by Lewis Ambrose
The fixture lists for the 2015/16 Premier League season were released on Wednesday morning, and Arsenal have been handed an unenviable run of tricky fixtures after Champions League games in midweek.
At first glance the fixture list looks fairly friendly – Arsenal have avoided the sort of ‘death run’ that put a stop to any title hopes during the 2013/14 season.
The season opens nicely – Liverpool at home is the biggest test in the first five fixtures, but Arsène Wenger’s men took 15 points from the corresponding fixtures in 2014/15.
The season also ends nicely, with Manchester City the only fellow top four side that Arsenal will face in the months of March, April and May.
The timing of the Champions League group stage does, however, throw a spanner in the works.
Arsenal have already qualified for the group stage of the Champions League but will have to wait until August to find out their opponents, which matchdays will see us play away from home, and whether or not each game falls on a Tuesday or a Wednesday.
What is sure is that The Gunners will face rivals Chelsea, Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur after European games.
In recent years Arsenal have lost games against Chelsea and both Manchester sides having a short period between European away games and big Premier League fixtures, and Wenger will be wary of befalling the same fate again.
The final two group games are followed by trips to Norwich and Aston Villa and it would be nice if, for once, the Premier League and TV companies took Champions League games into consideration before scheduling games.
Travelling away in Europe is mentally and physically exhausting, as well as time consuming. Teams shouldn’t have to play away in Europe on a Wednesday and then a Premier League game on Saturday – barely allowing one full training session.
Should Arsenal advance to the later stages of the competition ties in the round of 16 and quarter-final could fall amongst games with Manchester United and Spurs again – with Arsenal facing those sides away from home in February and March respectively.
Tricky scheduling and fixture pile-ups are to be expected in a season of 50 or more games when you aim to compete on a number of fronts, and the fixture list cannot be complained about.
What we can ask is that the Premier League, and affiliated broadcasters, are sensible when scheduling weekend games and take into account which sides have had to play – and travel – in the previous midweek.