Happy New Year and welcome to my first FPL Fixture Analysis of 2017 here on FPL Updates. The Christmas and New Year footballing calendar, as well as the FA Cup games last weekend, meant that this column was on a bit of a temporary hiatus. Today it returns to take a look at the potential best matches, from a fantasy perspective, of a team from each quarter of the Premier League table. Remember that this is a view of each club’s next five, because it is important to look at games from a longer term perspective rather than just transferring players in because they’ve got Burnley at home next!
Top 5 (Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Man City, Arsenal)
Starting with Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford on Sunday, we’re entering a period where all of the league’s top sides face an opponent with similar aspirations over the next month or so. That said, players like Sergio Aguero remain fixture proof, with the ability to score against anyone, anywhere. For Manchester City, their biggest upcoming game is a date with Spurs at the Etihad Stadium. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have a good record against Manchester’s blue half, but Aguero boasts solid statistics against them himself and has goals against Burnley and West Ham in his last two league appearances. As well as that game, City have trips to Everton, West Ham and Bournemouth, as well as a home clash with struggling Swansea City over the course of their next five. On paper, those away trips appear difficult, but Everton are toiling slightly under Ronald Koeman, the Hammers hate their own stadium and, as @FPL_Guru_ told us recently, Bournemouth enjoy conceding in threes. David Silva’s season has been a poor one from a fantasy perspective, but recent signs show that that is changing somewhat. The Spaniard has three attacking returns from his last four league starts, and appeared back to his brilliant best in that cup win at the London Stadium last Friday. If you’re still yet to ship out Sadio Mane and want a cheaper alternative, Silva should certainly be considered for your lineup.
6th-10th (Man United, Everton, West Brom, Bournemouth, Southampton)
Tough times for Claude Puel and Southampton of late, with just two goals scored, nine conceded and three losses on the bounce over the course of their last three league games. In the FA Cup, the Saints drew with Norwich City, denied a win by a last minute equaliser. Added to the fact that Charlie Austin remains a long term absentee, record signing Soufiane Boufal has been sent home from the AFCON due to an injury and that neither Shane Long or Jay Rodriguez look comfortable in the lone striking role, you could say things aren’t going too swimmingly for the south coast club. Their next five games may well provide light relief, with favourable clashes both at St Mary’s and on the road coming up. Burnley (A), Leicester (H), Swansea (A), West Ham (H), Sunderland (A) are their next five games, and realistically they could hope to take between 7-12 points from that lot. This is a stretch in which underperforming players like Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond need to step up and prove their worth to the team. That duo have just four goals and four assists combined this season in the league, so the next month or so provides an opportunity to vastly improve those totals.
11th-15th (Stoke, Burnley, West Ham, Watford, Leicester City)
When a manager departs and the reason stated is that he “took the club as far as he could”, it often means that after a bright start/couple of years, the wheels completely fell off and everything became stale. We saw it recently at Crystal Palace, but now Stoke City and Mark Hughes may be circling the same drain. Hughes made just four changes to his lineup for a home cup tie with Wolves at the weekend, but the Potters promptly lost 2-0 and all of a sudden their fortress looks a little more like a sandcastle. In fact, 11 sides currently boast better records than Stoke do on home soil, and that’s something their manager needs to address if he’s going to remain in his job. Manchester United, Everton and Palace all visit the Bet365 Stadium over the course of the next five, whilst two winnable games away come against Sunderland and West Brom. Stoke’s problem is their ceiling of seventh position and there is certainly no worry of going down – perhaps some of their players are already in holiday, but that’s a dangerous mindset considering it’s still early January. Ultimately, things have to start improving for Hughes, and this could be the set of games to do it in.
Bottom Five (Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Swansea, Hull)
Arguably, I could’ve chosen Palace for this section, as their fixtures are perhaps a tad more welcoming than those of their close rivals. However, so far under Sam Allardyce’s management, not much seems to be changing, and the one-time (literally) England boss has to now contend with the loss of Wilfried Zaha to the AFCON. Anyway, the pick here is Sunderland, who are now just a point behind Allardyce’s side. At home, games against Stoke, Spurs and Southampton represent chances of points – with the recent game with Liverpool proof that on their own patch they can get something against a top six opponent. Away from the Stadium of Light, West Brom and Palace both look like games where they can pick up a point or three. David Moyes seems to have a raft of injuries at the moment, but one beneficiary is Fabio Borini, who has started their last five league games after a long period out in the cold. He’s certainly not a reliable option as a striker in your team but if he continues to get minutes, he might be worth selecting as a real budget option to clear funds to strengthen other areas of your team.
Good luck this week!
Written by Joe McPhee (@JPMc99)