And after months of preparation, countless friendlies and thousands of inaccurate rumours – the Premier League has finally returned. For most clubs it’s a chance to start again and for the memories of the last season to be banished.
It’s a chance for teams to improve on their performances and it’s a chance to try and surpass the achievements of the past. In any case – with managerial changes at 3 of the top 4 clubs in England there is certainly the possibility of a nail-biting and intriguing season.
Rivalries will be renewed, controversy will be inevitable and excitement will be guaranteed. Welcome to the Premiership. And let’s start the season by having a look at one of the more interesting ties from the first round of games – Arsenal vs. Aston Villa.
Arsenal have not had the pre-season that they were hoping for. I’m not talking about friendly results or the great player clear out of 2013 but more down to the rather empty incoming deals board.
Very public moves for Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain have fallen through whilst injuries and outgoing transfers have meant that the squad has become threadbare. The board and Wenger have until the end of the window to fulfil their promises of spending to the fans- or the already thick tension amongst the fans could escalate further with a few disappointing results.
Arsenal beat Manchester City in Helsinki last Saturday and have shown encouraging signs throughout pre-season (especially through Oliver Giroud and Aaron Ramsey), but the depth of the squad is a worry.
And with news that Mikel Arteta is due to miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season (Arsenal code for 3 months) there is already an issue developing. Arsenal look like a better unit than last season - but realistically don’t have the numbers to mount any form of serious challenge.
The biggest bonus for Aston Villa this pre-season has been keeping hold of Benteke. Perhaps the biggest irony of this though is that if he had been available for longer I’m convinced that Arsenal would have made a move for him.
Results wise though Villa have had a very mixed pre-season but after a lot of squad changes last year, Lambert’s squad this time around will be more settled and will end up somewhere very comfortable at the high end of mid table. I’ve got a feeling that Villa could also have a big run in one of the cups.
I think Arsenal will come out on top tomorrow. But it won’t be by a big margin – and the chances are that the result will ask more questions of Arsenal than it answers.
Arsenal 2 Aston Villa 1
Oh – and if you are a betting person and Ramsey starts – he might be worth a shout for an assist.
image: © wonker