Arsenal need a fast start or title could be gone by October

By on July 10, 2024


Mikel Arteta and Edu are working hard trying to strengthen the Arsenal squad ahead of the new season and most fans are focussed on potential new arrivals right now.

The clubs hierarchy are targeting several new faces with a left-back, central midfielder, winger and striker reportedly on the agenda. We’ll also need another back-up goalkeeper if Aaron Ramsdale leaves in search of regular first team football, so it’s expected to be a busy few weeks ahead in north London.

However, while most fans are distracted by transfer rumours, we also recently saw the Premier League fixtures for next season confirmed and Arsenal have been handed an extremely difficult opening few weeks.

I think the ‘luck of the draw’ in what fixtures you get, and when you get them, is often not spoken about enough. Particularly in a title race against Manchester City when fine margins determine the eventual winner of the Premier League. Getting off to a fast start and putting points on the board early is vital, as the last thing you want is to be playing catch-up on City after only a few weeks.

In each of the last two season, when Arsenal have mounted serious title charges, we have got off to excellent starts and put long unbeaten runs together. This ensured we stayed with the leading pack and didn’t lose touch with our rivals early on.

Tough start

Given the important of a fast start, it was hugely disappointing to see our opening few games when the fixtures were released recently. Arsenal’s opening Premier League game on August 17th was relatively kind as we’ll play host to Wolves at the Emirates Stadium. As first games go, we couldn’t have asked for much better and Arteta will be confident of getting three points on the board on the opening weekend.

However, things get a lot tougher for Arsenal. After hosting Wolves, the Gunners first away game will be at Villa Park to take on Aston Villa on August 24th. Fans won’t need reminding that Villa were our bogey team last season as we lost both home and away to the Villains.

Despite dominating for much of the game, Arsenal lost 1-0 at Villa Park in controversial circumstances in December 2023. We then famously imploded in the second half at the Emirates as Villa ran out 2-0 victors to hand City the impetus in the title race. Many feel those defeats ultimately cost us the title last season.

Arteta will be out to avenge those losses, but there is no denying that it’s an extremely difficult first away game for Arsenal and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see us drop points against the team that finished fourth last season.

Our next home game will see Arsenal take on Brighton in North London on August 31st. Brighton have also been something of a bogey team for Arsenal over the years and we’ll be up against a new manager in Fabian Hurzeler – who’ll be looking to make his mark early on.

Arsenal should still be confident of picking up another win in our second home game against the Seagulls before heading into the September international break.

North London Derby

Following the two-week hiatus, Arsenal will make the short trip across North London to take on arch rivals Tottenham on September 15th. The North London Derbies are always the first fixtures fans look out for when the schedule is released, and getting hold of Spurs tickets for the away game is extremely difficult so this is certainly a game to look forward to.

Traditionally, Arsenal have played at home first before taking on Spurs away during the second half of the season. However, the fixture computer has switched things up for next season so we face a daunting trip to the New Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in our second away game.

Arsenal won this fixture last season as we continued our push for the title, but playing Spurs away is always a tough game and that will be no different in September. Ange Postecoglou has settled well since taking over at Tottenham and guided them to a respectable fifth place finish in his first season in charge.

The Aussie will strengthen his squad this summer and Spurs will be looking to make a statement by beating Arsenal to announce themselves as potential title contenders next season, so we’ll have to be at our best to come away with a positive result.

Early title decider

Things don’t get any easier for Arsenal as our fifth game sees us take on defending champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on September 22nd in what could be an early title decider.

After finishing just two points behind City last season, the outcome of the two games between us and City ultimately decided the title. Had we won the away fixture instead of drawing, Arsenal would have lifted the title due to our superior goal difference, so it’s safe to say the game at the Etihad in September will be vital.

To play away to City so early on is bad luck, but to play them straight after Tottenham away is devastating. It also means Arsenal will play three extremely difficult games in each of our opening three away fixtures:

  • Wolves [H]
  • Aston Villa [A]
  • Brighton [H]
  • Tottenham [A]
  • Man City [A]

This has got to be the toughest opening five fixtures we’ve faced in years. Arsenal have no choice but to win our two home games and then pick up some positive results on the road to Villa, Spurs and City. If we suffer three defeats in our away games, then our title charge could be over before we play our sixth fixture.

City’s opening fixtures are Chelsea, Ipswich, West Ham, Brentford and Arsenal. They are likely to get at least 4 wins from those 5 games [if they beat us], so Arsenal could find themselves at least six points behind the champions if we lose our opening three away games.

Obviously there will still be a long way to go, but as we’ve learned in the past two years, you simply cannot afford to give City any decent lead and we won’t want to be playing catch up heading into the second half of the season when City are so strong.

Therefore, Arteta will have to have his squad fully prepared and ready to hit the ground running from the start of the season. We can’t afford any time to ‘get going’ and find our form, we need to be at it from the first game.

We should also aim to get new signings wrapped-up as soon as possible so they are fully integrated into the squad well ahead of the opening weekend. It’s vital that Arsenal start well and head into the vital three away games against Villa, Spurs and City in top form to ensure we are right in the title fight from the beginning of the campaign.