If the 2018/19 season taught us Arsenal fans anything it’s that the fixture list is in no way a barometer of our likely success.
We are just as capable of making a difficult run look easy as we are an easy run look difficult. You need only look at the last eight games of the season just gone to know the truth of that.
Still, there remains a certain excitement in pouring over the Premier League fixture list when it arrives, to plot out who were are starting and ending the season against, when our big derby games occur, and how runs of fixtures may affect our runs in domestic and European competitions.
So, if we were to describe 2018/19’s fixture list as favourable (on paper at least), the list for the upcoming season is what you might call a ‘winter of discontent’.
For the most part, the list looks good. No particularly unfavourable runs, not many outrageous double-headers, small runs of games that look winnable.
Like Ned Stark, however, the real period of worry is in the depths of winter and the coming of a quite hectic festive period, including a December that – as it stands – will include six Premier League fixtures.
Two of those will see us take on Chelsea and Manchester City, and there will also be niggling trips to Everton and West Ham.
Hot on the heels of a rotten Christmas is a January that could include a New Year’s Day clash with Manchester United and a visit to Stamford Bridge towards the end of the month. Yuk.
Like a true, grim-faced resident of Winterfell, I’m looking towards that period with a real feeling of trepidation – particularly given our long-standing propensity to melt down when it gets cold.
As ever, our matches against Spurs occur both early (August 31) and late on (April 25) in the season, with the latter of those two fixtures away from home. If I had a crystal ball, I would like straight ahead to April 24, to see exactly where the two sides are come the business end of the season. As things stand, I really couldn’t begin to guess what the future might hold for either club ahead of an interesting 10 months to come.
We kick-off our campaign at Newcastle on August 11 (a long trip that we’re well rid of nice and early in the season) and that clash is bookended with a home fixture against Watford who, in all likelihood, will already have been on the beach for the month leading up to the game.
So that’s more or less that in terms of points of interest from the list. In truth, there isn’t too much we can ever read into these things because, ultimately, only the performance of the team will matter when the matches come around, rather than any particular combination of games.
Obviously, you’d rather finish the season against three relegation scrappers than three title chasers but, as we have seen, nothing can be taken from granted in this league any more. Almost every team, on its day, is capable of an upset and I don’t expect next season to be any different.
Until then, our focus must be on recruitment and getting a sense of cohesion and purpose back into a side that melted away into madness by the time the Europa League final rolled around.
How do you see it? As ever, let me know in the comments!