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Saturday, 17 August 2013 01:00

Arsenal v Aston Villa preview: Lightweight Gunners mull injury concerns before Villa showdown

Londoners have failed to strenghen squad and will be without several key names for visit of Paul Lambert's men
by Greg Leedham

Football: It is the nightmare scenario that every Arsenal fan dreaded. The Premier League season has arrived, but the club has failed to add a single big-name player since chief executive Ivan Gazidis’s assertion at the start of the summer that Arsene Wenger had as much as £70 million at his disposal to furnish his squad.

Wenger, whose only acquisition remains striker Yaya Sanogo on a free transfer, maintains that his current squad is able to mount a title challenge.

Nonetheless, the Gunners are looking thin on the ground ahead of Saturday afternoon’s home match against Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa.

Centre-back Thomas Vermaelen and Abou Diaby remain long-term absentees, though midfielder Mikel Arteta is also set to miss six weeks with a thigh injury. Full-back Nacho Monreal is also unlikely to be ready to play for another two weeks.

Villa have had a far more productive summer to date, acquiring six new signings. But perhaps most important is their retention of star striker Christian Benteke.

The stocky Belgium international was a revelation last campaign, scoring 24 goals for the Villans following his arrival from Genk.

The 22-year-old had been keen to turn his back on the club after just one season and was strongly linked with a transfer to Tottenham.

However he performed a surprise U-turn and signed a new deal, giving Villa a significant morale boost in the process.

But their recent record against Arsenal is poor, with no wins in their last five meetings with the Londoners.

Perhaps though this is the right time for Villa to play Arsenal, who by conservative estimates still require a striker, a central midfielder, a defender and a goalkeeper, and enter this season with a familiar weariness.

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