Filed under: Frisking the Fixtures - Posted by: Paul
The publication of the 2013/14 Premier League fixture list brought us that little bit closer to the new season earlier this morning. While we’re still a month or so away from the release of player price lists across the Fantasy games, we can, nevertheless, begin to slowly asses the landscape for the campaign ahead – as a result, we roll out our first "Frisking" article, analysing the strength of schedule over the first few Gameweeks:
Andre Villas-Boas’ men look certain to be high on Fantasy radars after this morning’s fixtures were revealed. While Spurs square up to Arsenal and Chelsea in the opening nine, they’ll be hugely encouraged by a schedule that hands them home games against Swansea, Norwich, West Ham and Hull, in addition to trips to Crystal Palace, Cardiff and Villa. Such a kind opening run will have Fantasy managers scrambling to bring Gareth Bale on board, with the Welshman looking a viable captaincy contender for all of those matches, given his end of season form last time out.
Aside from a Gameweek 3 home clash against Tottenham, Arsene Wenger’s side have a relatively kind set of fixtures all the way up to Gameweek 9. The Gunners kick off against Villa at the Emirates and also entertain Stoke and Norwich over that run, while trips to Fulham, Sunderland, Swansea, West Brom and Crystal Palace all look appetising for Fantasy managers. Wenger will be hoping his side continue the form that saw them win eight and draw two of their final 10 matches in 2012/13 – with both defence and attack looking favourable, then, heavy investment looks likely in assets such as Theo Walcott and Per Mertesacker, though the price lists across the Fantasy games will determine our initial level of interest.
The first three Gameweeks have been particularly kind to Manuel Pellegrini’s side. City play host to Newcastle before being handed back-to-back matches against a couple of promoted clubs, with a trip to Cardiff and home match against Hull on their agenda. Visits to Stoke and Villa are on either side of the first Manchester derby of the season as United roll up to the Etihad in Gameweek 5 – Fantasy investment in Pellegrini’s attacking options looks a likely tactic, then, though with City still in the midst of their summer spending spree, picking the right player could be an issue. If Sergio Aguero can rediscover his debut season form, the Argentine may well be the safest route, given the ever-increasing midfield options at the Etihad.
Brendan Rodgers’ side will also be content with the opening schedule. Liverpool open up with a home clash against Stoke and also welcome Southampton and Palace to Anfield in the opening seven fixtures. With trips to Villa, Swansea and Sunderland also in their first seven, the Gameweek 3 visit of United looks the only real stumbling block for the Merseysiders – the chances for points at both ends of the pitch look strong here, with the possible arrival of Iago Aspas and Henrikh Mkhitaryan considerably boosting their attacking potential.
Sam Allardyce will have plenty to smile about after this morning’s fixtures were published. The Hammers open up with a home game against Cardiff and also welcome Stoke and Everton to Upton Park in the first six matches. Trips to Newcastle, Southampton and Hull will afford a degree of optimism, though investment will depend on the pricing across the Fantasy games – if Jussi Jaaskelainen moves to 5.5 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) for example, many may decide to overlook the West Ham stopper and hope one or two defensive options arrive a little cheaper. With Kevin Nolan also expected to climb in cost, Matt Jarvis and Andy Carroll could be ones to watch if they are handed a relatively budget-friendly price.
Norwich – the Canaries have three kind home games and a trip to promoted Hull in the opening five fixtures. While a trip to Tottenham is perhaps unlikely to result in Fantasy returns, Chris Hughton’s side welcome Everton, Southampton and Villa to Carrow Road – John Ruddy’s price could be key to investing at the back, while Robert Snodgrass and new boy Ricky van Wolfswinkel could prove solid acquisitions in midfield and up front respectively.
Southampton – barring the Gameweek 5 trip to Anfield, the first seven fixtures look kind for the Saints. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have four favourable games in front of their own fans, with Sunderland, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Swansea arriving at St Mary’s, with trips to West Brom and Norwich also on their agenda. Given that they conceded just nine goals in the last 10 Gameweeks of the previous campaign, investment in their backline looks a viable tactic and, while Rickie Lambert is expected to jump in price, the likes of Gaston Ramirez and Jay Rodriguez could be set for extra interest.
Newcastle – the Magpies opening day trip to City is far from straightforward but they then face a run of four games which could prove profitable. Alan Pardew’s men welcome West Ham, Fulham and Hull to St James’ Park and also make their way to Villa Park – reason to perhaps put a smile back on the Newcastle fans’ faces after recent off-field problems. Papiss Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa could prosper from an attacking perspective, while that quartet of fixtures may boost the appeal of Tim Krul and co at the back; all the more so if the Tyneside team’s backline options are priced down after last term’s disappointing displays.
Jose Mourinho is afforded plenty opportunity to extend his unbeaten home record as boss of the Blues in his second stint at the Bridge. Chelsea’s first four games in front of their own fans sees Hull, Villa, Fulham and Cardiff pay visit, though the Villa game – initially scheduled for Gameweek 3 – has been postponed due to European Super Cup commitments. If, in a similar situation to last season, this is moved to earlier in the Blues’ schedule, it could, conceivably, hand them an opening pair of home fixtures against Hull and Villa in Gameweek 1. Though this is far from certain at the moment, such a scenario would see Fantasy managers load up on Mourinho’s main assets, though with three tricky opening away games (mun, eve, tot), striking a balance will be crucial if the double is confirmed.
The schedule could barely have been crueller to Michael Laudrup’s side. Beginning the season with the visit of defending champions United in David Moyes’ first match in charge, the Swans then travel to Tottenham in Gameweek 2 and also entertain Liverpool and Arsenal in the first six Gameweeks. Laudrup’s side also face a tricky trip to the Hawthorns, with an away clash against Crystal Palace the only real promising fixture in their opening schedule. Given the quality of their opponents, initial investment in Swansea’s backline may be tempered, while Michu’s chances of getting off to another strong start look to have been somewhat restricted.
Paul Lambert’s side can also feel hard done by. Villa open with a visit to Arsenal and home clash against Liverpool, while their Gameweek 3 trip to Chelsea has been postponed and could, conceivably, be shifted to an earlier date, giving them a double Gameweek to forget. The midlands outfit also square up to City in the first six fixtures and, given they conceded in every match from Gameweek 17 onwards last term, Fantasy managers will likely steer clear of their defensive options. Clashes against Newcastle and Norwich afford a little more optimism for Christian Benteke and co up top.
The first handful of fixtures are something of a mixed bag for David Moyes’ side. An opening day trip to Swansea could prove tricky, while United then face a run of fixtures which pits them against Chelsea, Liverpool and City in three of the following four, with a home game against Palace sandwiched in between the last two matches. In spite of the obvious risk, many may be tempted to do without Robin Van Persie to begin with but Moyes’ side then face a run of three home games in four (WBA, sun, SOT, STO) which will surely afford the Dutchman the chance to run riot and rack up the points.
Be Wary Of..
Stoke – Mark Hughes faces a tricky start to his time as boss at the Britannia. The Potters make their way to Anfield on the opening day of the season and also square up to City and Arsenal in the first five Gameweeks, in addition to a trip to West Ham. A home game against Palace offers some consolation but, with Asmir Begovic set for a price hike after last season’s exploits, many will be keeping a wide berth to begin with, though the schedule lightens up somewhat in Gameweek 6.
Fulham – the Cottagers face trips to Sunderland, Newcastle and Chelsea in the first five Gameweeks and also have a tricky home showdown with Arsenal in their opening agenda. While the visit of West Brom offers a little solace, faith in Dimitar Berbatov may be somewhat tempered, though similar to Stoke, the fixtures smile kindly for Martin Jol’s side from Gameweek 6 (CAR, STO, cpl, sot) onwards.
Cardiff – Malky Mackay’s side have been handed the toughest opening schedule of any of the promoted clubs. The Welsh outfit travel to West Ham on the opening day of the season, while all three of their opening home games are against teams that finished in last term’s top six, with City, Everton and Spurs all rolling up to the Cardiff City Stadium. A trip to Fulham also looks tricky, though an away clash against fellow new boys Hull offers hope.