Yesterday saw the announcement of the fixture list for the 2011/2012 season and it hasn’t given us an easy opening month by any stretch of the imagination. I will take a look at the fixtures month by month, as the Premier League gets uppity if you print a list-style fixture list and would have their goons send me a message ordering it to be taken down.
August sees us kick off the season with an away trip to Newcastle on the 13th. Not the easiest of opening day games. This is then followed by the first leg of our Champions League qualifier in midweek. On Saturday 20th, we have a home game against Liverpool. The following midweek sees us play the Champions League qualifier 2nd leg followed by an away trip to ManU on the 27th.
That, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a tough run of games and the team will have to really hit the ground running if they are to avoid suffering a string of morale crushing defeats in the opening month of the season. Perhaps it will prompt the manager to finish his transfer business early so that that the squad is settled and the new players have had a chance to integrate before the season starts, rather than waiting until August 31st in order to try and save a few pounds in the transfer market, as has been his modus operandi in the last few years.
League prediction: DWL (4pts)
September will offer the chance to get some decent points on the board with a home game to Swansea on the 10th, away to Blackburn on the 17th and home to Bolton on the 24th. All of those games are very winnable with the Bolton game likely to be the toughest of those fixtures. But, if last season taught us anything, it’s that this team is most often at its poorest against the so-called lesser teams, so it will be a good early indicator of whether or not they have learned anything from their previous plethora of mistakes. The Blackburn and Bolton games sandwich the 3rd round Carling Cup tie on the 21st.
There’s no point mentioning the potential Champions League group stage dates as we haven’t qualified for that yet and I don’t want to tempt fate.
League prediction: WWW (9pts)
October looks like it could be a tricky month and it kicks off on the 1st with an away trip to Spurs. This is followed by a two week break which must be for a depressingly dull international break. Normal service is resumed on the 15th with a home game against Sunderland which, given the players they have offloaded this year, we really ought to be winning. Stoke visit the Emirates on the 22nd in what will be a good aerial test for whatever form our revamped defence will take. Will we be able to deal with Delap’s throws? The Carling Cup 4th round, should we still be in it, is on the 26th. The final game of the month sees us travel to Stamford Bridge on the 29th. That game will be a good test of the team’s mettle. If the team can get good results in the games against Spurs and Stoke we could be heading into that game with a good level of confidence, increasing our chances of getting a good result, as this team relies heavily on being confident in order to perform. However, I have a feeling that October won’t be too kind to us this year.
League prediction: DWDL (5pts)
Unusually, November looks set to offer another chance for the team to get some points on the board and in a month that generally treats us very badly both in terms of results and injuries, we just might be able to have a decent November, for a change.
The month opens with a home game to WBA on the 5th. This is a game that we really ought to be winning. This is followed by an away trip to Norwich on the 19th and then a home game against Fulham on the 26th. All three of those games are games that we really ought to be winning if we are to have any kind of serious title aspirations. By mid-November, any kind of buzz felt by Norwich following their promotion should have dissipated and the harsh realities of a Premier League season will have set in. The month ends with a possible Carling Cup quarter final tie on the 30th.
League prediction: WWW (9pts)
December will provide more of a test for the team. The month starts with an away trip to Wigan on the 3rd. On the face of it, this should be a very winnable game, but we all remember being 2-0 up there a year or two ago only to blow the game and lose 3-2. Everton visit the Emirates on the 10th, followed by away trips to Man City on the 17th and Aston Villa on the 21st. That’s a run of three tricky games as we head into the Christmas period. On the 26th we have a home game against Wolves and on the 29th we are home to QPR. I will be hoping to get myself to the QPR game while I am home in Ireland for Christmas. While it won’t be an easy month, it could have been a lot worse as we only have to face one team that is set to challenge for a top four position. Apart from Man City, those other teams will probably finish lower than 8th.
League prediction: WWLDWW (13pts)
The first half of the season will see us playing ten home games and nine away games. Hopefully our home form will be better than it was last season. It will have to be if we want to pick up some silverware.
Okay, that’ll do for part one of my look at the fixtures for the coming season. Part two will be up about an hour after this one, should you be arsed reading it having read this. I will update this post accordingly should the team successfully navigate its way through the Champions League qualifier in August.
As always, you can find me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/colm_smyth Also, thanks to all who have given me an #FF on Twitter. I never expected to reach the number one spot in Japan, let alone spend seven weeks there. Thanks very much!
Take it easy.