Our regular “frisk” of the Premier League fixture list from a Fantasy perspective returns ahead of Gameweek 16, a set of matches that marks something of a shift after the lull of recent weeks.
In this slightly abridged feature (due to the swift turnaround in Gameweeks), we assess the top-flight clubs with the strongest and weakest runs of league games over the coming month 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 and the matches over the festive period, we will scrutinise the long-term fixtures beyond that point where relevant.
Next six: lei, BUR, eve, BOU, WOL, car
And then: MUN, ful, WAT, NEW, LEI, bur
Possible turning point: che (Gameweek 28)
There is no question who has the best medium-to-long-term fixtures in the Premier League.
Spurs face only Manchester United of the “big six” between now and the end of February, with their match against Southampton on Wednesday kicking off an enticing run of matches for the Lilywhites.
Seven of Spurs’ next 11 fixtures are at home, too.
The Gameweek 17 match against Burnley leaps off the page and there will be no shortage of Fantasy managers placing the armband on Harry Kane (£12.5m) for the visit of the division’s worst defence for shots in the box, shots on target and big chances conceded.
Matches against Leicester and Wolves might prove to be tighter affairs, with those two clubs sitting in the top four for fewest big chances conceded in 2018/19.
Having started the season uncharacteristically well from a defensive perspective, Bournemouth have reverted to type in recent weeks: in the last four Gameweeks, no Premier League club has conceded more shots in the box.
All five of Spurs’ opponents from Gameweeks 21 to 25 sit in the bottom half of the table for big chances conceded, meanwhile.
For those backing Hugo Lloris (£5.4m) – the French goalkeeper likely being the only “nailed” route into the Spurs backline over the festive period – and co, matches against Burnley, Cardiff City and Wolves in the next half-dozen Gameweeks offer realistic chances of clean sheets, with those three sides sitting in the bottom half for shots in the box and big chances.
West Ham United
Next six: CRY, ful, WAT, sou, bur, BHA
Possible turning point: ARS (Gameweek 22)
The Hammers sit top of our Season Ticker for the next half-dozen Gameweeks and along with Spurs are the only Premier League club to avoid any of the “big six” before the FA Cup third round weekend.
One player who the east London club look set to be without for this period, and who many Fantasy managers would have pinned their hopes on over Christmas and New Year, is Marko Arnautovic (£7.1m), who picked up a hamstring injury in the 3-1 win over Cardiff City on Tuesday.
That could see the likes of Javier Hernandez and Lucas Perez (both £6.2m) feature more prominently for the Irons over the festive period, particularly with Manuel Pellegrini favouring a 4-4-2 in recent weeks.
Felipe Anderson‘s (£7.2m) ownership is on the rise too, which is understandable given that his impressive form is being coupled with some enticing fixtures: from Gameweeks 17-21, all five of the Hammers’ opponents are among the 11 worst clubs for big chances conceded.
Fantasy managers need only look at the “goals against” column in the Premier League table to see that West Ham’s next three opponents on the road sit in the bottom four for goals conceded in 2018/19.
West Ham clean sheets have been few and far between this season but five of the Irons’ next six opponents sit in the bottom half for shots in the box and attempts on target.
That Lukasz Fabianski (£4.5m) sits joint-fifth among the top-scoring FPL goalkeepers this season despite only registering two shut-outs hints at what he could achieve over the coming month if the Hammers’ opposition are as shot-shy as the statistics suggest.
Next six: HUD, sou, BUR, bha, liv, FUL
And then: whu
Possible turning point: CHE (Gameweek 23)
Arsenal’s last run of favourable fixtures from Gameweeks 3 to 10 saw the Gunners win seven and draw one, scoring 22 goals in the process.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.2m) and Alexandre Lacazette (£9.6m) racked up a combined 11 goals and six assists in those eight matches and the two premium forwards look set to be the most sought-after FPL assets from this Arsenal squad over the Christmas period.
A trip to Anfield in late-December is the Gunners’ only real unappealing remaining fixture of 2018, with matches against the bottom four clubs for shots in the box attempted – Huddersfield, Burnley, Brighton and Fulham – offering hope of an all-too-rare clean sheet for the likes of Hector Bellerin (£5.4m) and Sead Kolasinac (£4.9m).
At the other end of the pitch, Messrs Aubameyang and Lacazette can look forward to meetings against all three clubs who sit in the “relegation zone” for shots in the box conceded between now and New Year’s Day.
Five of their next six opponents are ranked tenth or below for shots on target and big chances conceded.
Next six: FUL, liv, car, HUD, BOU, new
Possible turning point: tot (Gameweek 22)
While we have marked the match against Spurs as a possible turning point for Jose Mourinho’s side, in reality, the Red Devils’ kind fixtures go well beyond that clash at Wembley and into the spring.
Whether any Fantasy managers would be willing to touch the United squad given the rollercoaster season they are embarking on is another matter, of course.
Mourinho’s innate ability to disharmonise a dressing room remains a concern, with Anthony Martial (£7.6m) – quite possibly the only United asset who currently warrants Fantasy managers’ interest – having been one of the players that the United boss allegedly described as being “without character” a few weeks ago.
Martial has seven goals in his last eight appearances and, if his hamstring injury proves to be not serious, he can look forward to meetings with five sides who sit in the bottom ten for shots in the box conceded over the next half-dozen Gameweeks.
A trip to Liverpool in Gameweek 17 is a little off-putting, but in Fulham, Cardiff and Newcastle the Red Devils face three of the four clubs who have conceded the most big chances this season.
Eden Hazard (£11.0m) has suffered a drop in FPL ownership and price over the last few weeks as he is jettisoned en masse for other premium options, but after the visit of Manchester City this weekend, Chelsea then have six fixtures (bha, LEI, wat, cry, SOU, NEW) that perhaps have been overlooked in the clamour for Spurs and Arsenal assets.
Brighton, Newcastle and Southampton all sit in the bottom six for shots in the box conceded.
Fulham‘s run of matches from Gameweeks 17 to 20 (WHU, new, WOL, HUD) is among the best in the division and even a Gameweek 21 trip to Arsenal – who have shipped 19 big chances at home this season – offers hope for those Fantasy managers planning to invest in Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.6m) over the festive period.
Huddersfield Town remain unfashionable in the Fantasy community but with five of their next seven fixtures (ars, NEW, SOU, mun, ful, BUR, car) against sides in the bottom eight for big chances conceded, they too warrant a mention in this section.
From a defensive perspective, four of the Terriers’ opponents sit in the bottom six for shots in the box attempted.
Next six: bou, MUN, wol, NEW, ARS, mci
Possible turning point: bha (Gameweek 22)
With heavy hitters such as Kane and Aubameyang enjoying a fixture swing in Gameweeks 15 and 16, money will have to be generated from somewhere in order to finance any moves for one or both of the in-form premium pair.
The likes of Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) and Sadio Mane (£9.8m), then, might be deemed surplus to requirements over the Christmas period by a fair few FPL bosses with the Reds not appearing to have such a favourable run of matches ahead over the next six Gameweeks.
It should be said, though, that three of their next five opponents sit in the bottom ten for shots on target conceded, with Arsenal and Wolves two of just four sides who have not kept a clean sheet in the last six Gameweeks.
Newcastle, meanwhile, have allowed more big chances than any other Premier League club during this period.
The negative nature of Liverpool’s fixtures is perhaps more from a defensive perspective, with Bournemouth, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City all in the top seven for goals scored this season.
The two Manchester clubs are the front-runners in the shots on target stakes, too.
Next six: TOT, cry, che, MCI, CAR, eve
Possible turning point: CAR (Gameweek 20)
Leicester’s favourable run of fixtures from Gameweeks 10-15 (in which they avoided any of the “big six”) is now well and truly over and the Foxes now have one of the worst medium-to-long-term schedules in the division.
While the game against Cardiff marks the start of a four-match respite in which they also face Wolves and Southampton, another trio of Champions League-chasing clubs lurk just around the corner in Gameweeks 24-26.
Three of their next four opponents (Crystal Palace, unsurprisingly, are the exception) sit in the top four for shots in the box attempted and top five for big chances and shots on target.
Attacking returns for the likes of Jamie Vardy (£8.9m) and James Maddison (£6.8m) might be thin on the ground, too – all of the Foxes’ next four opponents are among the nine meanest sides for big chances conceded.
Trips to Wolves, Spurs and Manchester United plus a home match against Liverpool, all of which happen before the turn of 2019, means that Bournemouth rank bottom on our Season Ticker for the remaining matches of the calendar year.
Three of those sides sit in the top six for fewest big chances conceded, but then again the Cherries’ have breached the defences of Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City in recent weeks.
While there are Fantasy assets available elsewhere with better fixtures, it will take a lot of persuading for Fantasy managers to part with Ryan Fraser (£6.2m) and/or Callum Wilson (£7.0m) – the two best-value players in their respective positions in FPL this season.
It remains to be seen if Ralph Hasenhuttl can shake Southampton from their slumber, but the incoming Saints manager could certainly have hoped for an easier Christmas schedule to start his reign: the south coast side facing the three highest-scoring teams in the Premier League in Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in the next half-dozen Gameweeks.
Not one of the Saints’ FPL assets is owned by more than 5% of Fantasy managers and it would take a considerable “new manager bounce” for us to venture anywhere near their squad over Christmas and New Year.
*All prices correct at the time of writing (Thursday 6 December)
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