Arsenal are facing a potential fixture nightmare ahead of their first Europa League campaign in 18 years with five away games set to follow immediately after group-stage ties.
Premier League teams discovered their full fixture list ahead of the 2017-18 season on Wednesday morning but it would have made for grim reading for Arsene Wenger, who may already be worrying about player fatigue.
Their Europa League campaign will start on September 14 and will be immediately followed by a trip to champions Chelsea, where they have lost their last five fixtures. That represents the first of five away fixtures to follow European ties, including another difficult trip to Manchester City, and making for a potentially hellish few weeks of traveling.
Indeed, Arsenal will be well aware that competing in the Europa League could mean much longer trips around the continent with a large amount of the 32 teams hailing from the east. A trip to Lokomotiv Moscow, for instance, would mean a 3,600-mile round-trip in the build-up to what could be a crucial fixture in their Premier League season.
They could yet escape a worst-case scenario, however, should the home and away fixtures fall kindly for them when the Europa League group draw is made on August 25 in Monaco. For instance, a home fixture in their first group game would significantly cut travel for the Gunners, allowing them plenty of time to prepare for the short journey across London to face Antonio Conte’s side at Stamford Bridge. ALSO READ:Shopping Mall To Replace Uganda National Theatre After Over Sixty Years Of Existence
Arsenal fans will also have to cope with the unfamiliar Thursday night/Sunday afternoon cycle of fixtures with all the above Premier League ties set to move from their stated dates.
The fixture nightmare adds unwanted angst to Wenger, who is already busy trying to build his new Arsenal squad ahead of next season. He is believed to be targeting moves for Monaco starlet Kylian Mbappe and Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette. More pressingly, the club are also working hard to tie Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil down to new contracts with it looking increasingly likely that the Chilean will leave this summer.