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Trips to Stoke, Liverpool and Manchester City in first five games could spell trouble for Wenger

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Arsenal will start their 2012-13 Premier League campaign at home – but at first glance it is their away form that will be most severely tested in the opening month of the season.

The Gunners entertain Sunderland on the season’s opening day on August 18, but Arsene Wenger will have noted with a wry grin that their first away task comes at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium a week later.

Stoke’s vociferous fans mercilessly baited Wenger during the Gunners’ 1-1 draw in the Potteries in April, and are sure to line up another warm reception for the Frenchman early next season.

The following week sees the Gunners visit Anfield to take on Liverpool under their new boss Brendan Rodgers, and their next away destination, after a home game with newly-promoted Southampton, is a trip to champions Manchester City on September 22.

With European Cup holders Chelsea next up at the Emirates on September 29, Wenger will be only too aware that the opening half-dozen games present a stern test of Arsenal’s title credentials.

Other eye-catching fixtures are the trip to Old Trafford on November 3, and the first north London derby on November 17 when whoever takes over from Harry Redknapp will bring Spurs to the Emirates on November 17.

Traditionalists will be glad to see a London derby on Boxing Day, when Sam Allardyce’s West Ham will be the visitors to the Emirates, while the Gunners are off to Southampton’s St Mary’s on New Year’s Day 2013.

At the tail end of the season, Arsenal finish with a trip to Newcastle on May 19, preceded by a home game with Wigan on May 12 and away to QPR at Loftus Road on May 4.

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