Kick-off: 1500 GMT, 1930 IST
Location: Emirates Stadium, Finsbury Park, London, England, United Kingdom
The Barclays Premier League kicks off on the 17th of August and with people now chewing their nails to the elbows, here is a sneak preview into what will transpire at the Emirates Stadium when Aston Villa come to north London in both teams’ opener on Saturday afternoon.
Arsenal finished fourth last season and just about managed to secure Champions League football last season, snatching a 1-0 win over Newcastle United at St. James’ Park. Aston Villa, on the other hand, narrowly avoided relegation and finished 15th last season.
Last five fixtures: WLDWW
August 10, 2013: 3-1 vs. Manchester City (N), Carlsberg Football Tournament
August 4, 2013, 1-2 vs. Galatasaray SK (H), Emirates Cup
August 3, 2013, 2-2 vs. Napoli SSC (H), Emirates Cup
July 26, 2013, 2-1 vs. Urawa Red Diamonds (A), Saitama Cup
July 22, 2013, 3-1 vs. Nagoya Grampus Eight (A), Asia Tour 2013
Although Arsenal have brought in just one player this summer, manager Arsene Wenger will be hoping his team can recreate the form his team showed during their pre-season match against Manchester City in Helsinki.
But that followed some very questionable performances during the Emirates Cup and although the Asia Tour 2013 did bring about some very nice moments, they would have most certainly raised more questions than they did answers.
Wenger will look forward to a performance his team provided in the Finnish capital and will be happy to take a result similar to the one his team earned at the Emirates Stadium last season, winning 2-1 and collecting three very crucial points which would aid them in the pursuit for Europe.
Santi Cazorla scored in the opening and closing six minutes of the game, and that brace was sandwiched by Andreas Weimann’s equaliser for Aston Villa
Last five fixtures: WWWWL
10 August, 2013, 3-2 vs. Malaga CF (H), Preseason friendly
4 August 2013, 2-0 vs. Shamrock Rovers (A), Preseason friendly
31 July 2013, 5-0 vs. Walsall (A), Preseason friendly
26 July 2013, 5-1 vs. Crewe Alexandra (A), Preseason friendly
23 July 2013, 0-2 vs. Luton Town (A), Preseason friendly
Although Aston Villa have only lost one of their last five games, only one of them has been against serious opposition. Since then, several players have bolstered the ranks at Villa Park and manager Paul Lambert will be hoping to get a result better than the one his team afforded Arsenal in Birmingham last season.
The Villans held the Gunners to a goalless draw on a wet and windy evening in the West Midlands and although they are going to the Emirates Stadium to play their first game, that in no way means that Villa cannot pick up a result in London.
Three points would go some way in shocking the new Premier League season in its infancy and it would definitely be a way for the club’s American backed owner Randy Lerner to show his critics that the summer spending his manager has conducted is already reaping dividends.
Arsenal’s new signing Yaya Sanogo is a doubt for the opener with a hamstring injury. In addition, club vice-captain Mikel Arteta has a thigh strain and is scheduled for a scan.
Skipper Thomas Vermaelen is out with a back strain and will be out for about six weeks while Spain international Nacho Monreal resumed training last to last Monday after recovering from a back injury and will be back in ten days.
Abou Diaby is still recovering from the Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury he sustained last season, while Ryo Miyaichi is recovering from a rib injury and will be back within the week
Squad (from): Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta, Lukas Podolski, Jack Wilshere, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Lukasz Fabianski, Yaya Sanogo, Carl Jenkinson, Emmanuel Frimpong, Kieran Gibbs, Damian Martinez, Chuba Akpom, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Eisfeld
Probable Starting XI: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla; Podolski, Walcott, Giroud
Paul Lambert has a nearly full complement of players to choose from, including wantaway striker Darren Bent, who has been linked with a loan move to Fulham.
Nevertheless, should the England international’s services be required, he is available. It is the same with all of Villa’s players who featured during the recently-concluded international break.
Defensive midfielder Yacouba Sylla has a twisted ankle while Chris Herd has a calf problem. Jores Okore, the newly-signed Denmark international is available but his short of match practice.
Squad (from): Brad Guzan, Nathan Baker, Joe Bennett, Ron Vlaar, Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark, Leandro Bacuna, Karim El Ahmadi, Nicklas Helenius, Andreas Weimann, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Marc Albrighton, Jed Steer, Antonio Luna, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph, Chris Herd, Yacouba Sylla, Christian Benteke, Jordan Bowery, Gary Gardner, Aleksandar Tonev, Matthew Lowton, Shay Given, Charles N’Zogbia, Enda Stevens, Nathan Delfouneso, Darren Bent, Stephen Ireland, Alan Hutton, Barry Bannan, Janoi Donacien, Daniel Johnson
Probable Starting XI: Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Bennett; El Ahmadi, Gardner, Westwood, Weimann, Agbonlahor; Benteke
Aston Villa have reinforced heavily this summer and while they may not be household names, they have bolstered the Villa ranks considerably.
Arsenal however have the quality and if they do not lose their way, should run out easy winners.
Arsenal 3-1 Aston Villa