Arsenal face Aston Villa in the Premier League at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
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THE OPENING DAY
RAMSEY'S KEY ROLE
One of most encouraging aspects of Arsenal's pre-season campaign has been the continued resurgence of Aaron Ramsey. The Wales international played a key role as the midfield 'runner' - bursting from box to box - during Arsenal's 11-match unbeaten run at the end of last term, and if anything he has improved further.
With Mikel Arteta ruled out on Saturday, and Santi Cazorla facing a late assessment after a long trip back from Ecuador with Spain, Ramsey will be central to Arsenal's hopes. The 22-year-old finished third (behind the two Spaniards) in the most passes played last season, and played the third highest number of key passes (those that directly lead to a chance at goal).
His team-mates will need him to remain just as influential on Saturday to help break down an Aston Villa backline that frustrated the Gunners for large parts of the corresponding fixture last term. But on the evidence of his pre-season form, Ramsey will relish the added responsibility.
ARSENAL v ASTON VILLA - MATCH FACTS
- Arsenal have lost only one of their last nine Premier League meetings with Aston Villa (W5 D3)
- Aston Villa won one more point (21) away from home than they did at home (20) in the 2012/13 Premier League
- Villa have won just two of their last 19 trips to London to face Arsenal, but both of these have come since the Gunners moved to the Emirates Stadium
- Indeed only Chelsea (three) have won more away Premier League games at the Emirates than Aston Villa (two)
- Villa have won just one point from their last seven Premier League away trips to London
- Arsenal have not lost any of their last 12 opening Premier League games (W8 D4), though they have drawn their last three
- Villa have played their opening fixture away from Villa Park 12 times in the Premier League era and have only won once (1-0 at Newcastle in 1999), drawing seven and losing four
- Arsenal finished last season with a 10-game unbeaten run (W8 D2) and lost just one of their last 16 fixtures to secure a top-four berth yet again.
- Darren Bent has scored six goals in his last eight Premier League games against Arsenal and has scored three in three at the Emirates
- Emirates Stadium saw more goals than any other stadium in the Premier League last season (70)
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