In what was the game of the tournament so far, the Socceroos nearly upset the Netherlands in a thrilling 3-2 loss earlier today. This game had everything you could want from the neutral standpoint. It had spectacular goals, an inspiring underdog, near-misses, and a little controversy. The swing from Australia nearly going up 3-2 on one end to Memphis Depay’s goal for the Netherlands on the other was brutal for those hoping for the upset. It was an impressive effort from the Socceroos, one that will endear them to millions of people across the world, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.
The other news this morning is the arrival of the Premier League fixture-list. The reveal of the schedule is a sign that the next campaign is nearly upon us. In just a couple weeks, teams will be traveling across the world for their pre-season preparations. Usually this should be an exciting day. But in World Cup years, this particular day holds less intrigue. But at least it gives us an excuse to discuss something about Arsenal other than silly transfer rumors.
There is a lot to like about Arsenal’s fixtures. Unlike last season, there aren’t entire months in which you look at the schedule and say we’re one injury away from four straight losses. The big games are nicely spread out this time, with the only exception being a four game stretch in late September and early October that includes Manchester City and Tottenham at the Emirates followed by Chelsea away.
With all of the players at the World Cup needing an extra break this summer, they might not be completely ready for the first couple games in August. That’s why hosting Crystal Palace in the opener is ideal. A weaker Arsenal side might still be able to cope with Palace, whereas a trip to Anfield, as it was suggested might happen yesterday, would have been especially tough. Knowing there will also be a Champions League tie to play in late August, easier fixtures will be nice. Everton away might prove tough though in the second match.
April will be a big month for the Gunners, with Liverpool and Chelsea coming to the Emirates. Hopefully there will be some Champions League games to play then as well, so that could be a important stretch. A trip to Old Trafford in the second to last week of the season could also hold massive importance, but finishing at home against West Brom should see Arsenal finish the year with a win.
The other thing about the schedule that stands out to me is the Christmas/New Year’s stretch. I know there are always a lot of games to play in a short stretch then, but having to play two games in three days (QPR at home on Boxing Day and West Ham away the 28th) is asking a lot of these players. Having lost Aaron Ramsey to an injury during this period last year, Arsene Wenger will have to be extra careful to give his players the necessary rest to avoid injuries. Younger players could very well see valuable playing time in December.
While the release of the fixture-list isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, it does officially tell us that we are now 59 days away from the season opener. August 16 vs. Crystal Palace. Get ready.