Arsenal will welcome Aston Villa to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, 17 August, for both teams opening fixture of this season's Barclays Premier League. The Gunners expect, at the very least, to remain in the top four this season. Arsenal fans hope the team can challenge the top three this season but the dearth of summer signings has dampened such aspirations. Villa, who narrowly avoided relegation last campaign, will search for a mid-table finish. With a whole seasons experience for this young Villa squad under Paul Lambert, supporters saw enough promising displays last season to get behind the team.
From an Arsenal perspective, the lack of signings by Arsene Wenger has been worrying, especially considering the promises of new players made early in the summer. Wenger has repeatedly lost out on his prime targets; Gonzalo Higuain moved to Napoli, Luis Suarez looks to be staying at Liverpool, Luiz Gustavo transferred to Wolfsburg and Etienne Capue chose London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Considering that the transfer window is open until September 2, there is still time for Wenger and his recruitment team to find new players. But, as of now, the squad is largely unchanged from last season. Furthermore, the sale of Gervinho to Roma has reduced the attacking personnel at Wenger's disposal.
Villa, on the other hand, have significantly strengthened their squad in the off-season. In defence, Lambert has signed Jores Okore from Nordslaelland and Antonio Luna from Sevilla. In midfield, the new arrivals include Alexandar Tonev and Leandro Bacuna from Lech Poznan and FC Groningen, respectively. Lambert also signed striker Nicklas Helenius from Danish club Aalborg. Arguably Villa's best piece of business this summer was keeping Belgium striker Christian Benteke, who scored 23 goals last season. The striker handed in a transfer request only to be convinced by the club to stay.
Arsenal will be missing midfielder Mikel Arteta, who is out for up to six weeks with a thigh injury. Center back Thomas Vermaelen and left-back Nacho Monreal are also unavailable due to injury. There are doubts over the fitness of Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey. Walcott limped off during England's mid-week international friendly against Scotland while Ramsey missed Wales' friendly against the Republic of Ireland with an ankle injury. Both players are expected to feature.
For Aston Villa, midfielders Yacouba Sylla, Chris Herd and Charles N'zogbia are unavailable. Apart from those players, Lambert has a full squad to choose from.
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