In Frisking the Fixtures, we take a look at the teams and players with the strongest runs of matches over the next six Gameweeks.
An overview of the clubs with less appealing matches will follow later.
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If fixtures breed form, then Chelsea won’t have to wait long before their first win of the season arrives.
A 3-1 defeat to West Ham United hasn’t deterred investment in the Blues, with four of their players already topping 100,000 for transfers in.
The attack-minded defender Ben Chilwell (£5.7m) is leading the charge, with striker Nicolas Jackson (£7.0m) also attracting interest.
The forthcoming double-header at Stamford Bridge is the main draw.
A Luton Town side that shipped four goals at the Amex in Gameweek 1 are first up. Then, it’s the visit of a Nottingham Forest outfit that conceded on 44 occasions on the road in 2022/23. Steve Cooper’s had the worst record in away games in the campaign just gone.
The defences of Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Fulham haven’t convinced so far this season, either. Villa and Fulham are joint-bottom for ‘big chances’ conceded, the Cherries are 20th for shots conceded. It’s still very, very early days in 2023/24, of course, but these defensive vulnerabilities were also in evidence last season. Even Villa, transformed under the Unai Emery, were allowing an alarming number of big chances with their high line and play-out-from-the-back approach.
The September international break seems like a good hopping-off point with Chelsea, with seven consecutive tricky fixtures to follow.
It’s not quite as plain sailing for the reigning champions, who travel to the Emirates in Gameweek 8.
Then again, Manchester City put seven goals past second-placed Arsenal in 2022/23 – so maybe there simply isn’t a fixture there to be feared.
Newly promoted Sheffield United are up next, a side that City coasted past 3-0 in an FA Cup semi-final four months ago.
Erling Haaland (£14.0m), meanwhile, scored 12 goals in eight meetings with his Gameweeks 4-7 opponents last season. Hat-tricks were bagged against Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers in 60+ minute appearances.
Again, it’s very early days, but City’s next four opponents are all ranked 13th or below for expected goals (xG) in 2023/24 so far.
There’s been plenty to like about Ange-ball (other than the tiresome name) over the first two Gameweeks.
Four goals were scored against decent opposition in the shape of Brentford and Manchester United. Spurs also rank a healthy sixth for goal attempts and shots in the box at this very early stage of 2023/24.
The fact that the attacking principles weren’t compromised against top-half opposition bodes well for the supposedly easier tests ahead.
All three promoted clubs are to come before the October international break, with clashes against Bournemouth and Fulham book-ending a mostly favourable run in Gameweeks 3-9.
Games against Arsenal and Liverpool do punctuate that stretch but from the evidence of the opening fortnight, Ange Postecoglou won’t be telling his troops to sit back even in those fixtures.
Saturday’s clean sheet came about more through luck than judgement (Manchester United had 14 shots in the first half alone) but in a 2-3-5 build-up, there’ll be hope that budget defender Destiny Udogie (£4.5m) can contribute attacking returns to offset any goal concessions.
Meanwhile, James Maddison (£7.6m) owners will be praying for good news after he hobbled out of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on crutches last weekend. He has been directly involved in 12 of Spurs’ opportunities so far this campaign, eight of them created for others. He has also been hogging the set plays.
Four of Everton’s next six fixtures are excellent on paper, the other two not so.
Among the conquerable visitors to Goodison Park are Wolves, the lowest Premier League goalscorers in 2022/23, and Luton, scorers of the fewest goals by a promotion-winning Championship side in six years.
And the Toffees did, it should be said, keep clean sheets against both Arsenal and Brentford after Sean Dyche arrived last season.
Any Everton players that FPL managers own, such as Jordan Pickford (£4.5m) and James Tarkowski (£4.5m), are cheap enough to be wheeled out for the good fixtures and benched in between.
But morale is low going into Gameweek 3, with Everton set to be devoid of Dominic Calvert-Lewin‘s (£6.0m) services yet again and licking their wounds after a 4-0 pasting at Villa Park.
Pickford owners will be hoping that Wolves’ profligacy continues for the purposes of save points at the very least: Gary O’Neil’s troops have had more shots in the box than any other Premier League team bar Brighton and Hove Albion in the first two Gameweeks, yet have scored only once.
As is the case with Everton, even favourable fixtures may not be enough to inspire Fantasy interest in Luton Town.
Some of us already own a Hatter, such as playing £4.0m defenders Amari’i Bell, Mads Andersen and Issa Kabore, for bench fodder purposes.
And should they be needed for first-team FPL duties over the next two months, there are at least five decent games (Nottingham Forest in Gameweek 9 is just over the horizon) in which returns are eminently possible.
One of the problems at this time of year is that we’ve got so little new, relevant data to draw from. That goes especially so for the newly promoted teams, as any figures from the preceding campaign were delivered in an inferior league. A Gameweek 2 blank certainly didn’t help us get a better picture of Luton.
Will the Hatters be 2007/08 Derby County reincarnated or the next Brentford? The smart money would be on something nearer the former, even if the Gameweek 1 verbal kicking that Alan Shearer delivered ranked right up there as one of the laziest pieces of bully-boots punditry ever seen on Match of the Day.
Mixed bags abound elsewhere, especially among the most well-owned teams in FPL.
Arsenal have four home matches to come in the next six Gameweeks – but three of them are against the two Manchester clubs and Spurs.
Still, seven goals were scored by the Gunners in these corresponding fixtures in 2022/23, albeit without a clean sheet arriving in any of them.
Manchester United are similarly on home soil in four of the next six Gameweeks.
It was at Old Trafford where the Red Devils excelled last season, winning 15 of their 19 fixtures and conceding on only 10 occasions.
Brighton, Palace and Brentford aren’t usually on the end of heavy defeats, however, each of them finishing comfortably top half for expected goals conceded (xGC) in 2022/23.
Bruno Fernandes (£8.5m) and co will likely have to haul big in their easiest-on-paper fixture, which comes this weekend against Nottingham Forest, to arrest the sales from Gameweek 4.
The Brentford love-in looks set to continue with three home fixtures to come in the next four Gameweeks.
Crystal Palace will likely be the acid test for Bryan Mbeumo (£6.7m) et al, as the Eagles have looked much more competent at the rear than a gung-ho Spurs and a Palhinha-less, 10-man Fulham did in Gameweeks 1 and 2.
Newcastle United and Manchester United, the two best defences for home goals conceded last season, also follow in between Gameweeks 5-8.
Newcastle United still have two or three trickier tests to come before their outstanding run of matches begins in Gameweek 6, so we’ll keep our powder dry on the Magpies until the next article in this series over the September international break.