As far as fixture lists go, Arsenal’s 2017/18 line-up is probably about as favourable as it gets.
Inevitably, when the Premier League releases its fixture list, fans immediately turn to their end-of-season run in, and I have to say the Gunners can look forward to what should be (yes, I know) a comfortable April and May.
If we are still in anything resembling a title race come next spring (really now, stop it) we can at least look to our run in and be confident that there are points to be had.
We face Southampton (H), Newcastle (A), West Ham United (H), Manchester United (A), Burnley (H), and Huddersfield Town (A) in our last six matches. If that isn’t a winnable set of games – with the possible exception of United – I don’t know what is.
With the run-in jitters assuaged then, attention naturally turns to any nightmare months that might be lurking in mid-season – particularly around February and March, when our annual meltdown typically takes place.
In 2017/18, however, the only month that looks like it might be a particularly difficult one is February, when we face Everton (H), Spurs (A), and Manchester City (H). That said, two out of three are at home and there are only three league games to contend with in that period, so there is even a little silver lining to that particular cloud.
It goes without saying that Arsenal don’t need any favours from the fixture list to find new and inventive ways to scupper themselves, but next season looks to be one we could and should be well capable of coping with.
The impact of Thursday night Europa League football, and fixtures being moved by the TV companies are both unknowns at this point, so it is more or less useless to speculate until we know more, but there is certainly reason to be optimistic.
I know when it is all said and done that we play the same number of games against the same opposition as everybody else in the league, but I think it would be glib to dismiss the psychological impact of four or five game runs of wins or defeats.
There are opportunities in that fixture list for Arsenal to put together runs of wins and nothing builds momentum, confidence, and belief quite like three points.
Ultimately, our success or failure will be determined by the way we apply ourselves in each and every game, but welcoming the likes of Huddersfield or Burnley to the Emirates after a trip to Stamford Bridge is far more favourable then a visit, say, to Old Trafford.
It could all be about small margins next season, particularly given the level of competition we now face, and any little advantage, however small, is greatly received.
All we need now is a rip-roaring summer in the transfer market, six to eight weeks of unparalleled preparation in pre-season and we are well and truly in the frame for a return to glory…..or, at least, that’s how it goes in my dreams.