This morning the Premier League fixtures were released and I was eager to see what hand we had been dealt for the forthcoming season. Fingers were crossed for a generous start, nice weather fixtures against the seaside clubs and most of all a decent run in. Sadly, I was disappointed on all three counts!
The opening day fixture away against Manchester United gives me mixed feelings. It will add to our list of walk in the park, opening day fixtures… We have now been pit against Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal away in the last three seasons. That being said, we beat Arsenal and were unlucky not to get a point at Stamford Bridge. Often the bigger sides take time finding their feet and bedding in their new signings. We could do the same if Bilic can set his side up right at Old Trafford come Saturday 12th August.
I was eager to spot out our fixtures against the new boys. We play Newcastle away first and then we welcome Huddersfield to the London Stadium for the first time. They are going to need a top transfer window to compete at this level. I hope we don’t show them any sympathy. A win against the Terriers and West Brom would set us up nicely for that London derby against Spurs.
Sadly we won’t be getting our beach towels and trunks out this year. Brighton and Hove would have been a top fixture in September or May, but it’s okay, I’ve heard the south coast is lovely in February! The Amex is a top stadium and Premier League football has been on the cards for a while for the Seagulls. I’ll be hoping to bag my tickets to that one rain or shine. The popular away day at Bournemouth won’t be much better. A Boxing Day trip will hopefully gift us some Christmas cheer at least.
Three points at Bournemouth could be vital in regards to our December fixtures. We have a busy and hectic schedule. We start away at Manchester City before playing back-to-back London derbies against Chelsea and Arsenal. Finally, we head to Tottenham before the New Year. We had similar tough patches last season and have managed to pull through. I’m hoping bundling the tough fixtures together will give us breathing space for large periods of the season. September/October, for example, are relatively straight forward with just one tough fixture at home to Tottenham. If we can get a run together, the form will play a massive role in maintaining our momentum negotiating the tougher periods.
Unfortunately one of those tough patches is our run in. I think if we have been given a similar set of fixtures last season, we could have seen the drop. April will see us play Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. Realistically I can only see us picking up five points from the last 6 fixtures if we were to play them tomorrow.
However, whilst I’m disappointed with the initial outlook, I’m trying to curb my pessimism. After last season’s slog, I am looking forward to a fresh start. This will be an interesting season. Everyone is starting to lift their game with the money that is being pumped into the Premier League. Now with the likes of Sunderland missing and a solid Newcastle side being promoted, I also think it’ll be tight at the bottom. Looking at the fixtures, I’m still optimistic about a top ten finish and a good cup run. Let’s hope this comes to light!