So we know how our season next year is going to pan out fixtures-wise, with the first one of the season away to Newcastle on Sunday 11th August. Then it’s a home game against Burnley before Liverpool away and the Tiny Totts at home.
Hardly the easiest of starts and certainly isn’t a series of games you’d say we will be looking to build some momentum on, but I’m not too fussed about the start of the season, if I’m honest.
Last season we had two tough games and people went into a bit of a wobble before we steadied the ship and went on a winning run. The 2019/20 season provides us with two ‘winnable’ games to start and Unai simply must be looking at it that way before we play Liverpool. The expectation will be nothing from that match and then the game at home to the Totts is always a feisty affair, but I’m pleased we have those two games before we play any of the top six. If we can win the first two games there won’t be the usual meltdown and by getting two tough games out of the way soon after you never know, we might be able to do over the Totts and look at August as an okayish start.
The so-called ‘big games’ are in twos and spread out and for that reason I’m kind of happy with it. There are some tricky periods but overall there doesn’t seem to be a period in the year that we’d call your archetypal Death Run.
We have Chelski and United at home over Christmas and that will be tough but given that they’re both at home that’s a positive from my perspective. Travelling twice away over such a short period of time takes it out of players so to have those two matches at home you have to think it’s a good thing.
There’s also a period between October and December whereby the fixtures look quite decent. If Emery can replicate the form that we showed roughly the same time last season then that feels like it could be vital for our final league position come May 2020. There’s tough away games at the end of the season at Tottenham and at home to Liverpool but my expectations are that when we get to that stage we might be afforded some leeway. That’s either because we’re not in the running or it’s because we have built ourselves a buffer. As with all things Arsenal you can never really count on the players one way or the other.
There’ll be plenty of people who will give flippant remarks like “oh look, we have to play everyone twice” but I think that overlooks the importance of momentum. When we came close in 2007/8 I firmly believe it was based on the momentum of the first ten games, because we went on one heck of a winning run and that carried us through the season through confidence and drive. So to build early momentum and get points on the board is a very important thing. If we come out of August with one defeat (Liverpool) and a host of wins, who knows how far confidence will take the team forward?
Unai does need to tinker less and build that rhythm though. We need to have the right players for the style he wants and that needs to be bedded in this summer, a summer which by all accounts feels quite pivotal in the context of the short-term future of the club, so all eyes are now looking at what increasingly feels like an Arsenal board who are starting to dally and are dropping backroom members like flies.
It’s hardly the most exciting of times at the moment but a good summer, a clever summer, will make the world of difference.
Let’s just see what the next few weeks brings.
Catch you all tomorrow.