Arsenal v Villa: Vermaelen - Villa are "talented and tough"
Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen has heaped praise on Villa, calling them a "talented team" to face on the opening day.
Vermaelen will be missing from the Gunners line-up due to a lower back injury, a problem which forced him out of the team's pre-season tour of the Far East.
But the Belgian defender has done his research ahead of The Emirates Stadium clash on Saturday.
Vermaelen, like many before him, believes Villa will be stronger for their emphatic finish to the previous campaign.
He also thinks that international pal Christian Benteke will be a tricky customer for the likes of Per Mertesaker.
He said: "It'll be great to get the season underway - and I think Villa will give us a really good test.
"They were in trouble for a long time last season but picked up well towards the end.
"I remember playing them quite late on and they gave us a difficult game, with Santi scoring a late winner for us.
"They used a lot of young players and as a result had difficulties early on, but we can see what a talented team they have.
"My Belgium team-mate, Christian Benteke, adapted really quickly to the Barclays Premier League last season and will be looking to start this one well too.
"But that's what we want ourselves - a good start, three points and a nice performance that will keep everyone's spirits high."
Pick up your Benteke No.20 shirt now.
Go to full match coverage for Arsenal 1 - 3 Aston Villa (16th August 2013) >
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