Arsenal all set for festive fixture glut - weather permitting!
The Gunners should have enjoyed their unplanned weekend off, because the next two weeks are going to be hectic
HOW the rest of Europe must laugh at the Premier League fixtures over the festive season.
While players in Italy, Spain and beyond put their feet up for a well-earned mid-season break, their English counterparts will be slugging it out against each other in sub-zero temperatures no fewer than four times in the 10-day holiday period.
Despite calls for the Premier League to follow the lead of Europe’s other top leagues and schedule in at least a small winter window, nothing ever seems to change. In fact this year looks worse than most.
With both Boxing Day and New Year’s Day falling on the weekend, the opportunity was there for some common sense to be applied and let clubs play just two games.
However, midweek fixtures have also been planned for both weeks, and with Sky calling the shots and trying to ensure a maximum number of games with which to feed their engorged festive audience, there is barely a moment without football over the next two weeks.
Good news for all football fans? Well, everyone enjoys the Christmas games, but how many will head up to Wigan next Wednesday night?
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Due to live television coverage, Arsenal and Chelsea are the only two teams not playing on Boxing Day, meaning that the two teams will have had 14 and 15 days off each by the time they meet at the Emirates.
However, the Gunners will then head up to the DW Stadium 48 hours later to face Wigan, get back in the early hours of Thursday morning and then travel to Birmingham on Friday night ahead of the New Year’s Day game at St Andrew’s.
From Boxing Day through to January 5 there will be only three days without a live Premier League game – by which time the situation at the top of the Premier League may be much clearer.
Certainly Arsenal can make great strides over the festive period, but for any side a 10 or 12-point haul could be enough to change their season.
Arsene Wenger still feels his side have a lot to offer in the title race, mainly because all of the main contenders are still to visit the Emirates.
“What is positive is if you look overall at our situation, we are still in a strong position because we still play Chelsea, Man United and Man City at home, Liverpool as well. More than ever, we will still have our say in this league,” said Wenger.
“We have an opportunity to go back to winning habits at home. We were on a good run before United, where we lost 1-0, and it was difficult to swallow, but we have to accept it.”
Wenger will do well to remember that last season Arsenal won precisely none of the corresponding four games, losing at home to Chelsea and at Wiagan while drawing at Birmingham and with Manchester City.
Last Christmas there were only really two league games over the festive period, and Arsenal won them both, beating Aston Villa and Portsmouth before winning 2-1 at West Ham in the FA Cup third round.
This year looks a little more testing, not leat because Chelsea, who have beaten Arsenal in the last five meetings, come to the Emirates on Monday night.
The weather may also have a significant part to play as, although Arsenal are confident the game will go ahead at the moment, any more snow and ice ahead of the weekend could throw the whole festive schedule into doubt.
That would be one way of getting a winter break, but the ramifications for Arsenal, who are the only team in the country still in all four competitions, could yet be serious.
The Gunners already have precious few midweek dates on which to play rearranged games, and with at least three domestic cup ties to come in January, with replays also a possibility in the FA Cup, things could get worse before they get better.
But if the snow melts and play commences, everyone should have had their fill of football by January 5.