In Frisking the Fixtures, we take a look at the teams and players with the strongest runs of matches over the medium term.
An overview of the clubs with less appealing matches will follow later.
The outlook has changed in the last few days following the news that newly promoted Luton Town and Burnley will have a Double Gameweek 7.
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DOUBLE GAMEWEEK 7 TEAMS
Ah, the Double Gameweek. The FPL equivalent of beer goggles, when even the most unattractive of options suddenly looks desirable.
This first ‘double’ of the season brings to mind the ill-fated Gameweek 23 of 2021/22, when two Championship-bound strugglers played twice.
It’s a little premature to be condemning Luton Town and Burnley to the drop but the fact is that they both remain without a point after three matches. Each of them is conceding at a rate of at least three goals per match.
Ordinarily, we wouldn’t be interested in many/any of their players other than for bench fodder duty. But the Double Gameweek is here, and the urge to side with quantity over quality will be strong.
As for the fixtures, the Hatters were at least already riding high in our Season Ticker before Thursday’s announcement. Matches against Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers precede Gameweek 7, when they then face the two sides around them in the relegation zone.
Fulham, Wolves and Burnley all rank in the bottom eight for both expected goals (xG) and expected goals conceded (xGC). Everton’s underlying numbers are actually decent; their problem has been putting the ball in the net. Perhaps there were green shoots on that front in Gameweek 4.
Burnley’s own run is less enticing.
In-form Nottingham Forest, who the Clarets meet in Gameweek 5, have more than matched three big guns this season. Vincent Kompany’s side then face Manchester United, Newcastle United, Chelsea and Brentford either side of the trip to Kenilworth Road.
Five of Burnley’s next seven fixtures are away from home.
Luton, then, not only have the better ‘double’ in Gameweek 7 but the easier fixtures before it. A word of warning, though: the schedule gets a lot tougher for the Hatters straight after this point.
GOOD FIXTURES FOR GAMEWEEK 9 WILDCARDERS
Gameweek 9 will be a popular Wildcard window, judging by the results of our on-site poll.
Therefore, FPL managers opting for this strategy only need to look at the next four Gameweeks if seeking out favourable fixtures.
While the jury remains out on a new-look Chelsea side, their next four matches give them the opportunity to kickstart their season.
Bournemouth, Aston Villa, Fulham and Burnley are ranked joint-14th, joint-17th, 19th and 20th for goals conceded this season. They’re all bottom-eight material for minutes per xGC, too.
And at the other end of the pitch, all bar Villa of these teams are ranked 14th or lower for goals scored and xG.
Whether Nicolas Jackson (£7.2m) and co are clinical enough to exploit those weaknesses is the big question.
A clash with Chelsea might in itself be viewed as pretty, pretty good. If so, then enthusiasm for Fulham players won’t be curbed: they have three home fixtures in the next four Gameweeks, two of which are against newly promoted Luton and Sheffield United.
Bernd Leno (£4.5m) will be confident of bagging a clean sheet or two to go with his usual deluge of save points, as his next four opponents are all in the bottom half for goals scored.
LONGER-TERM FAVOURABLE FIXTURES
Newcastle United’s favourable fixtures really begin from Gameweek 6 onwards. Brentford, however, were despatched by the Magpies by an aggregate score of 7-2 last season, so there is possible merit in moving a week early for Eddie Howe’s troops.
Aston Villa’s run, similarly, is probably better from Gameweek 8 onwards. But such is the division-wide dearth of clean sheets right now (Gameweek 7 opponents Brighton are among the teams yet to keep a single shut-out), then there is again a case to ‘go early’.
The main asterisk next to these two clubs is European club competition involvement.
Newcastle begin their first UEFA Champions League campaign in 20 years three days after the visit of Brentford, while Villa also continue their UEFA Europa Conference League adventure between Gameweeks 5 and 6:
Above image from @Legomane
Rotation, then, might be a concern that it wasn’t in 2022/23.
We’ll have a lot more on these two teams and their continental crusades in another article this weekend.
Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool both have some trickier-on-paper fixtures before the October international break.
Spurs face Arsenal and Liverpool in consecutive Gameweeks, while Liverpool have back-to-back away matches at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and the Amex.
Are these tougher tests that much of a deterrent, though?
Liverpool have already seen off upstarts Newcastle United and Aston Villa, while Spurs defeated Manchester United 2-0 in their only big-six fixture to date.
Around these reddish blobs on the ticker is a sea of blue for both clubs. Time will tell whether fourth-place West Ham United warrant a tougher fixture rating.