Image from BT Sport
With only the transfer window and youth international tournaments filling the sport pages at the moment, it’s becoming quite difficult to get hyped about football over the last few weeks. But on Wednesday, the new season felt a little bit closer with the announcement of the draft fixture list for the 2017/18 Premier League season. We’ve casted an eye over the opening weeks, the frantic Christmas period, and the last-minute run-ins to assess where your team’s most crucial period of the season is. Here’s our first of two parts of the Premier League sides:
The Gunners have a tricky start to the 2017/18 campaign; they have difficult trips to Stoke, Liverpool and Chelsea in their first five games of the season. The run of fixtures are a bit kinder to Arsene Wenger’s men after that but the Christmas period was where it derailed last year after back-to back 2-1 defeats to Everton and City and they could struggle here as well with a rematch against Jurgen Klopp’s men at Emirates Stadium before visits to Palace and West Brom, where the Gunners suffered defeats last season. Antonio Conte’s champions also visit North London immediately after that to complete a stretch of potentially tricky encounters. The winter blues could continue in February with games against Everton, Spurs and Man City so if Arsenal can get through these difficult patches, who knows where they could end up in May?
The south coast side are aiming for their third successive season in the Premier League, but could end up having a slow start as they face Man City, Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea, along with difficult trips to Stoke and Everton in their first ten games. They’ll need to pick up as many points as they can in November as a troublesome triumvirate of games just before Christmas- against United, Liverpool and City, could derail some momentum, while directly after the New Year they visit Arsenal, West Ham and Chelsea in London, all in a row. A nicer February, March and May could work in their favour.
Sean Dyche has finally got him and his team a second successive season in the top flight but, like Bournemouth, it might also take time for them to get going, with visits to Chelsea Spurs and Liverpool before mid-September, and going on last season’s away record, it would be a great achievement if they can get even a few points from those games. Burnley may be having to rely on a great escape, as their best sequences of winnable matches come in early December and the relegation run in, where 3 out of their last 5 matches come against Leicester, Brighton and Bournemouth, all at Turf Moor.
It’s difficult, personally, to see how Brighton are going to stay up but if the Seagulls want to have any chance of survival, they will need to be clear of the drop by April as they face Spurs, United and Liverpool in three out of their final four matches of the season. The festive season will be crucial on the south coast with back-to-back home games against Burnley and Watford before Christmas and encounters with Newcastle and Bournemouth almost directly after. Can Chris Houghton’s men realistically stay up?
The fixture list is quite kind to Chelsea, with most of their top-of-the-table clashes fairly spaced out and nicely sandwiched between easier matches. The champions host Arsenal and City in September, and face United and Liverpool in fairly quick succession in November. Back to back trips against the Manchester sides at the Etihad and Old Trafford could be decisive in their title challenge, and the re-introduction of European football could potentially be a stumbling block for Conte’s men, after most of last season’s title-winning success relying on a lack of midweek matches.
The Toffees also have European football back at Goodison Park but do not be surprised if Everton end up at the wrong end of the table come mid-September, as they’ve been cruelly pitted against City, Chelsea, Spurs and United in the opening five weeks of the new campaign. Their run is a bit kinder apart from that, depsite facing back-to-back trips to United and Spurs in January, and host City and Liverpool one after the other in March and April. It’s a big season for Everton, and if they could come through that difficult spell in August and September with more points than expected, they could make big improvements on last season.
The Terriers must be in dreamland but need to stop dreaming swiftly get points on the board early, with Newcastle and Southampton visiting Yorkshire in August. There may not be better opportunities until Xmas with games against Spurs, United and Liverpool in September and October, along with City and Arsenal in November. Stoke and Burnley visit immediately after Christmas to provide easier tests but with Chelsea, Everton, City and Arsenal waiting for them in their final 4 games of the campaign, they’ll need to make the most of the ‘easier’ games provided.
The 2016 champions have Arsenal, United, Chelsea and Liverpool in their first six games of the season so contests with Brighton and Huddersfield in-between are definitely must wins. Craig Shakespeare’s men can enjoy an easier time of things after that, and apart from a tricky double header against Man United and Liverpool in December, the fixture list is also quite kind to them.
The Reds’ title credentials will be tested almost immediately into the new season with back-to-back ties against Arsenal and Man City before and after the first international break in September, and the same against United and Spurs in October. It doesn’t look too frightening after that for Jurgen Klopp’s men, but one wonders how crucial their match against Chelsea on the penultimate game of the season at Stamford Bridge will be for either side.