The release of a schedule is always a fun little diversion in any sport’s off season. Soccer’s is a little...I wouldn’t say less fun, but Premier League soccer, of course, features a balanced schedule, so there’s not the element of surprise of “oh, this year we get to play Shrimpton Town FC, we haven’t played them in years!”. There’s 19 other teams, and Arsenal play each one twice, so the main question every season is in the sequencing.
Last season, of course, started impossibly hard, with games against Manchester City and Chelsea. It then ended so easily that of course Arsenal cruised through the last two months of the season unscathed, or so I think what do I know I stopped watching in March I’m sure it ended just fine.
All of which is to say the Premier League fixture list was released today. This season’s first two games are kind of the opposite of last season - instead of the champions and a tough local rival, it’s away to last season’s 13th place finisher Newcastle to start on August 11, followed by the home opener the following Saturday against 15th place Burnley. Both winnable games, at least in theory.
One fun wrinkle is that the first North London Derby of the season is quite early - last year’s Champions League second place champions (preorder your DVD now!) visit the Emirates on August 31, with Arsenal’s first visit to the gaudy new McMansion in the neighborhood coming on April 25th.
This year’s holiday congestion nightmare starts off in the hardest possible way, with a visit from Manchester City on December 14, followed by games against Everton, Bournemouth, Chelsea, and Manchester United. The Bournemouth and Chelsea games are two days apart, on the 26th and 28th of December, and the United game closes out the holidays on Jan 1.
Last season’s run-in, as mentioned, was fairly easy on paper; this season’s is going to be a bit more tricky. Leicester at home and the aforementioned Tottenham away close out April, while May starts with the visit of Liverpool, before the league season ends against Aston Villa away and Watford at home.
And remember, no matter what else happens, Arsenal are in first place until at least August 11, and nobody can take that away from us.