They always say seven is a lucky number. Certainly, the role of an iconic No.7 and the work of Paul Clement – Swansea’s seventh manager in the Premier League – had supporters in seventh heaven at the end of last year.
The hope will be that such numerical advantages continue. Because the tone of Swansea City’s seventh season in the Premier League will be set after its first seven games.
It is usual for players and managers to say to wait ten games before assessments are made.
Yet, the first take on the new schedule for the new season, suggests that there will already be a good idea of whether Clement has been able to build on last term’s success by then.
Handily – or not so for one previous Liberty boss, Francesco Guidolin, sacked after the first seven games of last year – the international breaks provide decent markers.
The first comes after the opening three August games. There are far tougher starts that Swansea could have had – and, indeed, have had in the past.
But two games on the road either side of the visit of a Manchester United side set for strengthening this summer will be a test, especially with Swansea not enjoying a great record at Southampton where their campaign gets underway.
There are happier memories of visits to Crystal Palace, currently without a manager, with last year’s revival under Clement beginning at Selhurst Park.
But, going up to the October international break, that assessment of improvement will become clear. Swansea welcome newly-promoted Newcastle to the Liberty before the visit of Watford to South Wales comes between two London trips – including that visit to Wembley as the new, temporary home of Tottenham.
It is a run that (swapping Championship champions for last year’s 18th-placed side, Hull) Swansea collected just one win and one draw from in last year’s corresponding fixtures.
There will be different aims this time, an eagerness to show that Clement has been able to work harder and longer with his side now out of the survival storm. The home form of the end of last term – where they won six of the nine under Clement – will give confidence, certainly against a Newcastle team still getting used to their return toi the top-flight, a Watford side adapting under new management and even the big-game test of Jose Mourinho’s Europa League champions.
The international break will offer a period of reflection before an October that seems key to pushing on to meet any aims of top-half finishes.
New boys Huddersfield and Brighton both come to the Liberty, as well as Leicester, with a trip to the happy-hunting ground of Arsenal before the third international breaks.
It may seem a month to be targeted, though such months or blocks of games proved disastrous last term.
In truth, right now the fixtures are little but names and dates on a list: the real significance only comes when the type of battle Swansea are in becomes clear, who their rivals are, and the form both take.
But it does not take a genius to see that January looks a tough slog. Coming on the back of a Christmas run of four games in nine days, Spurs kick off 2018 in South Wales, the trip to Newcastle then followed by visits of Liverpool and Arsenal.
The latter game is a midweek affair, one of three already pencilled in (TV picks and European involvement inevitably to throw up changes) and all against big hitters: Swansea go to Stamford Bridge on a Wednesday night on November 29 with Man City (Tuesday 12 December) and Arsenal (Tuesday 30 January) both under the lights at the Liberty and the kind of atmospheres that have led to memorable results in the past.
But the tone for the campaign will have been set long before then. It’s safe to say Paul Clement will be aiming for a magnificent seven.