Arsenal begin their 2013/14 English Premier League campaign by hosting Aston Villa at the Emirates tonight. We’ll have live scores and commentary from midnight.
Gonzalo Higuain. Wayne Rooney. Luis Suarez. Luis Gustavo.
None of these players will be lining up for Arsene Wenger’s Gunners outfit tonight.
All were mentioned as potential transfer targets, with Wenger reportedly ready to loosen the purse strings and land a player of genuine world-class quality.
Yet here we are in late August, and the only arrival at the Emirates has been Yaya Sanogo on a free transfer from Ligue 2 side Auxerre.
Arsenal have gone through a seven-match preseason campaign with five wins, a draw and a loss with the two blemishes coming courtesy of Napoli (2-2) and Galatasaray (1-2) in Arsenal’s own Emirates Cup.
They’ll be missing Mikel Arteta, who has been ruled out for 4-6 weeks with a thigh injury, while Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal will also be watching from the sidelines.
For Villa, Yacouba Sylla and Chris Herd will be unavailable but manager Paul Lambert will otherwise have a full squad to choose from.
It’s fair to say Villa haven’t had the most inspiring of pre-season campaigns. They drew their first four encounters before losing 2-0 to Luton, then coasted past the likes of Walsall, Crewe Alexandria and Shamrock Rovers, before losing 3-2 to Malaga last weekend.
The good news is that target man Christian Benteke, who recently signed a four-year extension to stay at Villa Park, has been scoring during the pre-season.
Should Benteke stay fit, we should be seeing a 20-goal season from the Belgian.
If Wenger’s defensive pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker are slow to begin then Benteke could be the one to take advantage.