In what seems to be an unrelenting series of body blows to Arsenal Football Club on the eve of the new campaign, it has been confirmed that Mikel Arteta has suffered a thigh injury and will be sidelined for several weeks.
Goal.com's Wayne Veysey reports the injury will keep him out for a month, while Sky Sports believe the prognosis to be six weeks.
Big blow for Arsenal with Mikel Arteta facing 6 weeks out through injury. #AFC— Pete O'Rourke (@SkySportsPeteO) August 15, 2013
Arteta is a fan favourite, and his ability to keep play ticking over from a defensive midfield position has those in the stands infatuated with his cool, calm nature.
He clocks up ridiculous pass completion statistics when spraying the ball around and contributes directly to the Gunners enjoying a rather large monopoly on the ball.
With Abou Diaby and Emmanuel Frimpong out of the clash with Villa at the Emirates, where does Arsene Wenger turn to find a new midfield partnership?
It's a tough one, as Arsenal are entering the season with a ridiculously low tally of professional players to choose from.
Thursday, August 15 was the last day to register players for the opening day of the season, so any signing complete on Friday would not be eligible for the tie either.
It means Aaron Ramsey will now be relied upon to continue the fantastic form shown at the tail-end of last season, and he looks extremely likely to partner Jack Wilshere in a double pivot in midfield.
If Wenger opts for a 4-3-3 formation Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may be slated in for a start in a central role, while if it's a 4-2-3-1, Wilshere and Ramsey can form a double pivot with Santi Cazorla central, Lukas Podolski left, Theo Walcott right and Olivier Giroud up front.
Tomas Rosicky is currently a 50/50 coming into the first game, and his presence would solve most concerns: Wenger loves to play a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 hybrid with a lot of switching of roles, and without Rosicky, this becomes all the more difficult.
If Wenger's plans for the new season were at all unclear, Arteta's injury has shrouded them in mystery. We're unlikely to see the "real Gunners" of 2013 until the Spaniard returns or new signings are secured, and Arsenal are beginning to face an uphill battle to secure a win in their opening fixture.
How would you approach the opening day of the season against Villa?