It feels like the most recent season in the English Premier League has only just ended. In real terms, it has. We’re only a month on from Manchester City reclaiming their crown from Liverpool, with Leicester missing out on the Champions League on the final day and Sheffield United, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham suffering the agony of relegation. Football, though, moves on at a relentless pace. The Euro 2020 tournament is up and running, and when that’s over, it won’t be long before the next domestic season begins in England. Preparations are already underway, and we now know what the first round of fixtures will be.
When it comes to making fixtures, fate for all twenty teams in the division rests in the hands of a complex computer program that looks at the available dates, takes into account which teams play in the same city, and then randomises the fixtures while taking those parameters into account. It’s like a giant online slots game, spinning all the variables around and then spewing out random results. Just like when we’re playing online slots, some of those outcomes are winners, and some are losers. Perhaps this is why football-themed slots are among the most popular offerings at Rose Slots CA. We enjoy that feeling of random fun – although some of the teams are more likely to have that “online slots jackpot” feeling than others when looking at their opening weekend opponents!
The team that’s been handed the toughest break of them all is Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs’ season fell apart alarmingly last season even before the departure of Jose Mourinho and didn’t get much better under the temporary stewardship of Ryan Mason. It’s looking increasingly likely that Paulo Fonseca will take charge at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium next season. Whether he’ll still have the services of Harry Kane to call upon is another matter, but his “welcome to the Premier League” gift is an opening fixture at home to reigning champions Manchester City. The home advantage should count for more than it did last season because fans will be back in stadiums, but Spurs fans aren’t a happy bunch at the moment. This fixture has all the hallmarks of a baptism of fire for the new Spurs coach, and they’ll go into the game as underdogs whether they manage to keep hold of Harry Kane or not.
The announcement of the opening round of fixtures is always especially exciting to fans of teams who are new to the division. The most excited of them all will be fans of London-based Brentford, who will compete in the Premier League for the first time ever after their dramatic playoff victory against Swansea City. They begin their season at home at the Brentford Community Stadium against Arsenal. Like their big rivals Spurs, Arsenal had a difficult season last time around. They won’t compete in Europe next season and will struggle to attract top-tier players during the summer transfer window because of that. They might yet lose some of their stars. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will begin the season with his job under threat. An opening day loss to Brentford would only make the situation worse, so he’ll be desperate to avoid it.
For Norwich City, their return to Premier League action after a season away is barely any better than Tottenham’s. They also have the advantage of starting the season at their home stadium of Carrow Road, but they’ll have a difficult game against Liverpool to contemplate. Liverpool’s form dipped last season after a two-year spell in which they looked almost invincible, but they recovered well enough to finish third and will strengthen over the summer. Liverpool will want to prove that they carry a title threat as quickly as possible, so a comprehensive victory over the Canaries is what they’ll be looking for. With no disrespect intended to Norwich, it will be a surprise if they don’t get one.
Watford has also returned to the Premier League after a single season away and have begun their summer transfer activity by landing Spurs outcast Danny Rose. His extensive experience as a Premier League defender might be essential if they’re to avoid falling back out of the league again at the first attempt. They’ll test their mettle at home to Aston Villa on the opening weekend. Where Aston Villa are involved, anything is possible. They alternated between looking weak and looking like world-beaters last season, dropping away after a very strong start to finish mid-table. This is a fixture that Watford will believe they can win. It’s hard to know what kind of Aston Villa team might line up against them, but if the rumours that 36-year-old Ashley Young is high on their summer shopping list are true, it probably doesn’t bode well for their ambitions.
Manchester United finished second in the Premier League last season but were a long way adrift of their neighbours. Closing the gap will be far from easy, but if they land their summer transfer targets, they might be capable of it. They’ve been handed an opening day test against their long-time rivals Leeds United. Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa has yet to sign a new contract at Elland Road but is expected to remain in the dugout for one more year. His guile against the occasional tactical naivety of United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should make for an entertaining battle, but the Mancunians had little difficulty overwhelming Leeds in the league last season. It’s difficult to imagine things being any different this time around.
Of all the big teams, Chelsea look to have been handed the easiest opening day assignment against Crystal Palace. As of the time of writing, Palace is yet to persuade a new manager to take the reigns at Selhurst Park after the retirement of Roy Hodgson. They might find persuading star player Wilfried Zaha to stick around for yet another season even harder. Palace is always among the teams predicted for relegation before the season begins, but for the past few years, Hodgson’s managerial talent has kept their heads above water. Without him, they might struggle. Being hammered by the reigning European champions would be a bad start, but it’s probably going to happen anyway.
Elsewhere, Burnley take on Brighton, Everton face Southampton, Leicester have an instant Midlands derby against Wolves, and Newcastle are at home to West Ham. Between now and then, there will be transfers, managerial changes, and controversies. The new season is coming. Let the games begin!