Arsenal v Villa stat pack: Benteke key to good Gunners result
Villa face the tough trip to Arsenal to kick-off a challenging opening period in the Barclays Premier League.
But they will be buoyed by their progress in pre-season off the back of a much-improved second half of the previous campaign.
Since the turn of the year, only Liverpool [2.17] and Man Utd [1.83] scored more goals per game than Villa [1.78].
The fact that the side's average prior to January 1 of 0.75 per game was the joint lowest in the division is perhaps the greatest indicator of how far Paul Lambert's young and emerging side has come.
Villa boss Lambert will, however, be well aware that his team will be the underdogs at The Emirates against an Arsenal side that had the second best defence [37 conceded] and third best attack [72 scored] in the top-flight last season.
The visitors won't be shy of hitting their high-class opponents on the break, however, as they did to level matters in this fixture last season through Andreas Weimann.
The fact that it was only the Gunners who scored more goals on the counter-attack last season than Villa suggests that Saturday's encounter is likely to be an open and entertaining affair.
If the away side are to defeat the odds then it's likely that they'll look to the aforementioned Austrian and last season's top scorer [19 league goals] Christian Benteke to continue their promising partnership from pre-season.
Since the Belgian signed a new deal at the club, he has been in inspired goalscoring form in the lead up to the new campaign, netting in each of his four appearances, with seven goals in total.
The club's ability to keep hold of the 22-year old is testament to the development and promise of this young squad - and Benteke has an integral role to play.
No Barclays Premier League player scored a higher percentage of their side's overall league tally last season (40%) and the big man became an instant hit at Villa Park.
Lambert will no doubt be hoping that his six new recruits can settle into life at the club equally quickly and the signs are good with Jed Steer, Jores Okore, Antonio Luna, Leandro Bacuna, Aleksandar Tonev and Nicklas Helenius all having a full off-season with their new team-mates.
Arsenal, meanwhile, are sweating on the fitness of a number of players ahead of kick-off, particularly in midfield, where Ashley Westwood and Fabian Delph forged an impressive partnership in the crucial last few months of the 2012-13 campaign.
While Westwood's passing was the fulcrum of many a Villa move, averaging more per game than any other player at the club over the campaign, Delph's battling displays were hugely encouraging late on in the season.
Indeed, in 2013, the former Leeds man made the second most interceptions  and completed the second most dribbles  of all central midfielders in the league.
Most will back the hosts as the favourites this weekend but Villa have netted seven goals in their last six matches at The Emirates and will look to rely upon their red-hot frontline to secure a result in the season opener.
Find yet more statistics on Villa and the rest of the Premier League, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings at WhoScored.com. Follow @WhoScored and their editor-in-chief @martinlaurence7 on Twitter.
Go to full match coverage for Arsenal 1 - 3 Aston Villa (16th August 2013) >
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