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A positive start to the season needed at Arsenal
Good news for all English football fans: There is just a month left until the start of the 2016-17 Premier League season. As you know by now, Arsenal FC have quite a tough schedule during the first few weeks. After hosting Liverpool in the season opener on Sunday 14th August, a trip to Leicester to face the current champions City can be found on Arsene Wenger’s calendar.
Southampton and Chelsea at home in week 4 and 6 pose further threats and difficult challenges, however, games against Hull and Watford provide us with excellent opportunities to collect all three points. Overall, it’s a difficult opening six fixtures but the task ahead also provides us with the chance to make an early statement and if Wenger’s men can perform well in August and September and collect possibly 13 out of 18 points, it would put us in great position during the early stages of the title race.
What are the main requirements to accomplish that?
Good form at the Emirates is clearly a key component considering the “easier” away tasks at Leicester City and especially Watford (week 3) and Hull City (week 5). Towards the end of the 2015-16 season, Arsenal showed excellent form at home, taking 13 from 15 home points. It’s a trend that needs to continue over the coming months.
Nevertheless, the away games cannot be forgotten. The visit to Hull City will take place on a weekend after playing Champions League in midweek for example. Considering the UEFA seeding rules, the opponent could well be a European heavyweight such as Bayern or Barcelona too.
What are possible problems?
Aside from the aforementioned post-Champions League trouble, some players will return to pre-season training very late. Especially those players that made it far in Euro 2016 will be in doubt to perform up to their regular level early on. Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny have suffered the disappointment of losing the final at home against Portugal. Mentally and physically, it is highly doubtful that both will be at 100%.
Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey are further Arsenal players that were in France nearly until the end. Notably, each one of them is a key part of Wenger’s squad and cannot be replaced as easily, so they will be sorely missed if they are unavailable for the first couple of games. At least Alexis Sanchez, for the second year in a row, comes home to London on a high as Copa América champion.
What do I expect?
Arsenal will be under pressure to do well early on. Will it happen without half of the fans shouting for Wenger’s head this time around? Having the most difficult games at home gives us the opportunity to get some points early on, despite all the problems that might surround the club during the opening weeks.
In October and November, Burnley, Swansea City, Middlesbrough and Sunderland pave the way to the North London Derby. A good start could really work wonders. My prediction: Arsenal will take 22 of an available 30 points to put us in an excellent position in the title hunt. Let’s just hope we don’t blow it again during the second half of the campaign.