Fixtures: Could Arsenal be top of the table by November?

If Arsenal have serious aspirations about challenging for the Premier League title, their fixture list presents them with a good early target to aim at.

I know, I know. The title is won in May, and games are not won on paper, but hear me out...

A successful early run for Arsenal is going to be crucial for them in 2013/14, we all saw how a poor start last season saw them lurch from one crisis to another, before rescuing it at the end.

The Gunners will want to lay down a marker and show everybody else, and themselves, that they are a team who should be challenging for the title, and the fixture list unveiled today gives them the perfect opportunity to do so.

The calendar gives Arsenal every chance of being top of the Premier League by time November comes around, by which time they can start aiming for a sustained challenge.

Apart from the glamour tie of the North London derby in the third week of the season, over the first three months Arsenal's fixtures are the sort a title winning team will seek to extract near maximum points from.

Their first nine games are: Aston Villa (h), Fulham (a), Tottenham (h), Sunderland (a), Stoke (h), Swansea (a), West Brom (a), Norwich (h), Crystal Palace (a).

It's far to simplistic to say Arsenal are going to win all of them, because while they are undoubtedly capable, there will undoubtedly be a spanner in the works somewhere.

But the run gives the club a real platform to aim to build from and rack up points before November comes around.

The Gunners' first fixture in November is at home to Liverpool before facing Manchester United away, with December posing the threats of Everton (h), Manchester City (a) and Chelsea (h), before tricky festive fixtures away to West Ham and Newcastle.

Arsenal are likely to drop points over these fixtures, which makes maximising the return from the opening nine games even more important.

They can give themselves real confidence for the crunch games by having a positive start to the season, and getting off to a flier. 

If Arsenal can enter November top of the table by time they play Manchester United, the squad may just for the first time in a while believe they are on a par with the Red Devils and play like it.

Their title competitors, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City all face each other through August, September and October and so will take points off one another.

With each of the clubs having new managers, it is not impossible either to imagine at least one of them getting off to a slightly rocky start.

This again opens the door to Arsenal, who now have even more incentive to get their summer transfer business wrapped up early on and hit the ground running.

If they can get off to a promising start and be top in November, then who knows about May, but it will certainly give them a greater chance than the plodding starts of the past two campaigns which have ruled out a challenge even before the calendar turns to the following year.

What do you think of Arsenal's fixture list?

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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