Thanks for joining me again for my FPL Fixture Analysis here on FPL Updates. This is a look at the potential best matches, from a fantasy perspective, of a team from each quarter of the Premier League table. It’s a view of each club’s next five, because remember that 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! Let’s see what else we’ve got over Christmas and into the New Year…
Top Five (Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham)
How typical of Arsenal to start like a really good Arsenal and then completely Arsenal it up when things got tough? Did anyone expect any different? Well, after a horrendous week in which they’ve fallen nine points behind the league leaders, the Gunners can take solace from the fact that their next six are all very favourable games indeed. Four home games between Boxing Day and the end of January come against West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace, Burnley and Watford, with trips to Bournemouth and Swansea City sandwiched in the middle. It’s the kind of run that Arsene Wenger’s team need to get their season back on track I suspect, although be wary that they’ve now gone eight games on the trot without a clean sheet in the league. Up top, I expect Lucas Perez to play a bit of a role during this time, and 7.8m isn’t a bad price if you’re looking for a differential third striker. The Spaniard scored a hat trick in the Champions League the last time he featured for Arsenal and has perhaps unfairly not been seen since. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain picking up an injury and Alex Iwobi looking underwhelming, it wouldn’t shock me to see Perez deployed in one of the wide forward positions over the next few weeks.
6th-10th (Manchester United, Southampton, West Brom, Everton, Bournemouth)
I placed Manchester United in this part of the column last week and frankly, it would be stupid to look past them again today. They’ve now won two on the bounce, both on the road, and with a clean sheet in the bag. The team has their tails up and with Arsenal’s top four position wilting, there is a sense that United can now smell blood. Their next few fixtures are just too appealing to gloss over, with Liverpool the only side currently above them that they are set to play until mid February. Sunderland and Middlesbrough are their next two at home, before West Ham away and that visit of Liverpool on 15th January. They then go to Stoke City before continued nice games against Hull City (H), Leicester City (A) and Watford (H). I can really see the team making a statement over the next two months, and if they’re not in the top four by the end of this run then they might not get there at all this season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has become a shoe-in again up front, offering an air of genuine world-class-ness that other strikers (Kane, Lukaku, Vardy) just don’t. In defence, Phil Jones is still under £5m and playing every game – surely that’s too good to keep ignoring right?
11th-15th (Stoke City, Watford, West Ham, Middlesbrough, Leicester City)
Leicester City are weird. I think, after last season of course, that much is pretty obvious. They’ve won just one of their last six, a thrashing of Manchester City in a 2015/16 throwback game. But during that time, they’ve lost to Sunderland, Watford and Bournemouth and drawn with Stoke and Middlesbrough – the sort of results people expected to occur last year that never came. Anyway, I’m not going to say that their next five look like good matches, I’m just going to say that they have three homes games and two away. Visiting the King Power will be Everton, West Ham and Chelsea, with trips to Middlesbrough and Southampton thrown in too. In truth, they could well end up with no points at all from that lot, though there is a nagging feeling that they could well win two or three of them as well. With Jamie Vardy now suspended, I like the look of Ahmed Musa (£7m) or Shinji Okazaki (£5.7m) coming in to the side if you’re scouting budget options. Perhaps with Sergio Aguero soon to return, you need to free up some money and they might be both be viable short term options. In midfield, I also like the look of Demarai Gray – who picked up an assist last weekend – and at £4.8m he’s worth a punt I think. On Twitter there are numerous calls for the winger to start more matches. I’ll back this up with the following stat; Marc Albrighton (£0.2m higher at £5m) has 29 fantasy points in 1014 minutes so far this season, Gray has just one less point from 247 minutes – roughly a quarter of the playing time! The 20-year-old is a talent and with the Foxes in a funk, I think it’s time that Claudio Ranieri took a chance on him.
Bottom Five (Burnley, Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Swansea, Hull)
Genuinely, I didn’t know whether to bother with this section of the column this week. The bottom five all have stinking runs of matches coming up – Hull City especially – and frankly, I’d avoid as much as possible. If you’re really desperate, Sunderland maybe have the best games, but when that includes a trip to Old Trafford and a visit from Liverpool, it says a lot about how bad the other teams matches are. Burnley (H), Stoke (H) and West Brom (A) make their next five a little rosier, but it’s next to impossible to suggest anyone other than the obvious names of Jermain Defoe and Patrick van Aanholt here. If you’re looking for a cheap keeper who is not afraid of racking up saves then Jordan Pickford (£4.2m) could be your guy, but don’t come crying to me when he doesn’t keep clean sheets all that often!
Written by Joe McPhee (@JPMc99)