With the Premier League fixtures now released for 2020/21, we are able to assess the which teams we should invest in, and which we should avoid.
Our schedule sage Neale has already filled us in on the teams with the most appealing run of games, which you can READ HERE.
But for every swathe of blue on the Fantasy Football Scout Season Ticker, some clubs are faced with the Red Sea instead.
This article will assess why these clubs face such a tricky start to the new season, and whether or not they are able to overcome the unappealing nature of their fixtures.
West Ham United
First six matches: NEW | ars | WOL | lei | tot | MCI
Over the first six Gameweeks of 2020/21, West Ham rank rock-bottom of the league, below even the four teams who don’t play in Gameweek 1.
That’s because, after a relatively cushy opening day clash with Newcastle at the London Stadium, David Moyes’ men face six of last season’s top eight between Gameweeks 2 and 7.
The away trips look particularly nasty, taking the Hammers to Arsenal, Leicester and Spurs in three of their first five while Anfield awaits them in Gameweek 7.
Their first three at home are not particularly appetising either with Wolves and Manchester City set to visit the London Stadium after Newcastle.
These fixtures will certainly go a long way in tempering any interest in Michail Antonio (£6.5m) who currently sits in 16.7% of Fantasy squads.
While the recently converted forward registered nine attacking returns during the restart, he managed just two goals in 10 appearances against West Ham’s first six opponents of 2020/21 across the whole of last season.
Perhaps the handy thing about such a brutal start to the campaign is that a large chunk of West Ham’s tough games will be out of the way by Gameweek 7.
It means that between Gameweeks 8 and 16, the Hammers sit top of the Season Ticker for appealing fixtures as they host Fulham, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Brighton during this period while facing Leeds and Southampton away.
That said, West Ham have previously been a team whose morale has been knocked when starting the season with tough fixtures. Antonio might have a good schedule by then but will he have the form and confidence to deliver on it by that point or not? Fantasy managers will have to keep a close eye on the Hammers through their sticky patch considering the light at the end of the tunnel.
We recently examined the points potential of West Ham’s defensive midfielder Tomas Soucek (£5.0m) in THIS MEMBERS ARTICLE and, like Antonio, interest is likely to wane now that the fixtures have been revealed.
The Czech Republic international was predominantly dangerous from set-play situations which could lead to some attacking returns in the opening six matches, but only against perhaps two or three of West Ham’s first opponents.
During the Project Restart period, Newcastle and Spurs were in the Premier League’s bottom four for headed goal attempts conceded. The same two clubs were also among the worst four for shots conceded from set-plays, while Arsenal gave up 33 of these between Gameweeks 30+ and 38+, bad enough for the division’s bottom eight.
First six matches: — | SHU | ful | LIV | lei | LEE
There is unlikely to be much interest in Aston Villa assets at the start of the season given their tough fixtures, especially at the attacking end of the field.
After blanking in the opening round of action, Sheffield United and Liverpool’s usually reliable defences are the first two to come to Villa Park while they travel to Leicester in Gameweek 5.
The trip to Fulham and Gameweek 6 visit of Leeds are the only matches in this run that offer much in the way of attacking promise but do remember that Villa sacrificed a lot of their offensive threat for defensive stability during Project Restart.
In this period, Dean Smith’s men scored just seven goals; only Crystal Palace (five) and Norwich (one) finding the net less often.
That aforementioned defensive stability could offer some clean sheet potential against the newly-promoted sides and potentially Sheffield United, although Villa still only kept three clean sheets during Project Restart.
Crystal Palace look to be the team who rotate home games with Villa, so anyone with Nathan Ferguson (£4.0m) in their team could combine him with what’s on offer here, but someone such as Matt Targett (£4.5m) might prove more useful between Gameweeks 7 and 12.
This is when Villa’s fixtures turn for the better, when Southampton, Brighton and Newcastle come to Villa Park, although road trips to Arsenal, West Ham and Wolves are still somewhat daunting and could discourage more than budget investment.
First six matches: — | lei | SOU | new | wba | TOT
The case for Nick Pope (£5.5m) took another hit with the release of 2019/20’s fixtures.
While the Burnley shot-stopper could perform better than the usual £5.5m goalkeeper with his combination of clean sheets, saves and bonus, no fixture in Blank Gameweek 1 presents a huge problem.
Anyone previously looking at Pope was likely combining him with a £4.0m goalkeeper to save funds. With the fixtures now published, this approach would almost certainly result in playing with 10 men for Gameweek 1. After all, forking out for a £5.5m and £4.5m in combination, a total of £10.0m, is surely too much to spend in this department.
Beyond the Blank, the fixtures themselves are somewhat mixed. Clashes with Leicester (away) and Spurs (home) are the obvious trickier ones while a run of Southampton (home), Newcastle (away) and West Bromwich Albion (away) between Gameweeks 3 and 5 doesn’t look too bad at all.
Unfortunately, Burnley do not get much of a prolonged period of blue on the ticker for some time. Between Gameweeks 7 and 12 they face three top-six clubs in Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal.
Paired with Brighton (away), Crystal Palace (home) and Everton (home), the points potential for Pope during this period may not actually be too bad, considering his ability to get lots of saves and bonus even in the tougher matches – but it does not solve the issue of how to get him in a Fantasy squad in the first place.
Instead, Burnley’s schedule perhaps suits a £4.5m defensive rotation rather than more costly investment elsewhere. The Clarets pair home games with Leicester, who can offer up James Justin (£4.5m) in the same bracket as Charlie Taylor (£4.5m).
First six matches: liv | FUL | shu | MCI | WOL | avl
While there is a lot of buzz about having Leeds back in the Premier League this season, they certainly could have been rewarded with a kinder start to the campaign.
In the first six Gameweeks, they face Liverpool (away) and Manchester City (home) while also doing battle with the mean defences of Sheffield United and Wolves.
A Gameweek 2 might give the best insight into how Leeds will play in a sustained period of favourable matches, but they won’t get one of those into much later in 2020/21.
Between Gameweeks 7 and 12, Marcelo Bielsa’s men face Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester and are sixth-worst on the Season Ticker accordingly.
It takes until Gameweek 13 for Leeds to get a string of slightly more appealing games together in one go. Between then and Gameweek 18, they face Newcastle, Burnley and Southampton at home and travel to Manchester United, West Brom and Spurs.
At this point in time, there is plenty of uncertainty about how Leeds’ style of play will fare in the top-flight and a mixed bag in terms of fixtures over the first 12 Gameweeks is likely to limit investment perhaps only to the cheaper options such as Luke Ayling (£4.5m).
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Arsenal’s initial start to the campaign is a very favourable one, pitting Mikel Arteta’s men against Fulham and West Ham. That is, of course, good news for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12.0m), the Blank for Manchester City and Manchester United in the opening Gameweek catapulting him into the captaincy equation.
However, with those two games out of the way, Arsenal’s fixtures take a turn for the worse in Gameweek 3, as they travel to face Liverpool and Manchester City between then and Gameweek 5, while the home matches are against Sheffield United and Leicester.
Thankfully, Gameweek 3 is when Manchester City’s assets start to pick up, making a switch between Aubameyang and one of Pep Guardiola’s premium midfielders an easy choice that week.
We nearly gave Manchester City their own full heading in this article but stopped just short of doing so when we remembered how fixture-proof their players are capable of being. Instead, we decided only to make you aware of the fixture-related difficulties owners will have to deal with.
The Blank in Gameweek 1 does present a bit of an issue but, as we’ve already mentioned, a simple switch from Aubameyang to a City midfielder looks relatively simple in Gameweek 3.
Once Manchester City enter the Premier League fray, their fixtures could certainly have been nicer. Combined with the blank, trips to Wolves, Leeds and West Ham as well as home matches against Leicester and Arsenal are good enough only for a place in the bottom five on the Season Ticker.
However, should that really put us off? In games against Wolves, Leicester, Arsenal and West Ham last season (we obviously cannot include Leeds), who was the FPL midfielder that scored the most goals? Raheem Sterling (£11.5m) with a total of seven. And can you guess who had the most assists in matches against those clubs? Kevin De Bruyne (£11.5m) who assisted six times and scored four goals (10 attacking returns).
It is a similar story for Manchester United, whose Blank causes enough of a problem for the Season Ticker to mark them down, but their initial fixtures are still good enough to get a mention in our first Frisking the Fixtures article published on Thursday afternoon.
When the Season Ticker is filtered to display Gameweeks 2 to 7, the Red Devils rank seventh-best overall for their schedule.
During this period they play at home four times and even though they host Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal after Crystal Palace come to Old Trafford, these clubs are all sides Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men did well against last season. Throwing away trips to Brighton and Newcastle into the mix only adds to the appeal.
Against those six sides in 2019/20, Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) registered nine attacking returns, Anthony Martial (£9.0m) scored five goals and added three assists while Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m) was involved in three goals in 333 minutes against that pool of teams.
We should also mention West Brom, who have a nice clean cut between tough and favourable fixtures between Gameweeks 3 and 4.
While the Baggies are probably best avoided when they face Leicester (home), Everton (away) and Chelsea (home) in the first three rounds, Gameweek 4 could be the time to consider Slaven Bilic’s men.
Between then and Gameweek 7, West Brom face Southampton (away), Burnley (home), Brighton (away) and Fulham (away).