The misinterpretation of fixture difficulty can very easily cause a downturn in an FPL manager’s fortunes. We have all fallen victim of it – Arsenal for example faced no top six opponents in their final eight league matches. As a result, Bernd Leno and Sead Kolasinac quickly found themselves in many wildcard teams, including my own. It of course proved to be a poor decision as Arsenal slumped to fifth place having only won once during a six game stretch between Gameweeks 33 and 37. A poor away record combined with trips to Everton, Wolves and Leicester should have made this obvious, yet many still perceived that it was a great run of fixtures. Bad calls like this are often deemed ‘overthinking’ but I would argue it’s actually a case of not thinking enough and therefore misinterpreting the information available. This is the basis of this analysis of the first eight rounds of Premier League fixtures.
The colour scheme is evidently quite vague, with green assigned to fixtures that look very favourable and red to those that appear very unfavourable.
The only green fixtures are:
1. Man City or Liverpool all matches aside from top 6 away games
2. Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd & Spurs in non top 6 home games
3. Four other fixtures that I deemed almost certain victories (Brighton vs Tottenham, Everton vs Sheffield United, Norwich vs Chelsea and Wolves vs Burnley. Others could arguably be included for those looking to analyse the fixtures in more depth.
The red fixtures are a reverse of the greens e.g. for Liverpool vs Norwich, it is marked green for Liverpool and red for Norwich.
The rest are left blank, in order to isolate the very best and worst fixtures, rather than looking at a run of matches that look good as a group but none of the individual games are very easy.
For example, Everton’s opening run of pal, WAT, vil, WOL, bou looks very favourable in an FDR style sea of green. But looking at the individual fixtures, are any of them actually that straightforward? Last season suggests no – they won none out of four in the equivalent matches in 2018/19, whilst Wolves finished above Everton and Bournemouth secured 64% of their points at home. Granted, these examples have been specifically chosen to prove a point and I will also almost certainly select at least one Everton player in my Gameweek 1 squad next season.
However, the point is misinterpreting a set of green squares for a faultless run of fixtures is a dangerous game in a division as competitive as the Premier League. By isolating and targeting the very favourable and very unfavourable matches, a truer reflection of fixture difficulty can be assessed.
Thus, here are my conclusions:
- Liverpool and Man City are too good to have a bad run of fixtures longer than two or three gameweeks. Don’t break away from a double/triple up.
- Tottenham have a deceptively good start, especially for those aiming to wildcard a little bit later in order to target their five very winnable matches in the first eight gameweeks.
- Chelsea could provide an undervalued source of points, particularly in the hypothetical situation that Frank Lampard is appointed their new manager and has a similar initial effect to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Man Utd (I’m definitely getting ahead of myself here).
- Everton, Watford, West Ham and Wolves are the only non top six sides marked with just one red or very unfavourable fixture during the opening eight gameweeks. These teams could be a good source of budget options to complement a Liverpool and Man City core.
- Norwich and Burnley both have a tough start, although arguably more so from a defensive perspective. The likes of Ashley Barnes, who scored against Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea and Tottenham last season and Teemu Pukki, who had his best ever scoring season last term, could still be worthy of consideration.
- Similarly, players from a team that has no green fixtures are still viable. It simply means they face a number of matches that are difficult to predict without any idea of form.
- Finally, fixtures are never the be all and end all, hence the focus on flexibility rather than rigidity in this analysis.