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Arsenal V Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium : Match Preview

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16 Aug 2013 18:33:26

Arsenal V Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium : Match Preview

Arsenal V Aston Villa - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.


Arteta absent for Arsenal

Arsenal will be without midfielder Mikel Arteta (thigh) for the opening game of the new Barclays Premier League season against Aston Villa, but England forward Theo Walcott (knee) will be available.

Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey missed the midweek international against the Republic of Ireland because of an ankle injury, but is expected to feature.

Full-back Nacho Monreal (back) is to resume full training next week, while captain Thomas Vermaelen (also back) continues his rehabilitation, along with midfielder Abou Diaby (knee).

Following Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, Arsene Wenger is now the longest-serving manager in the Premier League. The Frenchman, 63, feels this season's championship could be one of the most open, arguing six teams were good enough to mount a challenge.

He said: "You have to consider all the teams that made over 70 points last year have a chance. That's a benchmark for me - 70 points.

"If you make 70 points, it means that there is not a lot of difference between you and the (team that finishes) first."

The full extent of Arteta's problem is still to be diagnosed, but Wenger did at least receive a boost regarding the fitness of Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey.

Walcott limped out of England's 3-2 friendly win over Scotland with a knee injury while Ramsey did not feature for Wales at home to the Republic of Ireland due to an ankle problem.

"It could be as long (as six weeks for Arteta), but honestly we don't know yet. We have to check the severity with the doctor," Wenger said.

Given Wenger has also jettisoned several fringe players this summer to free up the wage bill, Arsenal could find themselves somewhat stretched in terms of numbers ahead of their crucial Champions League play-off against Fenerbahce.

"I don't disagree that we are a bit light at the moment," the Arsenal boss added.

"There are 18 days to go until the end of the transfer market and we are of course looking to strengthen our squad."

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert expects to be without midfielder Yacouba Sylla.

The energetic Mali international is struggling with a twisted ankle suffered in a youth-team game earlier this week and is unlikely to have overcome it in time for the trip to north London.

Versatile midfielder Chris Herd (calf) is also highly unlikely to feature but Lambert has no other concerns unless any of his men return from international duty with new injuries.

Despite Villa's fraught season last year, when they were relegation candidates throughout until a late push saw them beat the drop, many fans are talking about a top-10 finish this campaign.

Lambert is wary of setting such lofty targets.

"I don't know," he said. "You never can predict anything about what's going to happen next season.

"I certainly hope it won't be as tough as last season.

"You give it a right good go. I'm excited by it, I can't wait to get going.

"We can't start games the way we did at times last year. We've got to be bang at it from that first minute. You don't have time in this league to bed yourself in 15 minutes or so.

"We have to be ready and I think that's the big thing that we've learned. We have to be right on it straight away."

The former Celtic and Borussia Dortmund player is understandably enthusiastic about the new campaign.

"You always do have that excitement," he said. "When you're traveling down to London you know you're going to be involved in it and once you get to the stadium it really starts to kick in.

"You'll either be excited about it or you'll go and give it a right go so we'll go there with no fear and we'll try to win. We've got a threat, that's the big thing."



PA

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