Although not overly important, the release of the fixture list always generates a lot of talk simply because of certain key games. Theoretically the order of the fixtures would make no difference because you still have to play every team twice, but psychologically big games can become massive if played at certain times of the year.
Opening Day: Crystal Palace (H) Aug 16
With all the respect in the world to Crystal Palace, this is not a big fixture in it’s own right, but the opening day can really set the tone for a season. Last year saw a disastrous start against Villa and Crystal Palace will not roll over. Tony Pulis has them playing very solid football and a hard-working win will be a solid base to work from.
First big Match: Man City (H) Sep 13
Some people may think Everton at the end of August should class as our first big match, but with the resources and squad we have Everton shouldn’t be considered a big match. A tough match, yes, but not a title clash.
Arsenal only picked up one point against champions City last year and it’s in this area we need to improve. In fact we only picked up 5 points out of a possible 18 against the Top 3 and conceded 5 or more goals on 3 occasions in these matches. The City game should give us an early indication of where we stand this year.
Double London Derby: Spurs (H) Sep 27, Chelsea (A) Oct 4
Two games in a row that the fans will be crying for a win, and definitely an improvement on the 6-0 drubbing we received at Stamford Bridge last year. 4 or 6 points out of these two games, especially with the proximity to the City match, could leave us in a very nice position by mid October.
Christmas Period: Liverpool (A) Dec 20, QPR (H) 26, West Ham (A) 28, Southampton (A) Jan 1
The Christmas period is massive. 4 games in 2 weeks could be a massive momentum generator or a title bid killer. Arsenal were great through this period last year, winning 3 and drawing 1, and will need to replicate this form this year. Avoiding injuries in this period is also important, as Arsenal’s squad isn’t as big as others, and Arsenal’s worst period came with Aaron Ramsey sidelined. Can the Welshman make it through a full season this year?
Potential Title Decider: Man United (A) May 16
Will they fight back this year? Hopefully not but this will be a different United than last season, and away at Old Trafford in the penultimate game of the season should always be a big occasion. If we are in a title race at this point, this could be a huge place to get a positive result.