10 Key Fixtures for Arsenal in the 2014/15 Season
Arsenal's Premier League schedule for next season has just been released, so it's time to look ahead to the next chapter for the club.
The Gunners have had pretty poor luck with scheduling in recent years, having to face several top teams in condensed periods during times of the season when it is easy to get physically and mentally worn down.
The full schedule of fixtures is on Arsenal's website here. There are no hellish periods, but there are some very important games. Let's take a look at 10 that could define the Gunners' season.
Aug. 23: Everton (A)
In just the second game of the season, Arsenal will face a very tough test in a trip to Goodison Park to face Everton.
It is imperative that the Gunners begin the season well so they build confidence and are not forced to make up ground as the season goes on. Confidence is built very slowly but can be demolished in an instant.
Arsenal were eviscerated last time they traveled to face Everton and will be looking to banish those demons in a season that hopefully will not be pocked with blowouts.
Sep. 27: Tottenham Hotspur (H)
What game could be more important for Arsenal and their fans than a North London derby?
It seems that Arsenal host a meeting with Spurs at their place in the very early stages of every season. Last year the rendezvous came a bit earlier, but this time the Gunners will still have only played five games before seeing their rivals.
If Arsenal win, it will provide a springboard for success during the tough autumn months and a meeting with Chelsea in their next game.
Oct. 4: Chelsea (A)
Last time Arsenal traveled across London to Stamford Bridge, they were humiliated by a score of 6-0. They will have a chance to banish those demons in early October when they return to Jose Mourinho's den.
Fabregas' presence will cause a lot of tension and will focus everyone's eyes on this already marquee fixture. Last time the pressure was on for Arsenal against Chelsea, they buckled. How will they respond this time?
Nov. 22: Manchester United (H)
Manchester United were at their worst last season, and Arsenal were still unable to beat them. The Gunners will have their first opportunity to excise those demons at home in November.
If the Gunners can finally break their curse and deliver a morale-boosting victory for their home fans, it could spring them to success during a very congested and difficult December.
Dec. 6: Stoke City (A)
Arsenal know how difficult it always is to play Stoke at the Britannia Stadium. While they have been able to break the tough Potters down at the Emirates, that cold climate and choppy pitch have proved troublesome for the Gunners.
Every time Arsenal step into the Britannia, they are greeted by fans who viscerally despise them and the type of fleet-footed, European-style football they play. Those supporters will be emboldened by their side's 1-0 victory over Arsenal last season.
To make matters more difficult for the Gunners, this match will be the third in a very condensed stretch during the holiday season. They play West Brom on November 29 and Southampton on December 2 before this match.
Dec. 20: Liverpool (A)
Liverpool are another side with whom Arsenal have a bone to pick after getting blown out 5-1 at Anfield last season. But there will be no time to focus on that, as this game comes right in the middle of a terribly busy winter schedule.
Arsenal will have just played Southampton, Stoke and Newcastle consecutively before traveling to Liverpool for the toughest game of the bunch. Every one of those matches will wear Arsenal down, so they'll have to fight against the fatigue of their bodies and minds.
Jan. 1: Southampton (A)
For the second consecutive year, Arsenal will play Southampton at St. Mary's Stadium on New Year's Day. And, just like last time, the Gunners might have a tough time beating their opponents.
The Saints are always deceptively good; their final table position does not reflect their ability to win any given match against any given opponent. They are technically capable and defensively very organized, making for a very tough test, especially away from home.
And Arsenal will be weary after battling West Ham a few days before and Queens Park Rangers only two days before that. Arsene Wenger will have to be very astute about squad rotation and managing his players' fitness at a time when injury crises are liable to hit.
The title cannot be won during this period, but it can certainly be lost.
Feb. 7: Tottenham Hotspur (A)
The second North London derby of the season always seems to arrive at a watershed point.
Arsenal's performance in this match could either set them up for a great run in the second half of the season or leave them reeling and having to make up precious points.
Their mindset going into the match will be determined by their performance during the famously difficult English winter schedule that includes Southampton, Stoke and Manchester City in a row during January. If the Gunners falter in that stretch, there will be infinitely more pressure against their crosstown rivals.
Mar. 21: Newcastle United (A)
Playing at St. James' Park is difficult to begin with, though Arsenal have done a very good job of coping with the unique atmosphere at that historic ground. But doing so is more difficult when preoccupied with other matches.
And the Gunners will have to guard against complacency during this period, as they will more than likely be playing in the Champions League round of 16 around the time they travel to Newcastle.
Even if Arsenal are not drawn against Bayern Munich or Barcelona, as they always seem to be, they will have to devote a lot of energy to their two-legged Champions League tie. But they cannot lose focus in a league as ruthless as the Prem.
May 16: Manchester United (A)
How much bigger a game can there be?
Manchester United will host Arsenal in the penultimate game of the season. If both teams make the right additions this summer, they could both be facing off for the title.
It would really help Arsenal's confidence if they could break the spell that United seem to have cast over them in recent years during their first meeting, at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners do not seem to perform well in the biggest games or against the Red Devils, so this is a double dose of difficulty.
If Arsenal can pull off a victory, it will be a legendary performance. But who knows, maybe they will already have clinched the title and Manchester United will be forced to form a guard of honor.