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What are the hardest games for Arsenal during the course of the season?
As things stand we might consider Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Liverpool, and Tottenham as the tough ones, and I’m including Tottenham because there is so much passion that game that even when Arsenal are well ahead of them on form, oddities can happen. We might even have to add Chelsea back into the list if they manage to get themselves together, but at the moment there is no telling.
Without Chelsea in the list that means Arsenal have ten big games (home and away) in the season. If Chelsea recover, then it is 12. Ten games is 26% of the season which is roughly one in every four.
But of course, Arsenal are also in the Champions League and we can put most of those games down as difficult, if for no reason than Arsenal haven’t been in the League for a while and many of our players will not have experienced what those games are like.
So let’s see just how difficult the opening games of the season are going to be. I’ll call these extra challenging games “5 Star” and include all the Champions League games, simply because most of our players won’t have experienced them before.
Putting this together we have 10 challenging games out of 25 and six of these will come between the start of the season and 24/25 October. If Arsenal win them all the media will suggest the club has had the easiest of starts. If we lose a few, the club will be written off for the rest of the season.
Certainly we would hope for three straight wins, before the first tricky game. The tricky matches are in bold with stars added (just to be certain)
- 12 August: Nottingham Forest (home)
- 19 August: Crystal Palace (away)
- 26 August: Fulham (home)
- 2 September: Manchester United (home) *****
- 16 September: Everton (away)
- 19/20 September: Champions League 1 *****
- 23 September: Tottenham Hotspur (home) *****
- 30 September: A.F.C. Bournemouth (away)
- 3/4 October: Champions League 2 *****
- 7 October: Manchester City (home) *****
- 21 October: Chelsea (away)
- 24/25: October 2023: Champions League 3 *****
Now if Arsenal slip up in any of those opening three games, that will cause some nervousness for the Manchester United game. But if the form of much of last season is maintained and Manchester United are not firing on all cylinders we could get to the Tottenham game unbeaten or indeed even having won every game.
Of course this is all fanciful, but from a psychological point of view, Arsenal could be buzzing having overcome the disappointment of the dip near the end of last season.
Manchester United’s run-up to the match against Arsenal is Wolverhampton (home), Tottenham (away), and Nottingham Forest (home), so that should be two easy home wins.
But what of Tottenham, with yet another new manager (their 93rd in the past four weeks, although I may have made a slight error with the abacus on that one)?
New managers can have flying starts or still be trying to instill their coaching techniques into the players’ minds by the time the sixth match comes around. They have Brentford (away) Manchester United (home), Bournemouth (away), Burnley (away), Sheffield United (home) before the Arsenal game, and obviously no European games.
The only one of those that should cause them any difficulty is Manchester United at home, and if Tottenham win that they could go into the Arsenal game at the top of the league with all their fans in the media raving over the incredible achievements of their new manager with his amazing new techniques. Even a draw with Manchester United at home could still see them top of the league, and we really won’t hear the end of it in the press…. at least not until Arsenal knock five past them.
So that takes us up to nine league games, just around a quarter of the season. And just as a comparison, this is what the league looked like at that time last season – with a note at the end as to where each club finished.
Looking at that table, we can see that the opening eight or nine games give us a clue where clubs might end up, but it is only a clue. Chelsea, it is worth remembering, were fourth after eight games list season, while Tottenham and Chelsea were seen as certainties for the top four, once Arsenal started their inevitable period of decline.
Virtually all of the media had Liverpool to finish in the top four along with Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea, and were still expecting that to come to pass even when Liverpool were 10th after nine games.
Prejudicial attitudes in the media are very hard to overcome.
- Arsenal continue to make more progress than the rest of the big seven
- Arsenal v Tottenham; the team and some rather jolly recent history
- We are running out of referees, and the reason is the PGMO.
- Arsenal v Tottenham: the key fact the media won’t to tell you – and why they won’t
- Arsenal v Tottenham: different clubs, different managers, different successes