Our regular “frisk” of the Premier League fixture list returns ahead of Gameweek 5.
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: nor | WAT | eve | WOL | cry | AVL
And then: SOU
Many Fantasy managers will consider Manchester City assets “fixture-proof” but a favourable run of matches doesn’t do any harm, either.
Pep Guardiola’s side sit top of our Season Ticker over the next half-dozen Gameweeks and are the only Premier League club to avoid a ‘big six’ club during that time.
City’s next two opponents have yet to keep a clean sheet this season and indeed Watford’s 16-match shut-out drought extends back to February, although the re-appointment of the pragmatic Quique Sanchez Flores might help solidify the Hornets at the back.
Norwich City, Watford, Everton and Aston Villa, four of City’s next six opponents, sit in the bottom six for big chances conceded this season.
From a defensive perspective, all bar Norwich of the Citizens’ next half-dozen opponents are scoring at a rate of one goal per game or worse.
No team has scored as few goals as Watford this season.
All six of the sides that Guardiola’s troops face between now and the end of October sit in the bottom half of the table for big chances created.
Next six: bha | NOR | avl | EVE | lei | CHE
And then: shu | WHU | wat | CRY
Having been bottom of the Season Ticker in Gameweeks 1 to 4, Burnley’s schedule is about to get much more favourable.
Gameweek 5 marks the start of a ten-game sequence in which the Clarets meet only one of the ‘big six’ and even that fixture is against an unconvincing Chelsea side.
No other top-flight club has fewer meetings with last season’s top six teams between now and the end of November.
For those interested in Ashley Barnes (£6.7m), Chelsea and Norwich are two of five clubs yet to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League this season.
Daniel Farke and Dean Smith’s newly promoted teams have are in the bottom four for shots on target conceded, meanwhile.
The Clarets pose a real threat in the air and in the Canaries and Villa, Sean Dyche’s side are facing two of the five teams who have allowed the most headed chances in 2019/20 – although Brighton, Everton and Chelsea have been less obliging from crosses.
The medium-term fixture list is perhaps not quite as kind from a defensive perspective but no club has allowed fewer big chances than Burnley this season, despite their unfavourable start.
Next six: wat | AVL | mun | BOU | shu | CRY
And then: WOL | lei | SOU | nor | BHA | whu
Arsenal’s favourable fixture run goes on even longer than Burnley’s and we can expect to see the north London club regularly appearing in this series of articles over the coming months.
In their next dozen Premier League matches, the Gunners face only one other ‘big six’ side: the Gameweek 7 meeting with Manchester United preceding a sea of blue on the Season Ticker until mid-December.
Unai Emery’s side face all three newly promoted clubs in this time and five of last season’s bottom ten.
Watford are first up and are without a clean sheet in 16 league matches, although the appointment of the defence-first Quique Sanchez Flores perhaps comes at an inopportune time for the Gunners.
The Hornets, Villa and Bournemouth, three of Arsenal’s next four opponents, sit in the bottom six for big chances conceded.
No FPL forward scored more goals than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) against non-big six sides last season (19 in 26 games).
Next six: CRY | lei | SOU | bha | WAT | liv
And then: eve | SHU| whu | BOU
Spurs face only one of the ‘big six’ in the next ten Gameweeks, with a trip to Anfield the one obvious off-putting fixture.
Even better, the Lilywhites’ next six home matches are all against sides who finished in the bottom half of the Premier League or who were in the Championship last season.
Spurs’ upcoming half-dozen away games are perhaps not quite so appealing, with meetings against five of last year’s top ten plus a trip to a Brighton side that has performed fairly well in 2019/20 so far.
No FPL asset banked more attacking returns on the road than Harry Kane (£11.0m) in 2018/19, however.
Spurs’ next two opponents could make life hard for their attackers, as Palace and Leicester are among the five teams who have allowed the fewest big chances this season.
Roy Hodgson’s side have conceded the fewest goals in the top flight in 2019/20 (two), with Leicester having shipped only one more.
From a defensive perspective, there is encouragement: Spurs’ next five opponents all sit in the bottom half of the table for shots on target in 2019/20.
Next six: bou | SHU | MCI | bur | WHU | bha
Everton have just two meetings with ‘big six’ clubs from Gameweeks 5 to 14, with the visit of Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur the only dots of red on the Season Ticker.
Even those games against 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 Toffees have recorded shut-outs in ten of their last 15 league games but the fixture list is perhaps less welcoming from a defensive perspective, given that they face three of the four teams who have recorded the most big chances this season (City, West Ham and Brighton).
Away trips to Bournemouth and Burnley, with Callum Wilson (£7.8m) and Ashley Barnes (£6.7m) to deal with, will pose tricky tests, too.
Goals have started to flow at the other end of the pitch, at least, with seven being scored in the last two league and cup games – more than Everton had managed in their previous ten matches dating back to the start of pre-season.
Moise Kean (£6.9m) and Alex Iwobi (£5.9m) were both handed their first Premier League starts in an Everton shirt in Gameweek 4 and both delivered attacking returns.
In Bournemouth and West Ham, Everton are facing the two sides who have conceded the most big chances this season.
Those two clubs and Brighton have shipped a combined 22 goals this season, although 12 of those were conceded to Manchester City.
Next six: EVE | sou | WHU | ars | NOR | wat
Ryan Fraser (£7.3m), Callum Wilson (£7.8m) and Josh King (£6.4m) have all lost hundreds of thousands of FPL owners over the last month and dropped in price in doing so.
Wilson has ticked over with exactly five points in each Gameweek but the better value elsewhere so far has prompted many managers to move on their Bournemouth assets.
The Cherries’ upcoming fixtures are perhaps among the best in the division, though, certainly from an attacking perspective.
Everton, West Ham, Norwich and Watford, along with Bournemouth themselves, sit in the bottom five for big chances conceded this season.
All bar the Toffees of Bournemouth’s next six opponents sit in the bottom ten for shots in the box and efforts on target conceded, meanwhile.
Chelsea (wol | LIV | BHA | sou | NEW | bur) are riding high in our Season Ticker but fixtures against Wolves and Liverpool immediately after the international break slightly dent their appeal – even if Nuno Espirito Santo’s side and the Reds aren’t perhaps as watertight as they were in 2018/19.
The Blues themselves are still without a clean sheet and interest in their Fantasy assets may instead be focused on the likes of Mason Mount (£6.4m) and other forward-thinking players.
Chelsea will feature more prominently in the next article in this series: the Blues face only Manchester City of the ‘big six’ between Gameweeks 7 to 15.
Aston Villa (WHU | ars | BUR | nor | BHA | mci) have some appealing home matches ahead but their run of away fixtures between now and Gameweek 15 is the worst in the division.
Still, meetings with West Ham, Arsenal and Norwich should offer encouragement for their midfielders and forwards: these three clubs sit in the bottom five for shots in the box conceded this season.
Next six: mun | TOT | NEW | liv | BUR | sou
Leicester face three of last season’s top six between now and the October international break and sit bottom of our Season Ticker as a result.
There is an appealing home fixture against Newcastle within this run, although the Magpies beat Brendan Rodgers’ side at the King Power Stadium at the back-end of last season and the Foxes have not really convinced against wing-back systems in 2019/20.
It should be noted, of course, that 31 of Jamie Vardy‘s (£8.9m) 83 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.
Next six: tot | WOL | NOR | whu | MCI | ARS
And then: LEI | che | LIV
Fourth-place Crystal Palace may be a team in form but are another club who face three ‘big six’ sides in the next half-dozen Gameweeks.
Chelsea and Liverpool then follow in Gameweeks 12 and 13.
With eight of Palace’s next nine opponents finishing in the top half last season, the Eagles are firmly rooted to the bottom of our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 5-13.
Martin Kelly (£4.1m) has been a popular budget asset this season but even if he recovers from injury and keeps his place at the heart of the defence, his owners likely won’t be using him for anything other than bench fodder between now and the end of November.
Even the “winnable” games within this run come against teams who have impressed from an attacking perspective so far this season: Norwich and West Ham, for example, sit in the top six for shots on target so far in 2019/20 (despite having both faced Manchester City).
Those two teams (and perhaps a clean sheet-less Spurs and a Europe-occupied Wolves) can be got at defensively, of course, but Palace’s attacking assets haven’t really convinced this season – only Watford have scored fewer Premier League goals.
Jordan Ayew (£5.1m) could be a decent, benchable third striker for the coming months but Palace’s medium-term role in the Fantasy world maybe more about how much they can frustrate our other FPL assets: the Eagles have conceded fewer goals than any other Premier League team this season.
Next six: liv | BHA | lei | MUN | che | WOL
Fantasy managers have largely avoided Newcastle United assets this season – and not just because of their fixture run.
The Magpies are in the bottom three for big chances created and goals scored in 2019/20 so far, although the backs-to-the-wall display at Spurs may offer hope that the defensive solidity of the Rafael Benitez era hasn’t totally evaporated.
Steve Bruce’s side have already played the two north London clubs in the opening month of the campaign and now face three other ‘big six’ sides between now and Gameweek 9 – starting with a trip to Liverpool.
Third-place Leicester also host the Magpies in this period.
Newcastle sit bottom of our Season Ticker for attack over the next six Gameweeks but they, like Palace, may play a significant role in how more popular offensive assets from the likes of Liverpool, Leicester and Chelsea do over the coming Gameweeks.
Next six: ARS | mci | wol | SHU | tot | BOU
And then: CHE
Winless and bottom of the table, Watford’s fixtures don’t get much easier in the medium term.
The Hornets face five clubs who finished in the top seven in 2018/19 over the next seven Gameweeks, although home matches against Sheffield United and Bournemouth appeal more.
Watford will be hoping for some kind of new manager bounce following the appointment of Quique Sanchez Flores, whose pragmatic reputation will hopefully – from their point of view – address the obvious defensive problems at Vicarage Road.
The Hornets have not kept a league clean sheet since February, a run that stretches back 16 matches.
No side has scored fewer goals in 2019/20, meanwhile.
The next five Gameweeks at the very least could be an audition period for Watford’s assets and tell us more about Flores’ preferred system and personnel, as well as what effect he is having on their underperforming squad.
Liverpool‘s mixed fixture run (NEW | che | shu | LEI | mun | TOT) has to be acknowledged but, like Manchester City, the Reds are one of a handful of teams that Fantasy managers may consider “fixture-proof”.
Their three ‘big six’ opponents in the next half-dozen Gameweeks, Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs, have hardly fully convinced this season, either.
From a defensive perspective, matches against Newcastle and Sheffield United offer decent clean sheet opportunities: only Watford have scored fewer goals than the Magpies this season, while the Blades are ranked bottom for shots on target.
The Reds’ other four opponents during this run are all in the top half for goals scored and shots attempted, however.
At the other end, Chelsea and Spurs haven’t kept a clean sheet between them this season – although all bar the Lilywhites of Liverpool’s next six opponents sit in the top half in terms of fewest expected goals conceded.
Sheffield United (SOU | eve | LIV | wat | ARS | whu ) themselves have a mixed bag of fixtures, although John Lundstram (£4.2m) is their only outfield first-team regular who is owned by more than 1% of FPL bosses and is eminently benchable for the tough defensive tests after Gameweek 5.
Manchester United, Southampton, Wolves, Norwich and Brighton all face two meetings with ‘big six’ clubs over the next half-dozen Gameweeks but have some more appealing fixtures around that so the picture doesn’t quite look so bleak at that quintet of clubs.
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