Analysing the 24/25 calendar – how the Cups tie into our League campaign and how there may only be THREE free midweeks all season…

We now know Arsenal’s road to the 24/25 Premier League title. We begin at 3pm at home to Wolves on the 17th August, and finish on the 25th May away to Southampton. Here we will be taking an in-detail look at the calendar and how the domestic and European cup games tie-in to our season and what are some of the best case scenarios for us to get the most out of an ever growing match day calendar. 

First of all, let’s take a look at the periods that appear most challenging on paper…

Arsenal have been handed a difficult start to the season, with 3 tough away games against Aston Villa, Tottenham and Manchester City in the first 5 games. Champions League matchday 1 is also placed between the North London Derby and City games. You could argue this is the best time to play these games, with players fresh and motivated for a new season, as opposed to later in the season where tensions are a little higher and legs are a little heavier. 

The new Champions League format comes into effect this year, with teams all playing 8 games against 8 different opponents (4 home & 4 away), on one big league table. In theory every team will have equally difficult draws, each playing 2 teams from pot 1, 2, 3 and 4. Best case scenario is that we will be handed an easier matchday 1 going into the game at the Etihad, such as the Austrian side Sturm Graz from pot 4, whereas Manchester City face one of their pot 1 opponents, such as Real Madrid. However, in the worst case scenario the opposite situation occurs. (We won’t discover our UCL ties until the 29th August.)

Our toughest run in the league comes at the end of October through November. Liverpool at home, followed by Newcaslte and Chelsea both away. Again Arsenal will have a European matchday to break up the latter two fixtures, and again it’s to be seen how difficult a game it will be. One potential issue with the new Champions League draw is that teams can be handed really favourable or unfavourable draws, which in turn could have a drastic effect on your season. One side’s draw could be Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, PSV, Sporting, Monaco & Aston Villa. Another’s could be RB Leipzig, Barcelona, Club Brugge, Shakthar, Bodø/Glimt, Dinamo Zagreb, Stade Best & AEK Athens. The tougher draw could see you finish between 9-24th on the league table, giving you the extra 2 fixtures in February for a play-off round. The other, a couple of free mid-weeks following a busy festive period. 

Having an additional knock-out round to play in Europe could lead Arsenal to play 8 games in 25 days in February. If Arsenal were to also reach the semi-final of the EFL Cup, we would have 4 league games, 2 Champions league fixtures, an FA Cup tie, and the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final. This demonstrates how important it is to finish inside the top 8 of the CL standings and automatically qualify for the round of 16. 

Carabao Cup success


The last two years Arsenal have been poor in the domestic cups, with us not progressing past the 4th round of either competition. There will be many fans who want to see an improvement here this upcoming season, however in order to do so it is clear to see that Arsenal are going to need a big squad. If Arsenal were to reach the final of all their cup competitions, and found themselves involved in the UCL play-off round, there would be a grand total of THREE midweeks without an Arsenal game in the entire season! Two of which would come in August, between our opening 3 games. The other would be the first week of January. As it stands the calendar has three other free midweeks which would be the 22/23rd of April, the 13/14th and 21/22nd of May. The first of which would see a rearranged West Ham game, moved due to the EFL Cup final. The second and third would house rearranged Crystal Palace and Newcastle ties caused by the dates of the FA Cup semifinal and final. 

It is my personal belief that teams in Europe should not be allowed to enter the EFL Cup. With the winner being granted a Europa Conference League spot, with teams already playing in Europe not competing, that allows a new team to qualify for the third tier continental competition every year, which feels like exactly why that competition exists. Then teams may actually try to win the trophy as opposed to rolling out the reserves in the early rounds, relying on luck of the draw to go far. I obviously want Arsenal to win every game they play, but an early exit in this competition, say in the 4th round, combined with a top 8 UCL league phase finish would open up FIVE more free midweeks between December and February, and one more in April. 

In this scenario, the Gunners may be set up for a big end to the season. When looking at the toughest portions of our campaign, they undoubtedly come earlier on. In the second half of the season, the big games are reasonably kindly spread out. Last year’s UCL quarter final had us face Aston Villa in between the two legs, which proved to be too much. This year we would face Brentford in between the games, and if we were to make the semis, Bournemouth. Both at home. This is the sort of luck you may need to keep fighting on multiple fronts come the end of the season. 

Martinelli for the win


Another positive of this year’s fixtures sees Manchester City have a consecutive run of PL games against Chelsea, Arsenal, Newcastle, Liverpool and Tottenham. We know how formidable they can be in the second half of the season, so to repeat that trend, them having to navigate that period could bode very well for our own title hopes.

Could all of this mean anything for the here and now? I have no doubts Mikel and Edu want to win everything. Every trophy, every game, every half of football. With hardly any midweeks off, it’s clear we will need a big squad of players, which could mean maybe we NEED to keep a Reiss Nelson for example. Maybe we NEED to promote Ethan Nwaneri. And of course bolster the squad in the transfer market. The other consideration here is that maybe the January window becomes more of a factor. Let’s say Arsenal find themselves in the aforementioned scenario with 8 games in February instead of 5, the club may decide that they need more reinforcements than initially planned to be able to stay alive in all competitions. 

The load on players is higher than ever, with a EUROs and Copa America this summer, a new formatted Club World Cup next summer (thank goodness we won’t be in that), there really is no respite and something has to give. For me, that has to be the Carabao Cup. I would have no issue with us fielding a completely changed 11, including youngsters if needed, throughout the entire tournament with the exception of the final, if we were to go that far. The first half of the season has to see us finish in the top 8 of the UCL standings, and be top already or be within striking distance of top spot in the Premier League. This would allow us to reset ourselves in February with one game a week, gearing up for a massive March, April and May, in which Arsenal can hopefully go on to compete for a treble!

What do you think of the fixtures and calendar this season? Is there a tricky period that I am missing? What are your expectations for each competition? Let me know!

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