So the fixtures are out (sort of). Of course we now have to wait until Sky and BT have had their say on how we spend our weekends this Autumn, but we at least have a vague idea of what we have to contend with and when.Last night Red Action were trumpeting their “source” with the reliable news that we would play host to Southampton on the first day of the season. In fairness, they’ve been correct on this for the last couple of years, but I couldn’t have been more amused to find that they had it completely wrong. A home game with Aston Villa is what we actually have to look forward to on day (or weekend) one. I would have thought it unlikely that we’ll be a TV game unless we do spend some of the many millions on a big name or three between now and the TV announcement in July.
The away fans will be delighted to be going to Fulham in August which should make the annual boat trip down the Thames more popular than ever. That gives us two extremely winnable matches to open up with. And then come the swamp dwellers for their annual ransacking of the away end toilets. We played them early on in both Title winning seasons under George Graham so maybe there’s a small omen for success in there.
November, traditionally a bad month under Arsene Wenger (though not so much in recent times) sees consecutive games against Liverpool and Manchester United, with a Champions League tie in between. I would say that, apart from the qualifier we have to get through in the European Cup, that week is the first genuine test of our credentials – assuming we’ve got off to a good start, that is.
I’m very happy that Boxing Day provides an away game at West Ham. I don’t like Boxing Day football and no longer go to any home match played that day. The added bonus of it being at West Ham means it may well be televised, so everyone’s a winner. Before that we have Chelsea and Manchester City in our two games preceding Christmas, so let’s hope the man in the red suit has on the “nice” list this year.
The run-in to our season is not too bad. Everton away in early April is our toughest match, on paper, at the sharp end of the year. However, I am disappointed to note that we finish the campaign away from home yet again. The clamour for tickets at Norwich on the final day could be massive if we’re going to the wire for the Title. Right now I’d take that particular scenario.
I haven’t looked too much at the fixtures of the other sides, though I notice that Man Utd play Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City in their first five games. By the time they get to October Mr Moyes could be under some intense pressure should results not be particularly positive. On the other hand, if United get to the last eight games of the season anywhere close to the top then you can pretty much engrave their name on the trophy again, such is the lack of dangerous opposition they are due to face.
Maybe it’s a little early to get too excited about the new season, but this is certainly the start of the good stuff. Today is the beginning of the countdown to 2013-2014 and a brief look at the BBC website will show you Arsenal are in their rightful place at the top of the re-set Premier League table. Now for some signings. I hope.