With the World Cup just beginning, the start of the Premier League season may still seem a million miles away. However, Thursday saw the announcement of the Premier League fixtures – an important day in the footballing calendar for everyone. Of course, every team have to play each other twice and theoretically, it shouldn’t matter when each team play their rivals. Yet, the importance of a good start to the season cannot be understated. It can help a team gather momentum ahead of tougher tests down the line. Here, 90MAAT takes a look at which teams have the hardest and easiest starts to the season.
The 2018/19 Premier League season marks a new dawn for Arsenal Football Club. After 22 years at the helm, Arsene Wenger (finally) stepped down as manager, with former Sevilla and PSG coach Unai Emery coming in to replace him. Unfortunately for the new boss, the fixtures gods have not been kind to him and his life .
The Gunners start the new season at home to the champions, Manchester City, followed by a trip to Chelsea, with there being a genuine possibility that Arsenal could be pointless after their first two games. This less than ideal start is followed by two more comfortable games, hosting West Ham before travelling to new boys Cardiff City, back in the Premier League for the first time since 2014. Two tricky games come after the September international break: a trip to Newcastle United is often a tough fixture, particularly under Rafa Benitez, and Everton have the ability to hurt Arsenal in the next game.
Whilst some Arsenal fans might be worried for the start of the season, and understandably so, it represents a stern challenge that the players should relish. If Emery can re-install the big game mentality that was lost in the latter stages of Wenger’s reign, positive results in their first two games could kick start Arsenal’s campaign in the best possible fashion.
Last season, David Wagner and his team began their season in style, picking up seven points from their first three games without conceding a goal. If they can repeat the feat this time around, it will be twice as impressive. That is because, like Arsenal, the Terriers begin their season with games against Chelsea and Manchester City. They will need their vociferous home support in their opener against the Londoners, before a trip to the Etihad which will arguably be their toughest game of the campaign. The Terriers can take encouragement from the fact they managed to scrap it out for a deserved point away at City last season. Could they do it again come August?
Their home game against Cardiff at the end of the August will be one that Wagner is targeting all three points, before they round off their pre-international break fixtures with a testing game away Everton. Realistically, four points from their opening four games would represent a respectable start to the season for the Terriers.
After a strong end to last season, Newcastle fans will not only be praying that they can keep hold of Rafa Benitez, but also that Mike Ashley digs into his pocket and spends some money for a change. Unfortunately for the Magpies, any new signings will not have easy games to get used to the Premier League. Home games to Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal, plus a trip to Manchester City in their first five games mark an extremely tough start for Newcastle.
Without wanting to be disrespectful to Cardiff fans, their trip to South Wales represents their best chance of earning three points. Fortunately for Newcastle fans, in 2018 the Toon have been very good at home against the ‘Big Six’, conquering Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea on their way to securing a 10th placed finish. Geordies will be hoping for more of the same if they want to make significant progress.
Jürgen Klopp starts the 2018/19 Premier League with four very winnable games. Two home games against West Ham and Brighton, coupled with two slightly harder away games at Crystal Palace and Leicester will leave the Reds feeling confident of a strong start to the season.
They won all of the corresponding games last season, winning the two home games with an aggregate score of 8-1. With no major departures expected, and the arrivals of two new big money midfielders in Naby Keita and Fabinho, Liverpool fans will be hoping that only a new goalkeeper and more defensive cover will be the changes required to make this team a title contender.
Whilst their two away games are certainly not the easiest, Liverpool should be a different animal next season compared to last, and these are the games they need to be winning with relative ease if they are to challenge the two Manchester clubs for the Premier League title this year. The main challenges will come at the end of September and the start of October, when they face Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester City in the space of four weeks. After this period, we will be able to establish their title credentials.
Just like their Merseyside rivals, Everton also have a relatively comfortable start to the new Premier League campaign. Of their opening seven games, just Arsenal finished in the top half last season, whilst also playing two of the newly promoted games in this period. Marco Silva has every opportunity to make an excellent start to his time on Merseyside.
Historically, Everton have always had a strong home record, using their passionate supporters to their advantage. They will particularly look to benefit from this next season, where the fixtures gods have blessed them with a remarkable run of home games that does not see them play one of the Big Six until the end of December. The flipside of that does mean Everton’s hardest games come away from home against the top side – against whom their recent record is abysmal. However, if Marco Silva can use the home crowd to his advantage, it can generate momentum ahead of the sterner challenges ahead, both at Goodison Park and away from home. Watch out for the Blues to get off to a flying start under their new boss, as they look to breach the gap to the top six.
The current Premier League champions will be licking their lips after the Premier League fixture reveal. Despite a tricky opener away at Arsenal, Manchester City’s next six games should render 18 points, when they face all three of the newly promoted sides in the space of four weeks. City were outstanding against teams in the bottom half of the Premier League table, and with the other three games in that period coming at home to Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield, you wouldn’t bet against them setting the pace at the top of Premier League just like they did last year.
In their 20 games against bottom half opposition last season in the Premier League, Manchester City went unbeaten – winning an astonishing 18 and drawing just two. Whilst Newcastle finished 10th last season, City did the double over them on their way to winning the title. People may remember the simply incredible start that City had last season under Pep Guardiola. After drawing their second game against Everton, they went on a record-breaking 18-win streak to effectively seal the Premier League title before the end of 2017.
Whilst it is unlikely that City will match last season’s exploits, they’ve been given every chance to at least get off to a flying start on their quest to defend their title.