Arsenal must exploit early schedule

Posted by Andrew Mangan

There's a tendency to overthink the fixtures, mostly because they come at a time when very little else is happening. The Premier League 2013-14 took shape on Wednesday morning and requires a superficial look, but not much more.

Arsenal's opening game of the season, home against Aston Villa, provides a good chance to kick the season off with three points, ahead of a trip to Fulham the following week.

Then the Gunners have the first North London derby of the season when Spurs visit the Emirates, which is followed by a run of games that Arsenal really should look to exploit. Sunderland (A), Stoke (H), Swansea (A), WBA (A), Norwich (H) and Crystal Palace (A) are fixtures that any title-chasing side should look at to rack up some early-season points.

Liverpool and Manchester United within a week of each other at the start of November are traditionally big games, and it's interesting to see the two repeat fixtures take place inside three days in February. But it's March that stands out like a sore thumb in the Gunners' schedule.

Assuming Arsenal are still there or thereabouts in the league, the second half of that month could well decide the season. Spurs (A), Chelsea (A) and Man City (H) will be a real test at a time in the season when legs get tired and when the pressure is really on. Of course, how important those games are depends entirely on what Arsenal do until then.

The run-in looks kind enough also, with the final five games of the season all very winnable - on paper, at least.

Still, at this point, with no possible analysis of the Arsenal team that might play these games (or the opposition for that matter), there's little we can really draw from the newly released schedule.

While it's a cliche, taking it one game at a time is the only way to go.

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