We assess the Premier League clubs with the strongest and weakest runs of league matches over the coming weeks in our regular frisk of the fixture list.
Although our primary focus will be on a six-Gameweek lookahead in this article, we will scrutinise the longer-term prospects where relevant.
We’re still waiting for the top flight of English football to settle down to some extent, with only two of the traditional “big six” clubs currently to be found above 10th place.
Perhaps what we perceive to be normality won’t resume and upstarts like Everton, Leeds United and Aston Villa are here to stay at the top end of the table.
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that our Season Ticker, which is the primary source for this piece, has already had a tweak in terms of fixture difficulty rating: the table-topping Toffees, for example, have crossed over to the scarlet end of the colour spectrum.
There have been functionality improvements to the ticker on our home page, too, with ‘drag and drop’ returning and the ability to remove a Gameweek added.
Next six: wol |LEE | bur | NEW | wba | TOT
Crystal Palace remain top of our Season Ticker over the next six Gameweeks, although their favourable run is bookended by tricky tests against a defensively solid Wolverhampton Wanderers and high-flying Tottenham Hotspur.
The Gameweek 8 visit of Leeds United is no straightforward prospect either, given the ease with which Marcelo Bielsa’s side brushed aside the previously unbeaten Aston Villa last Friday.
It’s the three fixtures that fall immediately after the international break that catch the eye most as Burnley, Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion all currently lie 14th or below in the embryonic Premier League table.
Wolves’ relative struggles in front of goal are also worth considering: four of the Eagles’ five Gameweek 7-11 opponents, including Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, are in the bottom half of the table for goals scored.
The Gameweek 5 and 6 fixtures were frustrating from a defensive perspective, with 90th-minute strikes, both from outside the box, depriving the Eagles of clean sheets.
Roy Hodgson’s troops were only a slice of luck away from shut-outs in both cases and, given their defence-first reputation, par for the next five Gameweeks would surely be at least two clean sheets.
Next six: new | MUN | ful | LEE | bur | CHE
As is the case with Palace, Everton’s schedule take a bit of a nosedive from Gameweek 12 onwards.
Not that our traditional view of what constitutes a tricky fixture seems to hold true at present, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.7m) already delivering the goods against both Spurs and Liverpool.
If we are to consider games that are at least appealing on paper, then the Toffees’ next three away matches are among the best.
Newcastle, Fulham and Burnley have looked like three of the most anaemic attacks in the Premier League this season and rank in the bottom six for big chances created.
That trio of clubs only have two clean sheets between them, although the Clarets have begun to look more like their old mean selves since the international break and made life tough for Spurs on Monday.
Next six: SOU | ars | BHA | whu | NEW | wol
Aston Villa’s 100% record came to a crashing end against Leeds United last Friday, with Marcelo Bielsa’s side delivering a reality check to the Villans.
Villa’s upcoming run of games, particularly at home, presents them with a decent opportunity to regain their momentum, however.
Dean Smith’s side sit top of our Season Ticker from now until Boxing Day, with Southampton, Brighton, Newcastle, Burnley and Crystal Palace up next for the Villans on their own turf and West Brom awaiting in Gameweek 15.
While some of those sides are performing well in the opening weeks of the campaign, that still constitutes a welcoming sequence of games in most people’s eyes.
Arsenal, West Ham and Wolves will be tough nuts to crack for Jack Grealish (£7.3m) and co on the road, however, with that trio of clubs among the more defensively secure sides in the division this season.
Villa’s fixtures rotate fairly well with those of both Newcastle and West Ham up until Christmas, should any FPL manager be considering a way to navigate those trickier tests for Smith’s troops.
WEST HAM UNITED
Next six: liv | FUL | shu| AVL | MUN | lee
Given that Frisking the Fixtures is a fortnightly series, West Ham United’s favourable run will have already commenced by the time we take a look over the schedule again during the international break.
The Hammers sit top of our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 8-20, with some particularly juicy games in east London to come against Fulham, Villa, Palace, Brighton, West Brom and Burnley over the next three months.
A trip to Anfield is the last obstacle before the November swing but the Reds are struggling for numbers at the back and this might be a decent time to face the reigning champions, who have conceded a joint-league-worst 14 goals this season.
Michail Antonio (£6.3m) has already bagged goals against Leicester, Arsenal and Manchester City in 2020/21, so the calibre of opposition seems to matter little to the in-form forward – although his hamstrings might have a say in his availability.
David Moyes’ side have been excellent since a Gameweek 2 switch to a wing-back system but it remains to be seen how they fare against sides who are more content to let the Hammers play on the front foot, which might be the case in Gameweeks 8 and 9.
Next six: bur |SHU | new | TOT | LEE | eve
Were we to focus solely on the next three Gameweeks, then Chelsea would top the pile on our Season Ticker.
Two winless clubs in the relegation zone and an unconvincing Newcastle side are to come before things turn sour, with Chelsea facing none of the current bottom five between Gameweeks 10-18.
The Clarets and the Blades are the two worst attacks in the Premier League so far this season, with each scoring just three goals apiece.
Steve Bruce’s side have also looked toothless going forward, with no side having had fewer shots on target.
Four clean sheets in the last five matches in all competitions has hinted at a bit of a sea change for Chelsea, with new recruits Thiago Silva (£5.5m), Ben Chilwell (£5.8m) and Edouard Mendy (£5.0m) having the desired effect on a previously troubled defence.
At the other end, the Blues are now finally at full strength after an injury-interrupted start to 2020/21 and we’ll surely see a return to a more attacking set-up at Turf Moor on Saturday after the safety-first approach at Old Trafford in Gameweek 6.
West Bromwich Albion (ful | TOT | mun | SHU | CRY | new), like so many clubs featured in this piece, have a mixed bag of games, with the double-header against Spurs and Manchester United the obvious negative.
Their other four opponents in the next six Gameweeks are all in the bottom half for goals scored, however, with Fulham and Sheffield United the only two top-tier sides yet to keep a Premier League clean sheet this season.
The Baggies have looked a lot more solid (against admittedly limited attacks) in the last two Gameweeks and their fixtures rotate very well with West Ham’s up until Christmas, for those nostalgic managers finding the allure of a romantic Branislav Ivanovic (£4.5m) pick hard to resist.
Top-of-the-table Everton, an improving Southampton and a Chelsea side finally nearing full strength are next up for Newcastle United (EVE | sou | CHE | cry | avl | WBA), an awkward trio of matches that undermines their lofty position in our Season Ticker.
Look beyond that though and there are some more appealing fixtures for the Magpies’ backline, with Palace, West Brom and Fulham (who Steve Bruce’s side face in Gameweek 14) hardly setting the world alight with their attacking play so far in 2020/21.
Those three teams are, as it happens, also in the bottom three for expected goals conceded, too.
Looking ahead to our next piece over the November international break, expect to see Manchester City (shu | LIV | tot | BUR | FUL | mun) feature more prominently as we gear up for their mouth-watering fixture swing in Gameweek 10.
Next six: WBA | whu | EVE | lei | mci | LIV
A Gameweek 7 clash with fellow Premier League new boys West Bromwich Albion will likely represent the last hurrah for Aleksandar Mitrovic (£5.8m) in many Fantasy teams, for those managers who didn’t sell him long ago.
Fulham’s schedule is appalling from next week onwards, with four clubs scoring at a rate of two+ goals per game to come in Gameweeks 8-12 – the one exception being Manchester City, who will surely be back to their destructive best sooner rather than later.
Frankly, little more needs to be written on the matter. Some clubs, like West Ham, have been able to ride out a tough fixture run but the Cottagers, bottom of the table, winless and without a clean sheet despite a relatively favourable opening run of games, have “avoid” written all over them in the medium term at the very least.
Next six: CHE | bha | CRY | mci | EVE | ars
While Fulham won’t be giving their upcoming opponents any nightmares, a streetwise Burnley side may be a tougher prospect.
The Clarets’ forthcoming fixture run, which includes meetings with attack-minded sides such as Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton, is enough to deter fresh investment in the likes of Nick Pope (£5.5m), despite a decent-looking double-header either side of the international break.
Sean Dyche’s side could still have a big say in FPL matters, however, with their defence starting to look more like their old selves since the October international break.
We indeed saw a free-scoring Spurs side struggle to break down their opponents at Turf Moor in Gameweek 6 and, over the course of the season, no Premier League side has allowed fewer big chances than Pope and co.
Is a sea of red on the Season Ticker enough to put managers off Leeds United (LEI | cry | ARS | eve | che | WHU)?
All of the Whites’ next six opponents are currently ranked 12th or above, with Leicester, Arsenal and West Ham among the three best sides in the division from a defensive perspective.
But then that was also true of Aston Villa before Patrick Bamford (£5.9m) butchered Dean Smith’s side in the Midlands, with Marcelo Bielsa’s boys having previously gone toe to toe with last season’s top two and taken points off Manchester City.
Sheffield United (MCI | che | WHU | wba | LEI | sou) have neither form nor fixtures on their side over the next five Gameweeks (and possibly beyond), with the exception of the trip to West Brom in November.
So defensively solid in 2019/20, the Blades have yet to keep a clean sheet this season and face tough upcoming tests: Chelsea, West Ham and Leicester have all scored two goals per match or more, while Manchester City are long overdue a big win.
Finally, a cautionary word on two teams who will feature more prominently in this piece for all the wrong reasons when we revisit the fixture list over the international break.
The short-term outlook is positive for Wolverhampton Wanderers (CRY | lei | SOU | ars | liv | AVL) and Tottenham Hotspur (BHA | wba | MCI | che | ARS | cry), with the former enjoying a winnable next two matches at Molineux and the latter having perhaps the best pair of Gameweek 7/8 fixtures.
Beyond that, though, are more daunting schedules, with both sides facing six of last season’s top eight from Gameweeks 9-16 – that truly will be a test of form versus fixtures for the likes of Harry Kane (£10.9m) and Son Heung-min (£9.5m).
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