With the Premier League fixtures now released for 2023/24, we can start assessing which teams we should invest in and which we should avoid.
Having already taken a look at the top-flight teams with the best runs of opening fixtures on paper, here we focus on those sides with less favourable schedules.
The primary focus in this article will be on a six-Gameweek lookahead but we will scrutinise the shorter and longer-term prospects where appropriate.
- READ MORE: When will FPL launch for 2023/24?
- READ MORE: FPL pre-season 2023/24 guide: Pre-season friendly fixtures, transfers + more
SEASON TICKER OUTLOOK
Our Season Ticker has been updated, 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.
Eddie Howe’s troops have been handed a nightmare start to 2023/24, with their opening five fixtures all against teams who finished in the top half last season.
After hosting a much-improved Aston Villa side in Gameweek 1, they face champions Manchester City, Liverpool, Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford.
As a result, Newcastle sit rock bottom of our Season Ticker across the opening five rounds.
These fixtures will surely go a long way in tempering any interest in Kieran Trippier and co, but they might prove more useful in Gameweek 6, which is when their schedule improves, with consecutive matches against newly-promoted Sheffield United and Burnley, plus West Ham United, Crystal Palace and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The Magpies have had a quiet summer transfer window so far, but have recently been linked with Italian midfielder Nicolo Barella, a signing which would signify a major statement of intent for the Champions League qualifiers.
They play the first of six group stage games on September 19 or 20, which falls between Gameweeks 5 and 6.
There won’t be much interest in Nottingham Forest players at the start of the season given their tough opening fixtures.
In the first six Gameweeks, they face all of last season’s top three – Man City, Arsenal and Manchester United – along with Chelsea, who should improve under Mauricio Pochettino.
All of those aforementioned fixtures are on the road, where Steve Cooper’s side struggled last term. Indeed, their away form was a real Achilles heel in 2022/23, with just eight points picked up on their travels.
Above: Nott’m Forest created just 16.2 expected goals (xG) in away matches last season, the lowest tally in the top-flight
The only positives from the above schedule is that Forest, who retained their Premier League status with a game to spare last term, do at least host the three newly-promoted clubs early on in the campaign.
Sheffield United and Burnley are the Reds’ first two home games, with Luton Town due to visit the City Ground in Gameweek 9.
WEST HAM UNITED
While a West Ham player could potentially be on Scout Picks duty in Gameweek 1, the medium-term outlook is not so rosy for the Europa Conference League champions, who are likely to start the season without key midfielder Declan Rice.
After their opening day clash with Bournemouth, the Hammers meet Pochettino’s Chelsea in a London derby, before facing three of last season’s top six in the next four rounds.
Fantasy investment in Jarrod Bowen may have to wait then, although goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski could produce save points and pick up a bit of interest if priced up at £4.5m, following a campaign that saw him keep just nine clean sheets – only five sides recorded fewer.
Like last year, many of West Ham’s fixtures in the first half of 2023/24 will be rescheduled for Sundays, due to Europa League group stage games taking place on Thursdays.
Gary O’Neil did an excellent job keeping Bournemouth in the Premier League last season, after a difficult start that saw them concede 16 goals across their first four matches.
However, it’s a tricky start this time around, too, which begins with the visit of West Ham, followed by Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Brentford, Chelsea and Brighton.
In fact, if we extend the Season Ticker to include the Gameweek 7 meeting with Arsenal, the Cherries drop to 19th.
It means few FPL managers will be gambling on Dominic Solanke and co until October at the earliest.
ALSO BE AWARE OF
Newly-promoted Sheffield United (CRY/nfo/MCI/EVE/tot/NEW) have a pretty decent start, with fixtures against Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest, but with Man City, Spurs and Newcastle to follow in the next four, interest in Iliman Ndiaye may have to wait, despite carrying a fair bit of potential.
Meanwhile, Fulham (eve/BRE/ars/mci/LUT/cry) recorded a surprise top-half finish last season, but while their opening and closing games of the first five Gameweeks are relatively kind, a run of Brentford, Arsenal and champions Man City in the middle is far from ideal.
It means Fantasy investment in 14-goal forward Aleksandar Mitrovic may have to wait, although the Cottagers do at least have some respite from Gameweeks 5 to 8, with new boys Luton Town and Sheffield United to come as well as Crystal Palace.
Tottenham Hotspur (bre/MUN) and Chelsea (LIV/whu), both of whom will be playing under new managers, have two tricky fixtures to start but they do at least improve soon after.
Elsewhere, Manchester United face Spurs, Arsenal and Brighton inside the first five Gameweeks, but have some decent fixtures in and around it (WOL/NFO/bur), hence not taking a more prominent role in this piece.
Erik ten Hag, of course, guided his side to Champions League qualification in his first season at Old Trafford, with the Red Devils keeping more clean sheets than any other side in 2022/23.