Our regular “frisk” of the Premier League fixture list from a Fantasy perspective returns for the first time since the 2020/21 season got underway.
In this 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 from each of the sides discussed.
Although our primary focus will be on a six-Gameweek lookahead, we will scrutinise the long-term fixtures beyond that point where relevant.
Our customisable Season Ticker is our main reference point here – subscribers to our site can use this tool to sort by fixture difficulty, rotation pairings and home and away matches, as well as apply their own custom ratings.
Next six: whu | FUL | lee | NEW | CRY | lei
Having already breached two of last season’s meanest defences in the opening two Gameweeks, Wolves and owners of their Fantasy assets should be brimming with confidence heading into the next five fixtures.
Clashes with newly promoted Fulham and Leeds United are sandwiched by matches against West Ham United, Newcastle United and Crystal Palace, with three of those five games staged at Molineux.
Fulham and Leeds have already shipped a combined 14 goals between them in the opening fortnight of the season and are ranked in the bottom three for shots on target conceded.
In fact, of Wolves’ next four opponents, only Newcastle have registered a single clean sheet so far in 2020/21 – and the Magpies were put to the sword by Brighton in Gameweek 2.
Although the West Midlands side seldom seem to batter the also-rans of the division (on only two occasions last season was their winning margin bigger than two goals), Nuno Espirito Santo’s recent comments and formation switch hinted at a removal of the handbrake.
And another positive: with Wolves already eliminated from the EFL Cup and not involved in European club competition this season, fixture congestion won’t be the issue it was in 2019/20.
Next six: NEW | mun | WHU| bur | BHA | wba
Underwhelming against Everton and then again in the opening 45 minutes against Southampton, Spurs were ruthless after the break at St Mary’s last Sunday.
Their myriad problems won’t be solved by one half of football, especially as the result was as much to do with Saints’ failings as it was Spurs’ killer instinct.
The jury remains partly out on Jose Mourinho’s troops and with their involvement in the EFL Cup and Europa League resulting in a brutal three-games-a-week schedule, there are understandable lingering reservations about Son Heung-min (£9.0m) and co despite their recent 5-1 win.
There is little doubt, though, that the Lilywhites have one of the more favourable fixture runs over the next two months.
Jose Mourinho’s troops face four clubs who finished 10th or below last season and newly promoted West Bromwich Albion from Gameweeks 3-8, with a trip to Manchester United just before the October international break the one obvious hurdle – although the Red Devils themselves have had a sluggish start.
The Baggies have the worst defence in the division at this embryonic stage of the campaign, while West Ham have still only kept two clean sheets under David Moyes since his appointment in January.
Gameweek 3 opponents Newcastle United were also ripped to shreds by Brighton last Sunday.
Harry Kane (£10.5m) has plundered eight goals and four assists in the Lilywhites’ 11 league fixtures since the June restart – not bad for a glorified ‘number 10’.
Next six: AVL | wol| shu | CRY | WBA | whu
Other than bench fodder, Fantasy interest in the Cottagers centres around one man: Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.0m).
Few will be venturing anywhere near a defence that has conceded seven goals in their opening two games and who were regularly battered in their last top-flight spell.
Rotation looks to be a risk in midfield, too, especially in the attacking trident behind Mitrovic.
For those hanging onto the Serb, it’s Fulham’s medium-term home fixtures that catch the eye with Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion and Everton to come between now and Gameweek 9. All these sides finished in the bottom half of the Premier League or were promoted last season although, as we’ve seen with the Toffees and Palace especially, that could already be an irrelevance.
The same could be said for Sheffield United for different reasons, of course, with the Blades – Fulham’s Gameweek 5 opponents – not looking as watertight as they once were.
Gameweek 9 or 10 seems like a jumping-off point for Mitrovic backers, with some daunting fixtures to come in November and December.
Next six: bur | WBA | che | EVE | avl | NEW
Southampton are hardly off to an auspicious start, with two losses, six goals conceded and some worrying comments from Ralph Hasenhuttl all acting as repellents.
While their defenders aren’t exactly issuing “come-and-get-me” pleas to FPL managers, Danny Ings (£8.4m) bounced back to scoring form against Spurs and now seems to be first in line for penalties, if he wasn’t already.
The upcoming fixture schedule looks more positive at least, with five matches against sides who either came up from the Championship or finished 10th or below in the top flight last season sandwiching a Gameweek 5 meeting with Chelsea.
Burnley’s patched-up backline and West Brom’s creaky defence certainly look like perfect matches for Ings, even if the players behind him are struggling for form and fitness.
Next six: wba | CRY | SOU | mun | bur | SHU
With Liverpool and the two Manchester clubs having mixed runs in the next half-dozen Gameweeks, Chelsea have the most appealing sequence of games among the teams that finished in the top four last season.
West Brom and Southampton, as we have discussed, have looked wide open in the first two rounds of the new campaign and let’s not forget that Crystal Palace, as good as they have been in September, didn’t register a single shut-out against the top nine clubs last season.
And will Burnley and Sheffield United be as formidable as they were in 2019/20? The tiny data sample that is the first two Gameweeks suggests not, but we will at least have more to go off by the time Frank Lampard’s side face last season’s surprise packages in Gameweeks 7 and 8.
We’re still waiting on the new-look Chelsea to hit full throttle and we may not see what they are truly capable of until Christian Pulisic (£8.4m) and Hakim Ziyech (£7.9m) return from injury, whenever that may be.
Regardless, those invested in Timo Werner (£9.5m) and Kai Havertz (£8.4m) will surely give the German imports at least another Gameweek to prove their worth given that Slaven Bilic’s porous West Brom side are currently conceding chances and goals galore.
Crystal Palace (EVE | che | BHA | ful | wol |LEE) will be a permanent fixture in these articles over the coming month or two, with their schedule looking very decent indeed all the way up to Gameweek 11 (and possibly beyond).
All three of the newly promoted sides face the Eagles between now and that point, along with Brighton, Burnley and Newcastle.
That’s particularly relevant as all ten of Palace’s clean sheets last season came in matches against teams who finished 10th or below.
Indeed, Roy Hodgson’s troops were at it again in Gameweek 1, shutting out Southampton.
The reason we don’t feature the Eagles higher up in this article is their next two matches: in Everton and Chelsea, they will be tackling two sides who have spent big on attacking assets over the summer, with the Toffees in particular looking like a team transformed.
Frank Lampard’s side may also have a half-decent goalkeeper between the sticks in Gameweek 4, following the capture of Edouard Mendy (£5.0m) – a blow to owners of Wilfried Zaha (£7.1m) and co given the well-documented struggles of the unfortunate Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.0m).
Sandwiching home games against Chelsea and Spurs are four winnable matches for West Bromwich Albion (CHE | sou | BUR | bha | ful | TOT).
Much like with Fulham, few of us will be going anywhere near Albion’s ropey-looking defence or most of their more attack-minded assets.
Matheus Pereira (£6.0m), like Mitrovic, is something of a talisman for his newly promoted club, however, and can likely be relied on for starts and the occasional goal involvement.
Southampton and Burnley are two clubs at a bit of a defensive crossroads, with Saints’ ill-fated high line experimentation and the Clarets’ unavailability issues meaning that now is probably a decent time to face both sides.
Fulham and Albion may well be the Premier League whipping boys this season and they meet in Gameweek 7, with goals looking likelier than clean sheets based on the evidence so far.
Everton (cry | BHA | LIV | sou | new | MUN) have unquestionably exceeded expectations in the opening three Gameweeks: now perhaps comes some tougher tests.
Crystal Palace and Brighton are two sides who have caught the eye in the opening two weeks of the campaign, with the Eagles boasting a 100% record and their rivals up the M23 impressive in both defeat and victory over the last fortnight.
A Merseyside derby follows immediately after the international break and it’s perhaps not until Gameweek 6 that the Toffees’ schedule really gets good, with Fulham and Leeds also waiting at the end of November.
Burnley (SOU | new | wba | TOT | CHE | bha) are the opposite, with their next three fixtures arguably the best of any Premier League side’s.
Three teams that conceded 13 goals between them in Gameweek 2 alone are up next for the Clarets, who themselves could be vulnerable with both first-choice centre-halves and a plethora of others on the treatment table.
Chris Wood (£6.5m), who looks about as nailed as could be in attack and who looked sharp in the Gameweek 2 defeat at Leicester, might be able to exploit three backlines who require radical and urgent improvement based on their early-season woes.
WEST HAM UNITED
Next six: WOL | lei | tot | MCI | liv | FUL
Sitting rock bottom of our Season Ticker over the next five Gameweeks, winless West Ham are in for a tough old autumn.
The favourable opening-day clash with Newcastle ended in a dire defeat and, although there was a marked improvement at the Emirates last weekend, the medium-term outlook is bleak for David Moyes’ COVID-hit side.
Having already encountered Arsenal, the Hammers meet another five of last season’s top eight between Gameweeks 3 and 7.
Three of those matches are away from home, too.
West Ham’s defence has long been off the Fantasy menu but interest in Michail Antonio (£6.4m) was keen after his post-restart exploits.
Even against “big six” opposition, he has proven that he can deliver – goals against the Gunners, Chelsea and Manchester United have arrived since lockdown ended – but, in reality, anyone who pays even a modicum of attention to fixture difficulty will be deterred by the sea of red given the mid-price alternatives with more favourable schedules.
Next six: liv | SHU | mci | LEI | mun | AVL
After a favourable start to 2020/21 in which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.9m) barely made par against Fulham and West Ham United, Arsenal’s fixtures are heading south.
Eight of last season’s top ten clubs are to come between now and Gameweek 12, with away trips to Anfield and the Etihad of immediate concern.
In nine 2019/20 league meetings against his next five opponents, Aubameyang delivered just two goals and one assist.
It should be said that the Gabon international recently scored against the Reds and City in the Community Shield and FA Cup semi-finals respectively, with Liverpool’s high defensive line, exposed by Leeds in Gameweek 1, something that could benefit the premium FPL midfielder.
Still, the fact remains that the Gunners’ Gameweek 3-7 opponents were all in the top six for fewest goals conceded in 2019/20.
Arsenal and their left-winger will undoubtedly pick up results and attacking returns against their forthcoming opposition; it’s just how many, and whether keeping an FPL asset so pricey is justifiable given that he isn’t likely to be backed with the armband until perhaps Gameweek 8.
Next six: shu | MCI | WOL | avl | LEI | cry
The darlings of the FPL community and scourge of the expected goal brigade, Leeds United have offered excellent value in attack in the opening two Gameweeks of the season.
Scoring three goals against Liverpool will give Marcelo Bielsa’s side encouragement that they can bust any top-flight defence and they’ll need that hope heading into a tricky run of games.
Six of Leeds’ next nine opponents were top-half finishers last season, with a promising Everton side also to come.
Four of the Whites’ next five games are against teams who were in the top seven for fewest goals conceded and most clean sheets kept in 2020/21.
Now might be a decent time to play Sheffield United, mind, with the Blades struggling to recapture last season’s defensively solidity and down a centre-half in Gameweek 3.
In Manchester City and Wolves, however, Leeds will be facing two of the meanest backlines of the post-lockdown era: they have kept 13 clean sheets in their last 22 league games combined.
Next six: LEE | ars | FUL | liv | MCI | CHE
Having been usurped by Leeds as the hipsters’ favourite, Sheffield United now have to wrestle some of last season’s form back ahead of a daunting run of games.
Home fixtures against newly promoted Leeds and Fulham at least don’t look too bad on paper but the Whites’ free-scoring start to the campaign may be of some concern to Chris Wilder, whose side are goalless, clean sheet-less and pointless after two Gameweeks.
There were mitigating factors against Aston Villa given that they played 80 minutes with only ten men and they produced a creditable display in defeat, not allowing their opposition a single big chance.
But with their previously budget-friendly defenders all handed price rises for 2020/21, and with only two shut-outs recorded in 12 meetings against ‘big six’ clubs last season, the Blades’ assets will likely be low down on many FPL managers’ watchlists until a favourable swing in Gameweek 9.
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