Having analysed those sides with Strong schedules over the next four to six Gameweeks, our second instalment takes a look at those for whom the fixture list is not smiling so kindly. Thankfully for Fantasy managers, very few teams of Fantasy relevance are adversely affected, with only one of our featured six currently residing in the top half of the Premier League table:
Earning three points at the expense of Sunderland could prove absolutely crucial to Paul Lambert’s embattled team. After failing to fully capitalise on a relatively kind festive fixture list, the Villains now have a storm to weather as they face Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton in the next four Gameweeks. The visit of West Brom should provide some relief but neither league nor Fantasy points look immediately forthcoming from the Midlands outfit.
In the short term, then, investment in a defence that has just one clean sheet in the last seven games doesn’t look well advised and owners of Nathan Baker and Brad Guzan might want to consider their options. Christian Benteke’s woeful form has looked to be a key factor in Villa’s plight and these fixtures won’t help him get back on track. Similarly, Gabby Agbonlahor’s winning strike against Sunderland might have earned him some early wildcard suitors if it weren’t for these fixtures. It is worth noting, however, that the picture brightens considerably around Gameweek 23, just in time for a late wildcard.
Michael Laudrup’s side put up a spirited fight against Man City on New Year’s Day and used their momentum to knock Man United out of the FA Cup. Unfortunately, the Swans face a further two consecutive tests of character in the form of another trip to Old Trafford and home game against Tottenham – fixtures which should be enough to delay any investment.
Swansea defenders have been something of a disappointment this time round and any remaining owners of the likes of Ashley Williams and Chico Flores may decide to cut their losses. The Swans’ attacking assets have not really earned themselves any fans over the last few months but Wilfried Bony’s brace against Man City and last-minute winner in the Cup showed some of the promise he showed during his wonder season in the Eredivisie and has brought him onto a few radars. The good news for suitors of the Ivorian is that, as with Villa, Swansea’s fixtures pick up considerably around Gameweek 23, making him a better call for a late wildcard than an early one.
Rene Meulensteen now has an unenviable job on his hands. Having steadied Martin Jol’s sinking ship with two wins from the last three, the Cottagers boss has a home game against Sunderland before the fixtures turn ugly, with Arsenal, Man United, Southampton and Liverpool in the following five. Fulham’s fixtures shine a cold light on an already unpopular source of Fantasy players.
Anyone who thought that Meulensteen’s arrival might bring a budget defence to the table may want to wait for a while before assessing the likes of Sascha Riether and Fernando Amorebieta. Steve Sidwell’s fourth goal of the season could have made him an unlikely budget prospect but not, surely, with these fixtures. With a goal in each of his last three games, it would appear that the new coach has indeed resurrected the dormant form of Dimitar Berbatov but, again, the schedule counsels against investment.
BE WARY OF
A spate of injuries and suspensions could hardly have come at a worse time as the Magpies brace themselves for the arrival of Man City next week. With games against Chelsea and Tottenham also in the next six, Fantasy investment in Alan Pardew’s side looks set to be slow. Clean sheets in particular look scarce on Tyneside in the short-term with Fabricio Coloccini and Tim Krul injured and Mathieu Debuchy suspended. Yohan Cabaye is also an injury doubt after missing the FA Cup loss to Cardiff – frustrating, given his consistent production – while Loic Remy’s stuttering winter form hardly fills his owners with optimism for the forthcoming fixtures.
West Bromwich Albion
Still without a permanent manager since sacking Steve Clarke, the Baggies are a little rudderless now. Not an ideal situation considering that the next six Gameweeks contain games against Southampton, Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea. Such a schedule should deter investment in a defence that has kept just one clean sheet in ten games. Recent goals from Saido Berahino and Nicolas Anelka have registered their names on a few Fantasy radars, for use in a 3-5-2 formation, but caretaker manager Keith Downing continues to tinker with both team shape and player personnel, allowing us to steer clear until the schedule clears a little.
A triumphant FA Cup victory over Newcastle heralded the arrival of the Bluebirds’ new gaffer Ole Gunnar Solskjær. He has been handed a bit of tough task in the league, though, given that, while home games against West Ham and Norwich look eminently winnable, those fixtures come either side of back-to-back visits to the two Manchester teams. With Cardiff’s assets hitherto attractive primarily for defensive rotation, this schedule looks manageable but there’s a word of warning that Solskjær’s offensive-minded style could compromise the defensive solidity that his predecessor brought to the team. The flip side of that is that players such as Peter Whittingham and even Craig Noone could become more attractive, but it might be best to use these games to monitor the impact of the new regime.