With the international break over, we take our regular “frisk” of the Premier League fixture list ahead of Gameweek 9.
In this feature, we assess the top-flight clubs with the strongest and weakest runs of league matches over the coming weeks.
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: BUR | sou | cry | ARS | bha | EVE
Bottom of our Season Ticker for the first eight Gameweeks of 2019/20 yet still sitting fourth in the league after it, Leicester City’s fixture schedule is about to improve dramatically.
Between Gameweeks 9 and 17, the Foxes meet only one of the ‘big six’ – and that is a home fixture against an Arsenal side not renowned for their defensive aptitude.
Leicester’s defence has been one of the stand-out performers from an underlying stats perspective and in their next seven matches, they face five of the seven teams who are currently scoring at a rate of one goal per game or under.
Burnley and Palace, two of their next three opponents, are in the bottom four for big chances created, too.
Those two clubs may be tougher nuts to crack from a defensive perspective but Southampton, Arsenal and Watford, who are all to come between now and Gameweek 15, are in the bottom six for shots on target conceded.
Next six: shu | CRY | WOL | lei | SOU | nor
Arsenal have a similar run to Leicester from now until December.
From Gameweeks 9 to 16, Unai Emery’s side face the two newly promoted clubs, three of last season’s bottom ten and no ‘big six’ clubs.
The Gunners are the only Premier League side not to face one of last season’s top half-dozen teams in the next six Gameweeks and indeed the visit of Manchester City in mid-December is their next encounter with one of these clubs.
With Arsenal’s defence never fully convincing, Fantasy managers may well be focusing more on the Gunners’ attacking assets for this upcoming run – although their next four opponents sit in the bottom eight for attempts on target this season.
From an attacking perspective, a trip to the King Power Stadium won’t be easy, with Leicester having the third-best expected goals conceded (xGC) total of 2019/20 so far.
Sheffield United, Leicester and Crystal Palace are indeed among the five meanest defences in terms of goals conceded this season.
Gameweeks 13-16 look more enticing from an attacking point of view, with Southampton, Norwich and West Ham among the six teams who have conceded the most big chances.
No FPL forward scored more goals than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.1m) against non-big six sides in 2018/19 (19 in 26 games).
Next six: SOU | new | ars | AVL | bou | SHU
Wolves sit second-top of our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 9-18 and their recent upturn in form is coinciding nicely with the fixture swing after the international break.
Arsenal are the only ‘big six’ club that Nuno Espirito Santo’s side face between now and mid-December.
After their early-season defensive struggles, no opposition player has scored against Wolves in the last three Gameweeks.
The problem remains Europa League-led rotation, of course, with Conor Coady (£5.0m), Raul Jimenez (£7.1m) and Willy Boly (£5.0m) the only outfielders to avoid a benching so far.
Purely from a fixture perspective, Wolves face five of the seven teams who have allowed the most big chances in Gameweeks 9-15.
At the other end of the pitch, Southampton and Newcastle are two of the four worst teams for goal conversion – although trips to Arsenal and Bournemouth will be sterner tests.
Next six: NEW | bur | wat | CRY | mci | WHU
Chelsea avoid not only the other big six sides over the next four Gameweeks, they also dodge any other club that finished in the top half of the Premier League table last season.
A daunting trip to the Etihad in Gameweek 13 is a cloud on the horizon but there are still appealing home fixtures against West Ham, Aston Villa and Bournemouth before we get to the busy festive period.
The games at Stamford Bridge are particularly enticing as the Blues don’t meet any of last season’s top six clubs in west London until late-January.
Chelsea’s backline still have much to prove but the next four matches look attractive from a defensive perspective, with Newcastle, Burnley, Watford and Palace in the bottom eight for big chances created.
From an attacking perspective, Watford and West Ham are two of the three worst teams for big chances conceded.
On the flip side, Burnley and Palace are among the five best clubs for that statistic.
Manchester City’s ongoing defensive woes will at least give owners of Mason Mount (£6.8m) et al more hope of attacking returns than a visit to the Etihad would have last season.
Next six: LIV| nor | bou | BHA | shu | AVL
A fixture swing for Manchester United beckons after the visit of Liverpool in Gameweek 9, although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are hardly making a convincing case to us Fantasy managers at present.
The Red Devils sit top of our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 10-14, taking on five clubs who are currently ranked tenth or below.
The two remaining teams without a Premier League clean sheet to their names this season immediately follow Jurgen Klopp’s side, which should offer hope to the brave souls among us who are backing United’s misfiring attacking assets.
Solskjaer’s troops have been better from a defensive perspective this season and no club has a lower xGC total after eight Gameweeks of 2019/20.
In Bournemouth, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, United are taking on three teams who rank in the bottom six for shots in the box.
Next six: NOR | wat | MUN | new | WOL | tot
Any fixture run that begins with Norwich and Watford automatically catches the eye, even if the Cherries’ matches beyond that are mixed.
The Canaries and the Hornets have conceded 41 goals and kept just one clean sheet between them, which bodes well for Callum Wilson (£7.9m) and co.
An out-of-sorts Manchester United are there for the taking, too, although the Red Devils are the meanest defence when it comes to expected goals conceded.
A trip to Spurs needn’t hold much fear either, with the Lilywhites having conceded more shots on target than all other clubs bar Norwich.
Next six: WHU | bha | TOT | sou | NOR | lei
Everton have been staples of this article this season but their excellent run comes to a juddering halt in Gameweek 14, with trips to Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester United interspersed with home matches against Chelsea and Arsenal.
Before that, though, the out-of-sorts Toffees enjoy home matches against the side who have allowed the most big chances (West Ham) and the two teams who allowed the most shots on target (Spurs and Norwich) in 2019/20.
Only the Canaries and Watford have shipped more goals than Southampton, meanwhile.
We’d be foolish to overlook Manchester City’s (cry | AVL | SOU | liv | CHE | new) next three fixtures, even if the trip to Anfield and the visit of Chelsea beyond that are not quite so appealing.
Saturday’s match against Palace is not so straightforward, either, given that the Eagles have only conceded one goal at Selhurst Park all season.
The double-header against Villa and Southampton at the Etihad is enticing, though: those two clubs are among the seven worst teams for big chances conceded this season.
West Ham (eve | SHU | NEW | bur | TOT| che) have their own appealing double-header coming up and a trip to an out-of-sorts Everton before that, three games that ought to offer clean sheet possibilities: the Toffees, Sheffield United and Newcastle are in the bottom four for goals scored this season.
Burnley’s (lei | CHE | shu | WHU | wat | CRY) four fixtures in Gameweek 11-14 are also similarly appealing from a defensive perspective, with all four opponents in the bottom half for big chances created.
We can’t ignore Tottenham Hotspur‘s (WAT | liv | eve | SHU | whu | BOU) ongoing excellent home fixtures, with the Lilywhites’ next four in north London all against teams that finished outside of the top ten last season.
A double-header on Merseyside is a little off-putting, though, along with a trip to an improving West Ham United side.
Next six: MCI | ars | LEI | che | LIV | bur
It’s hard to imagine a tougher run than the one Crystal Palace have got coming up, with the Eagles now facing six of the top current seven in the top flight – the other team, of course, are Roy Hodgson’s troops themselves.
Palace are, unsurprisingly, rock-bottom of our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 9-14.
The Eagles have been pretty strong from a defensive perspective but in Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea they will face the three Premier League clubs who have scored the most goals this season.
Only Newcastle have carved out fewer big chances than the Eagles and any little interest we have in their attacking assets is likely to be put on ice until after this run.
All bar Arsenal of their next six opponents are among the half-dozen clubs with the meanest defences, based on expected goals conceded.
Budget assets such as Martin Kelly (£4.1m) and Jordan Ayew (£5.1m) look likely to be spending a lot of time on our benches in October and November, then.
Next six: BHA | mci | LIV | wol | NEW | mun
Villa have two appealing home fixtures against Brighton and Newcastle in the next six Gameweeks but aside from that, there are stiff tests for Dean Smith’s outfit.
Trips to City, an in-form Wolves and Manchester United look tough for Villa’s attacking assets, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s misfiring side nevertheless still fairly solid at the back.
Liverpool, who have conceded the fewest goals this season, visit Villa Park in Gameweek 11.
Villa will at least take solace from the fact they have scored against both north London clubs already this season.
Next six: wol | LEI | mci | EVE | ars | WAT
Southampton’s forthcoming fixture run is perhaps not quite as bad as Palace’s but they face teams that finished in the top half last season in each of the next five Gameweeks.
Away matches at Manchester City and Arsenal look particularly unappealing and their defence is surely a no-go zone until the fixture swing in Gameweek 14.
A fixture against Wolves might have looked appealing a few weeks ago but Nuno Espirito’s Santo have shown an upturn in form and have conceded just one goal in the last three Gameweeks – an own-goal, at that.
Only Liverpool have conceded fewer goals than Leicester, meanwhile.
Even without the fixtures, the Saints’ patchy form and porous defence (only Watford and Norwich have shipped more) are off-putting factors at present.
Next six: ARS | whu | BUR| tot | MUN | wol
John Lundstram (£4.5m) may find himself on bench duty quite a bit over the coming weeks, with Sheffield United’s fixtures a mixed bag at best.
The Blades will be hoping that Spurs and Manchester United are still in a slump by the time we reach mid-November, while keeping their fingers crossed that Wolves and Burnley’s decent form has taken a turn for the worse.
Owners of Lundstram may consider the fixtures against Burnley, Spurs and Manchester United at a push, all of whom are in the bottom eight for big chances created.
Once again we have to highlight the fact that Liverpool‘s fixture run (mun | TOT | avl | MCI | cry | bha) is far from ideal for those of us with assets from Jurgen Klopp’s side.
While the schedule from Gameweeks 9-12 (and even Palace away in Gameweek 13) may be enough for us to swerve a triple-up, there will be many FPL bosses willing to stick with the likes of Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.2m) through the choppy waters ahead.
Klopp’s troops are, let’s remember, on a 17-match winning run in the Premier League.
The Reds face three big six clubs between now and the November international break but it could be argued that this is the best time to play United, Spurs and City, with all three sides having issues either going forward or at the back.
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