The Premier League was robbed of its hectic festive schedule in 2022 due to the winter World Cup, but a chaotic Christmas is set to ensue this time around.
The festive period is typically such a critical juncture on the footballing calendar. With games arriving at an unrelenting rate, seasons can be made or broken once the new year rolls around.
Last season, victories over West Ham and Brighton ensured Arsenal didn’t relinquish their pre-World Cup momentum as they maintained their five-point lead at the summit. The Gunners were aided by a less frantic schedule to close out the calendar year, but they won’t be handed such respite in a few weeks.
With Mikel Arteta’s side chasing a Premier League title, Arsenal can ill afford any mishaps over the festive period. A bad run of form will cripple their campaign, while a string of positive results will embolden their title quest.
But, how tough do the Gunners have it over Christmas? Arsenal have three games between the 22 and 31 December, and here’s how their schedule compares in difficulty to the rest of the division. To work this out, I, in a piece for 90min, calculated the average league position of Arsenal’s opponents, the distance they’ll have to travel, and how long they’ll have to recover in between games.
How hard is Arsenal’s Premier League Christmas schedule?
Going by average league position – correct as of 23 November 2023 – Arsenal’s festive schedule is pretty tough.
The Gunners take on fellow title contenders Liverpool, European hopefuls West Ham, and Fulham at Craven Cottage.
These three teams currently boast an average league position of 9th, making it the 6th toughest schedule in the division based on opponent quality. A trip to Anfield is arguably the toughest fixture in the domestic calendar. Arsenal haven’t won there since 2012.
How far do Arsenal have to travel over the festive period?
The Gunners have been dealt a short straw as they have two away games over Christmas. The first venture – Liverpool away – accounts for much of their festive travelling.
Arsenal will travel approximately 218.8 miles (which doesn’t account for return trips) when they visit Liverpool and Fulham.
This distance is the seventh-longest in the Premier League. Unlike Manchester City, who are competing in the 2023 Club World Cup, Arteta’s side be doing any overseas flying before Christmas. There shouldn’t be any jet lag after getting off the coach at Craven Cottage.
How long will Arsenal have to recover between matches over the festive period?
With three games being crammed into nine days, the Arsenal players, as is the case with every other club, won’t have the luxury of enjoying their typical recovery schedules over Christmas.
However, the Gunners have got it pretty good compared to some of their competitors. On average, there are 94.25 hours between Arsenal’s festive kick-offs, the 11th-longest recovery time in the Premier League. Some clubs, like Wolves and Chelsea, only have around 70 hours, while Brentford, whose fixture with Man City has been postponed, are only playing twice and thus have over 150 hours, on average, between festive kick-offs.
Overall, Arsenal will want to get that trip to Anfield out of the way. Liverpool have battered the Gunners on their own patch in recent times, but this Arsenal outfit has the potential to compete with the Reds on Merseyside, just as they did last season. A big defeat would set Arteta’s side up for a miserable Christmas, but a bold performance, even if doesn’t garner a tangible reward, would surely lead to a prosperous festive period.