Arsenal have a big fixture advantage over their rivals

Looking at the league table, I noticed that we’d played five of the top six already and that four of them had been away. As the table is now starting to take shape and the current top seven will probably finish in those positions (though in which order, nobody knows) it occurred to me that our start has been far more difficult than that of our rivals.

All the sides have now played 10 games — five away and five at home — except Spurs and Everton whose match was postponed. Take a look at the current league table and look who we’ve played so far. Our away matches are in red and our home ones in blue.

1 Man City
2 Man Utd (L)
3 Newcastle (D)
4 Chelsea (W)
5 Tottenham (L)
6 Liverpool (L)
7 Arsenal
8 Norwich
9 Aston Villa
10 Swansea (W)
11 Stoke (W)
12 QPR
13 West Brom
14 Sunderland (W)
15 Fulham
16 Everton
17 Wolves
18 Blackburn (L)
19 Bolton (W)
20 Wigan

You can see the imbalance in who we’ve had to play on the road. The hardest six of our 38 matches this season will be away to the top six. Well we’ve already got four of those out of the way, taking four points from a possible 12. Not a disaster, but not brilliant either. Although when you consider Man Utd won the league last season taking just 3 points from a possible 18 in their equivalent away matches it actually looks a decent return.

This demonstrates how difficult these fixtures are when the league champions couldn’t beat any of their nearest rivals on their travels. If you need further proof that this is a big factor, consider the season’s surprise package Newcastle. Think they’re third because of their tremendous footballing ability or the marvellous work of Alan ‘Smug Git’ Pardew? Think again. They deserve some credit for remaining unbeaten, but look at who they’ve faced so far (blue at home, red away):

1    Man City
2    Man Utd
3    Newcastle
4    Chelsea
5    Tottenham
6    Liverpool
7    Arsenal
8    Norwich
9    Aston Villa
10    Swansea
11    Stoke
12    QPR
13    West Brom
14    Sunderland
15    Fulham
16    Everton
17    Wolves
18    Blackburn
19    Bolton
20    Wigan

They’ve played seven of the bottom 10 and haven’t had to visit anybody in the top eight yet. I still seethe when I think about Pardew’s classless touchline antics with Wenger in 2006 when he goaded our boss after West Ham’s late winner, so it really annoys me the credit he’s getting for Newcastle’s start. Ok they’ve beaten the teams put in front of them, but let’s see how they do when they have to play the difficult fixtures we’ve endured.

Arsene Wenger at Old Trafford

Cheer up Arsene, at least we don’t have to go back to Old Trafford this season

Anyway, enough Pardew-hating — back to the matter at hand. While we’ve played those four tricky away games, our rivals haven’t had it half as tough. I’ve already showed Newcastle’s kind start, but what of the others?

Man City have played away to Man Utd and Spurs;
Man Utd have played away to Liverpool;
Chelsea have played away to Man Utd;
Spurs have played away to Man Utd and Newcastle;
Liverpool have played away to Arsenal and Spurs.

They all have to play tricky games we’ve already got out the way.

So what of our upcoming matches? It stands to reason that we’ll get more points against the bottom sides than the top ones (irrespective of whether we’re home or away) which makes the next table very good reading. This shows our next nine fixtures up until January 1st (blue at home, red away):

1    Man City
2    Man Utd
3    Newcastle
4    Chelsea
5    Tottenham
6    Liverpool
7    Arsenal
8    Norwich
9    Aston Villa
10    Swansea
11    Stoke
12    QPR
13    West Brom
14    Sunderland
15    Fulham
16    Everton
17    Wolves
18    Blackburn
19    Bolton
20    Wigan

Yes the standout game is away to Man City, but the rest are very winnable, especially the five home games which look like bankers.

Also, as we reach the halfway point of the season on January 1st we’ll have played eight of the top nine away from home, leaving Liverpool away as our only tough match on the road to come.

So it’s not only the 5-3 win and our recent run of results that gives cause for optimism, it’s the games to come too. Our rivals will face tricky away matches which we’ve already negotiated while we’re (hopefully) picking up points against lesser teams and that should give us a real advantage as we battle to finish in the top four.


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