 36 games shows how much he is carrying his team.
Chamakh's two goals in 32 games do not breed enormous reassurance. His confidence, in mind and in touch, is a long-term problem. That was evident with Arsenal's first chance of the game. Chamakh got himself into position to meet Mikel Arteta's corner but the downward header was weak.
Aaron Ramsey, who had his own reasons for having a few nerves about this game, began to exert his authority. His creative eye carved open a chance for the lively Gervinho, which the Ivorian could not quite control; then his knack for arriving in the right place for a shot saw him drag a fierce effort from outside a packed penalty box narrowly wide.
In the 27th minute Ramsey's influence led to the opening goal. The Welshman chipped a pass in to Gervinho, who this time chested down to finish unerringly.
Stoke's response was nothing if not predictable. A set piece attacked with conviction, allied to Arsenal's defensive confusion, made it easy for Peter Crouch, who tapped in after Ryan Shawcross and Jon Walters had helped the move along. Wenger had written in his programme notes that his team were "improving" in terms of set pieces. Not enough, clearly. Collective paralysis set in as soon as the ball hit the box, and Stoke claimed every free ball. Arsenal were enraged by the free-kick in the first place, given when Laurent Koscielny leaned into Crouch as they competed for a ball in the air.
Arsenal appealed for what looked like a reasonable penalty when Andy Wilkinson dragged down Chamakh but the referee Lee Mason was unmoved.
The first plaintive shouts for Van Persie began four minutes into the second half. When he made his entrance, he made an immediate impression. Suddenly there was some thrust and imagination in the final third. There was also some heat, as the Dutchman reacted furiously to an elbow in the side of the head from Shawcross.
Although Asmir Begovic will be disappointed, Arsenal could take heart from the combination play between Gervinho and Van Persie. The Ivorian twice teed up the Dutchman, who has become wonderfully clinical from close range. And so Arsenal won their sixth match out of seven, thus aiding their recovery from the early-season calamities.
They are in the bizarre position of being so reliant on Van Persie (who even by his own manager's admission is not an authentic striker) that they have to get down on their knees and pray he stays injury free.