Arsenal – Aston Villa Preview: Gunners hope for winning start to ease frustrating transfer window

Arsenal will look to put their transfer troubles behind them with an opening day Premier League victory against Aston Villa on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger’s side have been continually frustrated in the transfer market, missing out on several of their reported targets including Gonzalo Higuain and Clement Grenier.

The Gunners are still said to be chasing the likes of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, but they have made just one signing since last season ended – French forward Yaya Sanogo.

The 20-year-old – who joined on a free transfer from Ligue 2 outfit Auxerre – did impress during the club’s pre-season campaign, although he is suffering from a hamstring injury currently.

Headlining the exits at the Emirates Stadium in the close-season was Russian attacker Andrey Arshavin, while Gervinho, Andre Santos, Denilson and Marouane Chamakh have also left the club.

Arsenal – who finished fourth last term and will be involved in the UEFA Champions League for a 16th season in a row – have enjoyed a good lead up to the campaign, winning five of their seven friendlies.

France international striker Olivier Giroud has scored eight goals in pre-season and showed signs of improvement, while Theo Walcott added four.

Walcott – who was the club’s top Premier League scorer in 2012-13 with 14 goals – enjoyed more of a regular role as striker following the departure of Robin van Persie and is in good form.

The 24-year-old scored in England’s 3-2 friendly win over Scotland on Wednesday but is a doubt for his club’s opener after leaving the field with a knee problem in the latter stages.

“I had to come off with a little bit of a swollen knee so fingers crossed I can rest up and I’ll be alright for Saturday. This is a big year for Arsenal and myself,” Walcott said.

One Arsenal player who is likely to miss is midfielder Mikel Arteta, who suffered a thigh injury in training this week.

Arteta’s compatriot, Santi Cazorla, scored one and set up another in Spain’s 2-0 friendly win against Ecuador on Wednesday and is sure to be in Wenger’s starting XI as long as he returns from South America unscathed. 

After being sucked into a relegation fight last season, Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa will welcome the beginning of the new campaign.

Villa’s best piece of business during the summer saw them keep hold of in-demand Belgian forward Christian Benteke.
The 22-year-old – who scored 19 goals in his debut Premier League season – handed in a transfer request but later revoked it to the delight of the Villa Park faithful.

Lambert has been active in the transfer window, bringing in Jores Okore, Aleksandar Tonev, Antonio Luna, Nicklas Helenius and Leandro Bacuna to bolster the depth of his squad.

Meanwhile, Jean Makoun returned to France while Richard Dunne and Brett Holman left the club on free transfers.
Villa – who finished 15th last term – saw their pre-season start poorly, with four draws and one loss, but they won their last four, including a 3-2 win against Malaga last week.

Arsenal have a good recent record against Villa, winning three of the last four Premier League meetings, but they will hope to avoid a repeat of their 2-1 home defeat to the Midlanders in May 2011.

Thomas Vermaelen, Nacho Monreal (both back) and Abou Diaby (knee) will definitely miss the game, while Bacary Sagna and Aaron Ramsey (both ankle) are also in doubt for Arsenal.

Villa’s bill of health is cleaner, although Charles N’Zogbia (Achilles) will not feature.

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