It's finally here. We can finally talk about fun stuff.
Arsenal v. Aston Villa
English Premier League
Saturday, 17 August 2013
7AM PT/10AM ET/3PM BT
Emirates Stadium, London
EDITORIAL NOTE THE FIRST: This is a match preview. It will mention players and not-acquired players, but there are many other threads in which we can debate Arsenal's transfer dealings or lack thereof; if you want to talk about Arsenal's dealings/not-dealings, please use one of those. Let's keep this one focused on the game, if we can. Thanks!
So here we go. The summer's over, at least as far as "summer = not playing competitive soccer" goes. After a lovely holiday on some beach somewhere and an equally-lovely tour of Asia, Arsenal are back in the familiar surroundings of North London, ready to kick off the 2013-14 season against an Aston Villa side that finished 15th last season, but retained their manager - Paul Lambert - meaning that Villa start consecutive seasons with the same manager for the first time since 2009.
Villa are led/defined by Christian Benteke, who scored almost half of Villa's Premier League goals last season. As much as people like to say that buying Robin van Persie was the deciding factor in Manchester United winning the championship last year, it's an even safer assumption to say that without Benteke, Villa would have been relegated in March. As it is, they finished five points clear, but Villa is looking to become a solid, mid-table team this year, and with Gabriel Agbonlahor (no slouch in the scoring department, scoring 16 to Benteke's 19 - seriously, these two scored 35 of Villa's 47 goals!) alongside Benteke their attack should have no problem.
Villa's issues last year were defensive, though - 69 goals conceded. Yeeeowch. Six new signings - all under 23, and mostly defenders - will try to help Villa stop the rot at the back this season; honestly, even a marginal improvement back there will solidify Villa's place in the league and help them stabilize.
Arsenal have built a really nice house. It's amazingly well-built; it's a deluxe, fully modern house, with fantastic appliances, beautiful cabinetry, cat5 cable throughout, integrated entertainment systems...and absolutely no closet space. So when they moved in, they had to bring in only what they could use at the time; no spare dishes, no spare towels, nothing extra at all.
This is fine, as long as they kept current on their chores; washing the dishes after every meal and washing the towels after every shower gets old, though, and a couple days before the first mortgage payment on their new house was due, Arsenal stopped doing the dishes for a day, and now they have no clean pots, pans, or dishes and they're really hungry. The other problem? The shops close in about 10 min, and they're a 15 min walk from the high street.
Yes, it's a tortured metaphor, but still, that's where Arsenal are right now; they start the season with the same lineup with which they ended last season, for the most part, but the worst possible thing happened this week - Arteta, Vermaelen, and Monreal are all unavailable for Saturday
. In the "good news" column, though, Cazorla is reportedly OK, as is Ramsey. But still, going into a season with only your first-choice 11 as basically your team is asking for trouble, and with Arteta out for up to six weeks, trouble has been duly asked for and received.
But as mentioned, I'm not going to dwell on that; as my dad used to say, "you gotta dance with the girl that brung ya" (Yep, he said that. Many times. Did I mention my dad would be 90 if he were still alive?) The season starts in the morning; this is the Arsenal we have, and this is the Arsenal I will be rooting for, without reservation. This is actually a pretty strong team, and I'm really excited for this season, mostly to see what Giroud can do with a season of Premier League experience under his belt.
The development of the English core is exciting too, and watching the Ramsey/Wilshere/Walcott trio develop even further this year is something I'm really looking forward to. They're young, they're fluid, and I believe they can be competitive; we gotta get 'em all healthy, though. Soon.
Maybe-possibly-predicted lineup: Szczesny; Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs; Ramsey, Wilshere, Walcott; Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud.
Subs: You busy tomorrow? Can you get to London by noonish?
FEARLESS PREDICTION: Arsenal concede a goal in the third minute, which causes a mass exodus of "fans" from the Emirates. In front of an almost-empty stadium, Aaron Ramsey decides 'FUCK THIS NOISE WE ARE THE ARSENAL DAMN IT' and runs rampant, scoring four, assisting on three more, and just for good measure clearing a Benteke shot off the line when Szcz bends down to tie his shoes. Statement of intent, sent. GO ON YOU REDS