Premier League 2021/22: Which team has the worst opening six fixtures?

Aymeric Laporte of Manchester City and Reece James of Chelsea (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Aymeric Laporte of Manchester City and Reece James of Chelsea (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images) /

It’s that time of the year again! The table has been reset, the new Premier League fixtures announced. And so, the countdown begins to opening day, when, once again, twenty teams will begin their ten month-long journeys.

There will be surprises, and there will be heartbreaks; some will pay the price for failure, and some will be heralded as new heroes; fans will be back inside the stadium, and players will long for the days when there wasn’t a barrage of abuse raining down on them from the stands. One thing is for certain: It’s going to be a lot of fun!

Some teams don’t consider fun as an essential part of the Premier League experience. For them, winning comes before all else, and there isn’t any height they aren’t willing to scale for the same. Six clubs represent this relentless pursuit of success.

Six clubs, who were prepared to go above and beyond the structure of the league itself to redefine what success means in conventional terms. The big six, as we call them, are back into the fold – for now. And some of them have absolutely wretched fixtures to begin the new season with!

What Premier League top-six club has it bad?

Before we answer that question, we must ask ourselves what are bad fixtures? Those who have watched the Premier League for years now know that there aren’t any easy games. The element of surprise is what makes the competition so great, and in that sense, every fixture for every team is a ‘bad fixture’.

In the conventional sense, though, a bad run of fixtures would indicate a period during which one of those ‘big six’ clubs has to go up against three or more of their direct rivals. Those are the matches on which the entire season hinges.

Four of the ‘big six’ teams face at least three or more of their rivals in the opening six matches. Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Tottenham all face early visits from and trips to their closest challengers.

However, Chelsea faces the worst schedule out of the lot, with the Blues facing Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Tottenham in the early rounds.

Throw in Aston Villa, the team which beat them on the final day of the 2020/21 season, and Crystal Palace into the mix, and Thomas Tuchel’s team is looking at a nightmarish start to the season.

How did Chelsea do last season?

“Sometimes maybe good, sometimes maybe s**t”  – who better to define Chelsea’s 2020/21 Premier League campaign than the perennially distressed, Gennaro Gattuso.

The Blues started the season well under Frank Lampard, with early results making them a favorite in many people’s eyes. However, by mid-December, all the early season hope had vanished and Lampard was already fighting for his job – a battle which he would go on to lose.

A remarkable stat went around as the noise around Lampard’s potential sacking became more pronounced. Chelsea still hadn’t beaten any considerable opposition in the league, including their top-six rivals. The Blues’ record in the mini-league was abysmal: played five, won zero, drawn two, and lost three.

Thomas Tuchel’s arrival changed that. The German was appointed by the club in January 2021, and by mid-March, his team had beaten Spurs and Liverpool and drawn against Manchester United. Tuchel’s Chelsea would go on to beat Manchester City in the final weeks of the season but would lose to Arsenal.

Should the Blues be worried?

If the Blues pick up the new season where they left off the previous one, there is no reason for them to be worried. Tuchel’s game plans against the top-six sides worked wonderfully, as such, he will relish getting four of those five matches out of the way within the first two months of the new season.

Furthermore, a good start to the new campaign will set Chelsea up nicely for the subsequent months. Chelsea will take part in six competitions next term so a positive start will impact any potential title charge.

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Conversely, a poor start to the season could suck the confidence out of the team. However, the Blues face their toughest opponents in the adaptation period of the season, when new players are looking to settle in and old ones are trying to find their feet again.