Our regular “frisk” of the Premier League fixture list from a Fantasy perspective returns ahead of Gameweek 5.
In this feature, we assess the top-flight clubs with the strongest and weakest runs of league matches over the coming weeks and offer our thoughts on the stand-out Fantasy assets from each of the sides discussed.
Although our primary focus will be on a six-Gameweek lookahead, we will scrutinise the long-term fixtures beyond that point where relevant.
Next six: LEI, bur, CRY, wat, SOU, ful
Possible turning point: MUN (Gameweek 11)
With their away fixture against Chelsea now out of the way, a sea of blue has opened up for Bournemouth over the next six Gameweeks on our Season Ticker.
We discussed at length the impressive underlying statistics of Bournemouth’s defenders in an article last week and the Cherries sit top of our Season Ticker for the next half-dozen matches to further increase their appeal.
No club in the top flight has conceded fewer big chances than the Cherries this season (two).
Leicester City are first up for Eddie Howe’s side, a team who have registered the joint-lowest number of shots in the box of any Premier League side this season.
Burnley, Southampton and Crystal Palace, meanwhile, sit in the bottom five for goal conversion rate.
The trips to Watford and Fulham look perhaps trickier now than they did at the beginning of the season, of course, with the two south-east clubs having racked up 16 goals between them this season.
On a positive note for the Cherries’ attack, no side has conceded more big chances than the Cottagers this season.
Burnley, meanwhile, have been uncharacteristically porous at the back, conceding nine goals in just four league matches. The Clarets, Palace and Southampton join Fulham in the bottom half of the “big chances conceded” table.
The goal threat posed by Nathan Ake (£5.0m) and Steve Cook (£4.6m) stands out for those seeking a Bournemouth defender to invest in, but Diego Rico‘s (£4.5m) creativity and prominence at set-piece situations in the defeat to Chelsea has suddenly caught the eye. Whether the Spanish left-back is still considered first choice upon the return of Charlie Daniels (£4.5m) is still open to debate, though that the Cherries paid over £10m for Rico in the summer would suggest they have a lot of faith in the full-back.
Ryan Fraser (£5.6m) has created more big chances than any player in FPL this season, but an injury doubt hangs over the Scottish midfielder ahead of the visit of the Foxes. Callum Wilson (£6.2m) is the obvious candidate for a route into the Cherries attack given his fine start to the season, but the imminent return to fitness of old Fantasy favourite Junior Stanislas (£6.0m) is one to watch in the coming week or so.
The visit of Manchester United in Gameweek 11 sparks a downturn in Bournemouth’s fixtures and would appear the time to jump ship – though the Cherries proved in Gameweek 4 at Stamford Bridge that they will be a real match for the “big six” this season.
Next six: new, EVE, WAT, ful, LEI, cry
Possible turning point: LIV (Gameweek 11)
The benching of Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£7.2m) in Gameweek 4 will have put many off Arsenal’s players for the time being, with perhaps Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.9m) – whose failings we discussed in a Members’ article earlier today – the only attack-minded asset that FPL managers can feel confident about regarding a starting berth in Unai Emery’s side.
The uncertainty over Emery’s starting XI is all the more frustrating at the moment as Arsenal are embarking on an excellent run of matches over the next six Gameweeks.
After a tough opening pair of matches against Manchester City and Chelsea, the Gunners have put three goals past both West Ham United and Cardiff City in their last two league fixtures: no Premier League club racked up more shots on target in Gameweeks 3 and 4 combined.
Arsenal might have their work cut out this weekend, given the way Newcastle United approached their own fixtures against Chelsea and City, but then face an Everton side ravaged by injury and yet to keep a clean sheet.
As we discussed in our Bournemouth section above, Fulham possess one of the leakiest defences in the Premier League and are also yet to record a shut-out this season.
That, of course, is also true of Arsenal, and despite the upturn in fixtures there is still sufficient doubt to steer clear of the Gunners’ backline: Cardiff City, without a league goal in 2018/19 before Gameweek 4, breached the Arsenal defence twice in South Wales a fortnight ago.
Only two clubs have allowed more shots on goal than the Gunners this season.
Hector Bellerin (£5.4m) and Nacho Monreal (£5.5m) have at least delivered attacking returns this season to compensate for their loss of clean sheets, so are the obvious routes to take for those considering an Arsenal defender for this run of matches.
Where to go with the midfielders and forwards, though? Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m) was menacing at Cardiff two weeks ago when registering a goal and an assist, though he is far from certain to keep his starting spot in the medium term.
Aaron Ramsey (£7.4m) and Mesut Ozil (£8.3m) have failed to register attacking returns in their appearances this season and may be as at risk of bench duty as Mkhitaryan on any given week. Ramsey, at least, has posed some kind of goal threat during his time on the pitch and has started the last two matches: no player in the Arsenal squad has had as many penalty box touches as the Welsh midfielder this season.
We may have to swallow a degree of rotation if we are to capitalise on this six-match sequence that Emery’s charges are about to enjoy, but the week-to-week uncertainty over selection will perhaps make it easier to ditch Arsenal’s assets when their fixtures deteriorate from Gameweek 11 onwards.
Next six: hud, NEW, bou, WOL, eve, ARS
Possible turning point: ARS (Gameweek 10)
Arsenal are the only cloud on the horizon for Palace in the next six Gameweeks, but as we have discussed above, the Gunners’ defence is far from formidable at the moment.
Huddersfield Town, Newcastle and Arsenal represent three of the four sides who have conceded the most shots on goal this season, while the Magpies will surely ditch the backs-to-the-wall 5-4-1 formation (a system they have reserved for matches against the “big six”) for their encounter at Selhurst Park in Gameweek 6.
Everton’s defence has been breached in every league match this campaign, too.
The matches against a quietly impressive Bournemouth and Wolverhampton Wanderers might represent Roy Hodgson’s biggest challenges during this run, given the few big chances they have ceded to the opposition in the first four Gameweeks of this campaign.
Palace’s next six opponents have only racked up a combined four clean sheets in 24 matches, however – and three of those shut-outs were against Cardiff.
Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m) is nearing a return to the first team after recommencing training and is the stand-out asset in attack – should he be fit, of course.
Zaha has scored two of Palace’s three league goals this season and his run up front may be extended further, given that Christian Benteke (£6.5m) has now been ruled out for an as-yet-undetermined period of time.
A shift out to the left flank shouldn’t be a disaster, however, as demonstrated when Zaha scored minutes after taking up that position in the 2-1 defeat to Watford.
The double-digit Gameweek 1 returns posted by Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5m) and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£4.1m) have yet to be followed up, but those FPL managers sitting on either full-back will surely be tempted to stick with their Palace defenders for this upcoming run, despite the Eagles conceding six goals in three matches since then.
The imminent return to fitness of James Tomkins (£4.4m) could be significant to Palace’s clean sheet chances, given that they recorded five shut-outs in ten matches before his injury.
Next six: bou, HUD, new, EVE, ars, WHU
And then: car, BUR, bha, WAT, ful
Possible turning point: TOT (Gameweek 16)
While the Foxes’ next six matches are appealing enough, their long-term fixtures offer further incentive for Fantasy investment: of Leicester’s upcoming 11 league matches, only one – Arsenal (a) in Gameweek 9 – is against a member of the “big six”.
How timely then is Jamie Vardy‘s (£8.9m) return from suspension. Owned by only 3.2% of FPL managers, Vardy enjoys a better run of fixtures than any premium forward from now until Gameweek 16.
The former England international has only been on the field for little over 90 minutes in his two appearances this season, but has already found the back of the net and has been presented with two big chances during that time.
Leicester’s home fixtures are particularly appealing. No team has allowed more big chances than Huddersfield or West Ham this season, while Burnley and the Hammers rank worst and second-worst for shots on target conceded.
James Maddison (£6.6m), on corners and free-kicks for the Foxes and seemingly secure in the “number ten” role, also appeals for this run of matches from now until early December – particularly with so many of the mid-priced midfield alternatives susceptible to rotation or struggling with injury.
Ricardo Pereira (£5.1m) and Ben Chilwell (£5.0m) have looked strong going forward this season, but their goal involvement potential could quite easily be backed up by clean sheets in their upcoming half-dozen matches: four of Leicester’s next six opponents rank in the bottom six for attempts on goal in 2018/19 (as do Leicester, however).
Manchester United (wat, WOL, whu, NEW, che, EVE) face only one of their fellow “big six” clubs in the next seven Gameweeks – though they do take on unbeaten Watford away in their very next match.
The goalscoring form of Romelu Lukaku (£11.0m) for club and country has attracted attention over the last fortnight: the Belgian international has had more shots on target and big chances than any other premium forward this season.
A first clean sheet of the season at Turf Moor a fortnight ago revived interest in the United defence, though Luke Shaw‘s (£5.1m) head injury has come at the worst time for player and Fantasy manager alike, with the left-back just establishing himself in Jose Mourinho’s team and as a viable mid-priced defensive option in FPL.
Manchester City (FUL, car, BHA, liv, BUR, tot) top our Season Ticker for the next three matches and the Citizens’ assets look hugely appealing until their fixtures turn in Gameweek 8, though even encounters away at Liverpool and Spurs will not persuade many to part with the likes of Benjamin Mendy (£6.4m) and Sergio Aguero (£11.3m).
City have racked up more shots on goal, efforts in the box and attempts on target than any other Premier League club this season, while at the other end rank joint-best for fewest attempts on target conceded.
Their next opponents, Fulham, have allowed more shots in the box than any other side in the top flight, while Brighton had the worst away record in the division last season.
Despite only recording one clean sheet so far this campaign, Wolves‘ (BUR, mun, SOU, cry, WAT, bha) defenders are ones to consider for their upcoming run.
All six members of their backline (goalkeeper, centre-halves and wing-backs) are available at £4.5m or less, and each has started all four of their club’s league matches this season.
Only two clubs have allowed fewer big chances, while just three sides have conceded fewer shots in the box.
Next six: che, MCI, BUR, tot, FUL, liv
Possible turning point: CRY (Gameweek 11)
One down, four to go. Cardiff’s home match against Arsenal a fortnight ago was the first of five matches against members of last season’s top six, with Chelsea, Manchester City, Spurs and Liverpool to follow in the next half-dozen fixtures.
While the Bluebirds’ underlying defensive statistics haven’t been too bad this season, they now come up against five sides who rank in the top seven for attempts on goal in 2018/19 – Burnley being the odd one out.
Neil Warnock’s side, meanwhile, have registered fewer shots on target than any club in the league and were the last club in England’s top four divisions to score a goal this season.
Fantasy bosses have largely dodged the Bluebirds this season anyway, with not one of their regular outfield first-teamers owned by more than 1.1%.
Neil Etheridge (£4.6m), the highest-scoring FPL goalkeeper this season, will at least have the chance to add to the four save points he has already accumulated.
West Ham United
Next six: eve, CHE, MUN, bha, TOT, lei
Possible turning point: BUR (Gameweek 11)
Rock-bottom and without a point this season, West Ham now face three of the “big six” in their next five matches and tricky away trips to Everton and Brighton amidst these games.
Marko Arnautovic (£7.0m) and Lukasz Fabianski (£4.5m) are the only two Hammers assets with a double-digit ownership, but the FPL managers who have retained their services so far must be tempted to cash in given the alternatives available in the mid-price forward and budget goalkeeper departments respectively.
Arnautovic’s minutes-per-chance rate is still among the best in his price bracket and the Austrian has already found the back of the net twice this season.
As one would expect, though, Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester United are all in the top six for least amount of shots on target conceded this season.
Fabianski proved his worth as a budget goalkeeper last season, and while clean sheets may be thin on the ground over the coming two months, he will at least be provided with plenty of opportunities to gather save points along the way: West Ham have conceded more shots on target this season than all teams bar Burnley.
Next six: tot, SOU, che, MCI, hud, CAR
Possible turning point: hud (Gameweek 9)
The ultimate case of form versus fixtures.
Included in this section for three of their next four matches rather than anything beyond that, Liverpool have been the talk of the Fantasy community for weeks now, from the “Mo Salah or no Salah” discussions to the debate over how many of their FPL assets are necessary for their meetings with Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Their next four opponents all rank in the top six for attempts on goal and shots in the box, though no Premier League club has conceded fewer big chances or shots in their own area than the Reds this season. Something obviously has to give, though that Virgil van Dijk (£6.0m) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.0m) are two of the five most-sold defenders of this round suggests that a fair proportion of Fantasy managers are bailing out before this run.
Andrew Robertson‘s (£6.1m) attacking potential and bonus point magnetism continues to attract investors, however.
Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) scored five goals in six appearances against Spurs, Chelsea and City in 2017/18, meanwhile, though Sadio Mane‘s (£10.0m) only strike against the same opposition came in the 4-3 win over City in January.
Chelsea and City have actually conceded fewer shots on target than the watertight Reds this season, though the fact these two opponents have shipped goals to Newcastle, Huddersfield and Wolves will offer plenty of encouragement to owners of Liverpool’s attacking assets.
Huddersfield‘s (CRY, lei, TOT, bur, LIV, wat) run of fixtures from Gameweek 11 onwards is one of the best in the division, but until then the Terriers languish towards the bottom of our Season Ticker.
The uber-cautious 5-4-1 formation can be expected in the matches against Spurs and Liverpool (and perhaps even high-flying Watford), so goals will likely be at a minimum.
No Premier League club has had fewer big chances, goal attempts or shots in the box than David Wagner’s side this season, while none of the 19 other teams in the division has conceded more clear-cut opportunities – or indeed goals.
Aleksadar Mitrovic (£6.7m) is the most-bought FPL player of this Gameweek, despite Fulham (mci, WAT, eve, ARS, car, BOU) sitting towards the bottom of our Season Ticker for the next four matches.
Clean sheet prospects for the Cottagers appear to be thin on the ground, given that they are still yet to record a shut-out this season, have conceded more shots in the box than any other top-flight side and rank joint-bottom for big chances conceded. Next up for Fulham: Manchester City.
We certainly wouldn’t bet against Slavisa Jokanovic’s side scoring several goals during this tricky run, however: the west London club sit joint-sixth for total attempts on goal and their next four opponents have only two clean sheets between them this season.
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