The Premier League released the fixture list for 2010-11 Season earlier in the day. Once again Arsenal have been hard done by but there is no point in whining about it. I’m hoping Arsene will use the experiences of the last few seasons and will be better prepared for this one.
The fixtures for the top three are given in the following graphic,
The start of the season is obviously a tough one. Some think Liverpool are on a downward curve and this one will be easy but I’ve a feeling a lot will depend on who takes over as the manager and the transfer activity.
The games in red are the ones immediately following a Champions League game. We have some tough fixtures here made worse by the fact that 5 of the 6 are away from home. In contrast, Chelsea have 3 home games and United have 4 home games.
Away games are tough for all teams. Even Chelsea lost 23 points away from home last season and only 5 at home. Similarly, United dropped 21 away points and 8 at home. So we cannot just say the fixtures don’t matter because we have away games and really tough ones at that.
We play Sunderland, Chelsea, City, Villa and United in the away games while the home game is against Newcastle. Last season we lost 4 of those away games and drew at Villa. Obviously, these are going to be very difficult games.
I’ve also shaded parts of that list with a bluish background. Those are the times when we’ve generally struggled with injuries. The first period is when winter starts having an effect in Nov/Dec. The second one is towards the end of the season. I’ve selected these times just on the basis of my thoughts and not on any research, so if you have a different view do let me know.
Apart from the post Champions League games, we also have other tough games in this period with a trip to Everton and a home game against Chelsea. In fact, leaving out the Newcastle game, we won 5, lost 3, and drew 1 in the corresponding fixtures last season.
Similarly, our end of the season run-in is quite a challenge. We did well is the corresponding fixtures last year with 5 wins and a loss but if we don’t have an answer to our injury issues these games could see us falter.
I really hope Arsene goes into this season with a bigger squad. Those of you who still haven’t figured out the 25 player rule might wonder how that is possible. You can read about it in detail here.
If Gallas and Silvestre leave, we can add 5 more players to our squad without worrying about age or nationality. If Cesc leaves then we have to get a home grown player or promote one of our youngsters to cover the quota of 8. And if there are more departures (Campbell, Keeper, etc.) then we have to act accordingly.
The reason we have this luxury is because we have players like Ramsey, Gibbs, Traore, Walcott, Vela and Wilshere who would all be considered under-21 and we won’t have to include them in the squad of 25.
If we do have a bigger squad and start the season without many significant injuries there is a good chance that Arsene will be able to rotate the players more often. Over the years I’ve felt Arsene doesn’t like rotating the squad. Some of our players get better once they get a few games, so we will have to see how it turns out. Last season we didn’t rest many of our players and it came back to haunt us at crucial moments.
The way I see it, Arsene knows the fixtures will be tough, he knows we have an irrational injury problem, and he knows Arsenal must win. In the past I have felt his decision making has been a little on the conservative side. Hopefully this year we will be a little on the extravagant side, not necessarily in terms of money spent on big names but definitely in terms of the size of the squad. In other words, instead of a paying 15-20 Mil for someone like Hangeland, I’d rather we get Koscielny and another like him. Easier said than done of course but winning big trophies like the Premiership or Champions League will never be easy anyway.
I realize many have already made their predictions that nothing will change and we won’t win anything. If I believed that I’d not be writing this article but using my time for something else. This transfer window is critical and I’m looking forward to the new names with renewed hope.