Opening Premier League fixtures promise baptism of fire for Emery

The 2018/2019 Premier League fixture list has been published and for Arsenal, the first two games promise a baptism of fire for new boss Unai Emery.

The season’s opener on August 11th sees Manchester City visit the Emirates stadium in a game City will be expected to win, or at the very least to draw. Champions City beat Arsenal comfortably in the equivalent fixture last season, coming away with a 3-0 victory in which Bernardo Silva, David Silva and Leroy Sane were on the scoresheet. Unai Emery will have his work cut out plotting a win over the Citizens, and it will take longer than the few weeks he will have with his squad before the first game of the season to instil in them his philosophy. Time will be needed to assess which of the players at his disposal fit his tactics and it may take several transfer windows before he has a squad he is happy with. This is a game Arsenal will be happy to draw.

The Gunners second game takes them to Stamford Bridge where they face a club in flux. By August 8th, Chelsea too will likely have a new manager at the helm and whoever it is will be in the same position as Emery. There is a chance, however, that Conte may still in charge, an outcome Arsenal would no doubt prefer since the problems of last season will not have gone away. If Chelsea do have a new manager, Arsenal will have a slight advantage for having appointed Emery so soon after Wenger’s departure, as he will have had more time to assess his squad than his Chelsea counterpart. For Chelsea, the priority will be to steady the ship as soon as possible and a result of any kind against Arsenal will be seen as a bonus.

Eight winnable games follow against West Ham (h) Cardiff (a), Newcastle (a), Everton (h), Watford (h), Fulham (a), Leicester (h) and Palace (a) before a home game against Liverpool on November 2nd, followed immediately by games with Wolves (h) and Bournemouth (a). As the saying goes, there are no easy games in the Premier League but the Gunners will expect to come away with maximum points from their home games and with draws or wins away.

By the end of November, when the Gunners welcome Spurs to the Emirates (November 30th) and take on Manchester United away (December 4th), we should have a better idea of what it is Emery is trying to achieve and how successful he has been in doing so. Whatever the case, he and his Arsenal squad will, for the first time in Premier League history, enjoy a ten-day breather when the winter break comes into force in February.

Should Arsenal find themselves fighting for a Champions League spot or a place in the Europa league, their end-of-season fixtures could prove an advantage. Avoiding all of the perennial league challengers, their final six games see them pitted against Everton (a), Watford (a), Crystal Palace (h), Leicester City (a), Brighton & Hove Albion (h) and Burnley (a).

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