by Bulldog Drummond
Because of the break during this season to play the world cup, fixtures in the premier league are being moved around to accommodate Fifa’s demands.
What’s more, Arsenal will have to be nine extra games between the start of the season on Friday 13th August through to Saturday 12 November, above and beyond those played last season. This, according to figures from the Telegraph is a greater increase in fixtures during this period than any other club has to face.
Of course much of this odd statistic arises from the fact that last season Arsenal were not in Europe at all, while this season we are in the Europa League. So it is perhaps worth bearing in mind the sort of team we put out two seasons ago in the group stages of the Europa.
Against Dundalk on 10 December, our lineup was
Soares, Mustafi, Kolasinac,
Nelson, Willock, Maitland Niles
So depending on which clubs we are playing there will be a chance to give some of the younger players and backup squad members, time on the pitch. But as that lineup shows we also always need a few old hands to dictate the pace of the game, and keep everything together in midfield.
We will know more after the draw for the 2022-23 Europa League Group Stage which will take place on 26 August.
But what sort of start do we need to feel confident about a top-four league finish this time? This really is quite an important question because in recent years the level of hysteria about a bad Arsenal start to the season has become so great that it must be unnerving for players.
You will I am sure recall the demands for the sacking of the manager after the first game of the last campaign, which turned into a roar after three league games (everyone of course ignoring the League cup victory).
The last time we finished a season in the top four was 2015/16 when we were runners-up. But what is often forgotten in relation to that season is that we lost the opening match 0-2 at home to West Ham. We did manage to win the second game 1-2 away to Palace and then had a goalless draw at home with Liverpool.
The only amusing thing about that table was that Tottenham failed to win all three opening games and were languishing in 16th. Not quite as low as Arsenal last season after three, but a valiant effort, although not that many people made much of a fuss.
Those opening games left us ninth in the league and there were, of course, calls in the media for Mr Wenger to be sacked.
In fact, if we look at the league table after three games that season, Manchester City who were top after three straight wins, came fourth at the end of the season. Leicester City were second, and that was the season they won the league for the only time. Liverpool who were third after three games, came in eighth while Manchester United who were fourth after three, ended up fifth.
Now that may all sound a bit pointless, but the fact is that last season there were calls for Mr Arteta to be dismissed after three league games. Fortunately, he wasn’t and the club ended up fifth. But one of the rules about football pundits is that they never ever learn. A defeat in the opening game, and off they will go once more.
One other factor to keep in mind is that the transfer window doesn’t close until 1 September at 11pm. That means that during the first 26 days of the season the window will still be open and transfers can be made. Some clubs, hoping to get a few miliion more for a player, will be holding out for the extra cash and so some squads might be incomplete.
Fortunately, Arsenal’s fixtures during that early part of the season are not too horrific and we once again will have an excellent set of youth players who can step up if needed.
Sky are proclaiming that they have the opening game live, but there is nothing on the BT website to suggest which games they are going to move for their own profit and the inconvenience of people who want to arrange to go and watch the game.
So here are the opening matches as we know them.
- 5: Crystal Palace (a) – live on Sky Sports [last season, lost 3-0]
- 13: Leicester City (h) – [last season won 2-0]
- 20: Bournemouth (a)
- 27: Fulham (h)
- 30: Aston Villa (h) [last season won 3-1]
Obviously, we didn’t play Bournemouth and Fulham last season as they were in the Championship. So a far from onerous start for Arsenal – which could be helpful if we have several new players in the squad. But it also means we really do have to do well in those games, to secure a decent position before we start playing other members of the top six from last season.
- All change with PGMO and the refs.. But what change?
- The last five years proves one big thing: nothing is guaranteed.
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- The huge bias of referees is proven. PGMO and media fight back.