Our first “frisk” of the Premier League fixture list since pre-season is here ahead of Gameweek 3.
In this semi-regular 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 where appropriate.
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: bou | BHA | nor | WAT | eve | WOL
And then: cry | AVL | SOU
As if we needed any more incentive to invest in the league champions’ Fantasy assets, Manchester City are the only club not to face a ‘big six’ side in the next half-dozen Gameweeks.
The favourable run actually goes on beyond this point, with the Gameweek 12 trip to Anfield bringing to an end their appealing sequence of matches – although many of us will consider City players fixture-proof anyway.
Only two of the sides Pep Guardiola’s troops face in the next nine Gameweeks finished in the top half of the Premier League last season.
The Citizens meet newly promoted Norwich City and Aston Villa between now and the beginning of November.
In the corresponding fixtures against Bournemouth, Brighton, Watford, Everton, Wolves, Crystal Palace and Southampton last season, City won all seven and scored 20 goals in doing so, conceding just three at the other end.
Raheem Sterling (£12.2m) banked 16 attacking returns (half of his total number) against these clubs home and away in 2018/19.
Sergio Aguero (£12.0m), by contrast, only recorded four goals and three assists in these fixtures.
Three of City’s next four opponents have yet to keep a clean sheet this season.
West Ham United
Next six: wat | NOR | avl | MUN | bou | CRY
And then: eve | SHU | NEW | bur
As it did last season, West Ham’s defence is giving us cause for concern heading into one of the best fixture runs in the division.
The Hammers kept just seven clean sheets in 2018/19 (only relegated Fulham and Huddersfield registered fewer) and were in the bottom five for attempts on goal, shots in the box and big chances conceded.
While Manchester City can humiliate any team in the division (as happened to the Hammers in Gameweek 1), Brighton’s dominance at the Amex last weekend and West Ham’s defensive fragility in pre-season suggests that not a lot has changed at the back.
Going forward there is more optimism, with the likes of Manuel Lanzini (£6.5m) and Sebastien Haller (£7.4m) having looked promising in the summer – even if we are yet to see the Hammers’ attacking assets fully click into gear in a competitive match.
Pre-empting a run of form is what Fantasy management is all about, of course, and West Ham’s next three matches in particular look perfect from an attacking perspective.
Watford, Norwich and Aston Villa have yet to keep a single clean sheet between them in 2019/20 and have shipped a combined 14 goals in their six league matches to date.
Norwich and Villa have already allowed 70 shots between them this campaign, with neither club having come up from the Championship with a particularly strong defensive record (even if there was a late-season improvement in Villa’s case).
Watford have conceded more big chances than any Premier League team this calendar year, meanwhile, and are without a league clean sheet in over six months.
West Ham won the corresponding fixture 4-1 on the final day of 2018/19.
The Canaries haven’t kept a clean sheet in eight competitive matches, meanwhile.
Looking further ahead, the Hammers meet only one ‘big six’ side – Manchester United – between now and Gameweek 12 and look set to be a recurring entry into these articles over the next two months.
Next six: avl | WOL | bou | SHU | MCI | bur
And then: WHU | bha
Everton were perhaps handed the best opening run of games in the division when the fixtures were released in June.
Aside from two matches against Manchester City and Spurs, Everton’s ticker is a sea of blue right up until Gameweek 15 – when Marco Silva’s side subsequently take on Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal.
No other Premier League side has fewer meetings with last season’s top six (two) in the next dozen Gameweeks, which takes us up to the end of November.
Even the visit of Manchester City and Spurs may not be too much of a deterrent, with Everton having kept four clean sheets in home matches against the ‘big six’ last season.
The visit of Wolves, meanwhile, will follow immediately after Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have played the second leg of their UEFA Europa League play-off game against Torino.
The Toffees are the only club to have kept clean sheets in both of their 2019/20 matches so far and now have ten shut-outs in their last 13 league fixtures.
Goals haven’t been flowing at the other end ever since pre-season started but it might be worth keeping tabs on Moise Kean (£6.9m) as he is gradually introduced into the first-team set-up – the striker has looked sharp in cameo substitute appearances and may prove to be more of a goal threat than the limited Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.0m).
Next six: EVE | cry | WHU | ars | BUR | nor
And then: BHA
With Villa conceding chances at an alarming rate and ongoing doubts over whether Wesley (£6.0m) can be an effective goal-getter up front, the Villans’ budget midfielders look the most enticing options for their forthcoming run of games.
Villa sit second in our Season Ticker from now until Gameweek 9 and are actually top for ‘attack’ over this period.
Fixtures against West Ham and Norwich are obvious draws for reasons mentioned above but even the trip to Arsenal, a daunting test on paper and Villa’s one meeting with a ‘big six’ club in the next two months, could prove fruitful from an attacking perspective: only four clubs have allowed more efforts on goal than the Gunners in 2019/20.
Everton and Palace’s struggle for goals will perhaps give hope to owners of Tom Heaton (£4.5m) et al, too, with Villa still awaiting their first clean sheet of 2019/20.
Next six: NEW |ars | CRY | lei | SOU | bha
And then: WAT
Spurs’ fixture run is a rollercoaster ride over the coming months.
Their next seven home fixtures are all against sides who finished in the bottom half of the Premier League or were in the Championship last season.
The Lilywhites thus sit top of our Season Ticker for home fixtures between now and Gameweek 16.
Analysing away matches in the same period and Mauricio Pochettino’s side languish towards the bottom of our Season Ticker, with meetings against six of last year’s top ten plus a trip to a Brighton side that have impressed so far in 2019/20.
Matches at Arsenal and Leicester perhaps look off-putting but those two teams haven’t looked watertight at the back so far, with the Foxes being ripped apart by Chelsea in the first half at Stamford Bridge last weekend and riding their luck slightly against Wolves in Gameweek 1.
Only seven teams kept fewer clean sheets than Arsenal last season, meanwhile.
No FPL asset banked more attacking returns on the road than Harry Kane (£11.0m) in 2018/19, either.
At the other end of the pitch, Spurs could start to amass shut-outs of their own at home: Newcastle, Palace, Southampton and Watford have scored just two goals between them this season, one of which was gifted by Adrian (£4.5m).
Next six: CRY | sou | LEI | whu | ARS | new
United – who have conceded the joint-fewest number of big chances this season – also face Palace, Southampton and Newcastle in their next six games, giving the Red Devils the chance to build on their clean sheet against Chelsea.
Home matches against the Gunners and Liverpool in Gameweeks 7 and 9 are United’s only encounters with ‘big six’ clubs between now and December.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side actually sit top of our Season Ticker for ‘attack’ between now and Gameweek 14.
Chelsea (nor | SHU | wol | LIV | BHA | sou) are riding high in our Season Ticker but fixtures against Wolves and Liverpool immediately after the international break slightly dent their appeal – even if the Reds aren’t as watertight as they were in 2018/19.
The Blues themselves are fairly porous at the back and interest in their Fantasy assets may instead be focused on the likes of Mason Mount (£6.1m) and other forward-thinking players.
Certainly, Saturday’s match at Carrow Road could be a goal-fest based on the evidence we have seen from both clubs so far – Daniel Farke and Frank Lampard evidently favouring attack as the best form of defence.
Home matches against Sheffield United and Brighton also leap from the page but those two clubs have impressed in the opening two Gameweeks, conceding just two goals between them.
Only Manchester United and Wolves have allowed fewer big chances than Chris Wilder and Graham Potter’s troops, although a trip to Stamford Bridge will pose a real test of their defensive solidity.
Chelsea will feature more prominently in this article from the end of September onwards: the Blues face only Manchester City of the ‘big six’ between Gameweeks 7 to 15.
Burnley have a very favourable run from Gameweek 5 onwards but we will put the Clarets on ice for now, given that they face a double-header against Wolves and Liverpool before the fixture turn.
We will cover Sean Dyche’s side in detail in our next ‘frisk’ in the international break.
Next six: tot | WAT | liv | BHA | lei | MUN
And then: che
Fantasy managers will likely be giving Newcastle United a wide berth for the foreseeable future and not just because of their fixture run.
The Magpies may well struggle for goals this year (only two big chances created so far) and the defensive solidity of last season looks to be missing: 19 of the 23 shots they have faced this season were from inside their box.
To compound matters, Steve Bruce’s side sit bottom of our Season Ticker for the next six Gameweeks and beyond.
Having already faced Arsenal on the opening weekend, Newcastle face four other ‘big six’ clubs between now and Gameweek 9.
Leicester City also host the Magpies in this period.
Next six: liv | TOT | wat | AVL | mun | BOU
The lure of Dani Ceballos (£5.6m) is strong after his impressive debut showing against Burnley but there will be plenty of Fantasy managers biding their time on the budget midfielder given that the Gunners face Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United in the next five Gameweeks.
Saying that, the Gunners scored seven goals in the three corresponding fixtures against those ‘big six’ clubs in 2018/19 and put five past Bournemouth at the Emirates.
No FPL forward score more goals (six) than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) in games against Liverpool, Spurs, Watford, Manchester United and Bournemouth last season (both home and away).
Next six: shu | BOU | mun | TOT | NEW | liv
Fantasy managers may be getting slightly twitchy about their Leicester assets after the first two Gameweeks, with some tricky matches on the horizon.
There are appealing home fixtures against Bournemouth and Newcastle within this run, although Sheffield United have impressed from a defensive perspective so far (16 clean sheets in their last 24 league games) and a trip to Bramall Lane is perhaps not as easy as it looks on paper.
It should be noted, of course, that 31 of Jamie Vardy‘s (£8.9m) 80 Premier League goals have come against ‘big six’ teams.
The schedule eases considerably after the trip to Anfield, with the Foxes only facing one ‘big six’ club from Gameweeks 9 to 17.
Southampton‘s (bha | MUN | shu | BOU | tot | CHE) next four fixtures don’t look too bad but their schedule worsens considerably thereafter, with the Saints facing seven teams that finished in the top half last season from Gameweeks 7-13.
Brighton and Hove Albion (SOU | mci | BUR | new | che | TOT) have a similar mixed run to Southampton, with three of the next four games appealing before encounters with Spurs and Chelsea.
John Lundstram (£4.1m) might be back on our benches soon, meanwhile, with five of Sheffield United‘s next seven fixtures (LEI | che | SOU | eve | LIV | wat | ARS) against teams that finished in the top half in 2018/19.
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