Little more than three weeks since the end of 2020/21, the fixtures for the upcoming Premier League season are out.
We’ve already taken a look at the top-flight teams with the best runs of opening games on paper, so now we switch attention to those sides with less favourable schedules.
A six-Gameweek lookahead is our initial focus but we’ll cast our eyes further where necessary.
Our Season Ticker was updated almost immediately after the fixtures were released at 9am BST on Wednesday, with the opening six Gameweeks sorted by difficulty below:
Subscribers to Fantasy Football Scout can use this helpful tool to pick out the best and worst runs of matches for each club, sort by rotation pairings, use their own customised difficulty ratings and more.
You can see a tutorial on the Season Ticker below:
- FIRST SIX FIXTURES: LIV | mci | LEI | ars | WAT | eve
- POSSIBLE TURNING POINT: WAT (GW5)
Welcome back to the Premier League, Norwich City.
The champions of the English second-tier sit rock bottom of our Season Ticker in the opening month, having been handed a nightmare start.
Liverpool and Manchester City are first up, with Leicester City to follow before the September international break.
It’s difficult to know which incarnation of Arsenal will turn up when the Canaries welcome the Gunners to Carrow Road in Gameweek 4 but Mikel Arteta’s Jekyll-and-Hyde side were second in the Premier League form table in 2021, hinting at some modest improvement.
Daniel Farke’s troops have some respite from Gameweeks 4-7, at least, with fellow new boys Watford to come as well as Everton, Brighton and Hove Albion and Burnley.
Fantasy investment in Teemu Pukki may have to wait, then, although the Finn did of course bag against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City in the first few weeks of 2019/20.
- FIRST SIX FIXTURES: CRY | ars | liv | AVL | tot | MCI
- POSSIBLE TURNING POINT: SOU (GW7)
A number of Chelsea assets may well be on Scout Picks duty in Gameweek 1 but the medium-term outlook is not so rosy for the European champions.
Crystal Palace visit Stamford Bridge on the opening weekend and have provided obliging opposition recently, losing their last seven encounters with the Blues – including both fixtures last season by a combined 8-1 scoreline.
The Eagles may be a bit of an unknown quantity given the change of manager, of course, while more traditional stiffer tests then await Thomas Tuchel’s troops.
A triple-header of away games at Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur is punctuated by a clash with Aston Villa, who defeated Chelsea 2-1 in Gameweek 38.
Champions Manchester City then follow in Gameweek 6.
Write off Tuchel’s side at your peril, though: Chelsea beat City in all three of their league and cup meetings in 2021 and shut out the likes of Liverpool, Spurs, Manchester United and Leeds United after Frank Lampard departed.
- FIRST SIX FIXTURES: mun | EVE| bur | LIV | new | WHU
- POSSIBLE TURNING POINT: new (GW5)
For Leeds, read Chelsea: iffy opening fixtures but a side that showed big improvements at the back in 2021 and who proved themselves capable of going toe to toe with the traditional elite, especially on home soil.
In truth, it’s only really the clashes with Manchester United and Liverpool that should be off-putting.
Everton are an unknown quantity at this stage following the change of manager, while Burnley, Newcastle and West Ham’s defensive form deserted them in the second half of last season: only Southampton kept fewer clean sheets than that trio of clubs (four each) from Gameweek 20 onwards.
The Gameweek 5 trip to Newcastle indeed heralds a six-match run in which Leeds are catapulted to the top of our Season Ticker.
- FIRST SIX FIXTURES: che | BRE | whu | TOT | liv | BHA
- POSSIBLE TURNING POINT: WOL (GW11)
Whoever takes over at Crystal Palace faces a baptism of fire.
Extending the Season Ticker lookahead to Gameweek 10 sees the Eagles drop to the bottom, with seven of the teams who finished in the top eight last season awaiting Roy Hodgson’s former charges.
Home games against Brentford, rivals Brighton and Newcastle are chinks of light amidst that run but there’ll few Fantasy managers gambling on Wilfried Zaha and co until November at the earliest.
No team kept fewer clean sheets than Southampton (eve | MUN | new | WHU | mci | WOL) in the second half of last season and shut-out opportunities may be thin on the ground in the first few months of 2021/22.
The opening six games aren’t a complete write-off, with an Everton side in flux, Newcastle, a defensively suspect West Ham and Wolves all to come.
But taking the Gameweek 7 and 8 clashes with Chelsea and Leeds United into consideration does push the schedule towards unfavourable territory, particularly as encounters with both Manchester clubs are to come before then.
Tottenham Hotspur (MCI | wol | WAT | cry | CHE | ars) have the trickiest test of Gameweek 1, meanwhile, with four London derbies to come between Gameweeks 3-6.
Spurs do rise to third in our Gameweek 2-8 ticker once the visit of Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions is out of the way, however.
There is not much to like about Burnley‘s (BHA | liv | LEE | eve | ARS | lei) opening set of matches, meanwhile.
That goes doubly true for Chris Wood, given that Brighton, Liverpool, Leeds, Everton and Arsenal were all in the top seven for clean sheets in the final 12 Gameweeks of the campaign.