- People could get back from their vacations;
- There wasn't an unseemly break just after the start of the season; and
- The transfer window could be completed (or all-but) before the matches start up.
The benefits would be as follows:
- The presence of families back from their vacations might increase attendance in places where that is an issue.
- Clubs would have their actual squad for more matches that count. The velocity of change between the first Premier League match of the season and the end of the window is pretty stupid and doesn't exist to my knowledge in any other sport in the world.
- There would be more continuity to the story lines as they develop rather than getting the club narrative started only to have it interrupted almost immediately. It doesn't take a genius storyteller to notice this.
I'd assume that there are logical arguments about fixture congestion that mean that the changes would have to be more sweeping than just one switch out of international fixtures with Premier League matches but I'm sure some grouping of internationals in late August with the elimination of corresponding breaks in the Autumn months could be figured out pretty easily to allow a post-August 31 start to the season without the type of interruptions that we are now experiencing just when we were getting into the season.
If I thought really hard about it I could argue that a solid two week block of international matches in August would be great for both clubs and countries. It would give the national teams a rare solid block of time together. It would give clubs some pre-season time to play and train with some younger (and squad) players. It would give teams without a ton of internationals a slight advantage early in the season. Can anyone think of a reason that this might be a bad thing?
OK, enough ranting and on to the schedule breakdown for the week ahead:
The Home Teams
Arsenal vs. Swansea - The Gooners look like they're going to create stories (both positive and negative) in bulk this season but this weekend should provide some respite with goal-shy Swansea coming to the Emirates with new blood Arteta, Benayoun, and Mertesacker ready to fill some of the gaps that were so conspicuous against Liverpool and United. Swansea has shown great resilience at the back but it has come in the form of letting their opponents shoot...A LOT. That means that even if Arsenal only score a goal they could easily distribute 10+ SOTs. With Vermaelen and Song/Frimpong still unavailable I'm not ready to assume a clean sheet. Verdict: Advantage Arsenal Attackers.
City vs. Wigan - What can you say about a team that is slicing and dicing up its opposition with frightening ease. Throw in a match at home against a team in Wigan that struggled in its first three matches - all against newly promoted sides. To only get three goals out of those matches (two at home) hardly gives one confidence that Wigan are going to score on City at Eastlands. Likewise, there seems to be little way to stop City's attack. Seems like an obvious one to load up on. Verdict: Advantage City Attackers and Defenders.
Fulham vs. Rovers - "Who is playing Rovers?" is showing promise as fantasy gold this season, especially when they are on the road. Combine that with Fulham being excellent at home and it may not have the blowout potential of the Arsenal or City matches but it feels like there are points to be had, especially for Fulham's defenders who churn out clean sheets at home on a pretty regular basis. Verdict: Advantage Fulham Defenders.
The Away Team
ManYoo @ Bolton - As was pointed out in the comments section, Chelsea were looking unstoppable at this point last season and that didn't end up in a particularly great spot in either real life or fantasy. That said, the buy ManYoo and ManCity and stick with them at home and on the road theory seems pretty solid right about now. Bolton may not end up as relegation fodder but they certainly aren't bad but still, hard to see United having to work too hard. Assume that the Red Devils will let in a bad goal (the DDG issues continue) but that they win 3-1 or so. Verdict: Advantage United Attackers.
Chelsea @ Sunderland - Given their respective lots in life and the expectations we have for both teams at this point in their histories both clubs are a bit of a mess. Sunderland have been pretty bad despite bringing in some solid talent over the summer. Chelsea have brought in a lot of talent but seem to have a lot of issues around how it will all fit together. If I had any sense of who would start for Chelsea, I'd be more excited about their potential against Sunderland. I think they'll win and produce some strong fantasy outings, I'm just not sure where the points will come from. Until we know whether Cech is back or not, I'll reserve judgment on the potential for a clean sheet. If Hilario is playing, I'll assume that even Sunderland can manage a goal at home. Verdict: Advantage Chelsea Attackers (but which ones, who knows).
That's about all for the schedule analysis. I wish I had something more innovative than "go with the players from the big teams" this week but that's how the schedule looks this time around. Spurs and Wolves have a tough match-up that I'm going to stay away from. Ditto Liverpool visiting the Stoke grinder. Finally, the prospect of mid-table road teams against the lesser-lights is never appetizing for me for either side.
I'll be back tomorrow with Part II of The Week Ahead.