Fantasy Football Fixture Analysis Gameweek 1
Welcome to Fantasy Football Fixture Analysis Gameweek 1. Before we begin the Fixtures article to kick off the 17/18 FPL season, I just want to thank the owners of this site for allowing me to continue to write this series once more. For a site that’s undoubtedly being seen by more Europeans than anything else, it’s a huge hono(u)r for me, an American, to be able to produce the first advice article you’ll see each week. To quote Donald Trump: “I know words. I have the best words.” Maybe American exceptionalism isn’t what it used to be, but I truly, deeply, bigly know words. So you’re in good hands, folks.
Now that we have pleasantries out of the way, I have something I need to get off my chest: I honestly believe that the worst version of an FPL player is the pre-season version of the FPL player. There is a bit of madness that touches a person when all they have to work with is conjecture and probability. When we should be feeling unsure and cautious, we turn into something quite the opposite. How many people have you seen on various social media outlets completely sure of themselves about which players will hit and which will miss? It’s madness I tell you. And I’m not immune to the mania that grips people in pre-season. You may or may not remember that I triple captained Vardy in GW1 last year… I was so sure that I was going to jump to the front of the pack and play the year with a massive lead. I was wrong. Bigly.
And so it is, with this first Fixtures article of the year, that I’m going to try to preach some doubt into your plans. If you feel like you have it all figured out already, just take a step back and look again. And to prove my point, just look at the results from GW1 last year. Did you have Everton pegged to play to a 1-1 draw with Tottenham? Did you load up on the City defence only to have your plans ruined with a Sunderland away goal? And don’t even tell me that you had the Arsenal v Liverpool game pegged to end up with 7 goals.
I’m really doing two things here, aren’t I? First and foremost, I’m trying to get you to be a bit unsure about your strategy and your team; too much certainty is a bad thing. And secondly, I’m trying to distance myself from any blame if I have the first slate of fixtures totally wrong. I’m slick like that. And with all of that being said, here are your best and worst fixture sets to choose from to start the year:
The Fixture Tracker…
Gameweek Tracker GW1-11
Top 3 Best Bets
#1) Manchester City – BRI (A), EVE (H), BOU (A)
Forget for a moment that City have a pair of road games in this first part of their schedule – given their level of talent, I don’t think anybody is all that concerned with Brighton and Bournemouth. Will Everton be a stumbling block? The fanboy in me sure hopes so, but they’re probably outmatched in this spot; and really this is looking like a pretty good run of fixtures to start the year if you’re a City fan.
And it’s at moments like this that I’m glad I’m just the Fixtures writer – not the regular Tips or Capos contributor. In reality, my job is pretty simple – I’m just letting you know that you should probably pick up some City coverage. But as to which positions to load up on, and which players to choose from those positions, I’ll let somebody else fall on their sword doing that work. Kevin De Bruyne seems to be pretty obvious in the midfield, but do you take Jesus or Kun up front? And if you look at this schedule and see clean sheets, do you take Ederson… or maybe look to get a headed goal or two by choosing Stones, Kompany or Otamendi? There are no shortages of options here in City, and the first step to building a successful squad is admitting you have a problem if you choose to go without any of them.
As for pre-season form, City have been absolutely phenomenal since making the change to go to a three-man back line. They beat Real Madrid 4-1 and Tottenham 3-0, and even though they’re pre-season victories, the score lines are impressive enough that you should take note.
#2) Manchester United – WHU (H), SWA (A), LEI (H)
United, of course, have the inverse of City in terms of home and away settings to start the year; City may have the more favourable opposition (my opinion), but United aren’t far behind in the strength of schedule race with some very winnable fixtures to kick things off. West Ham have spent money in all the right areas this off season – but United have spent more, and bought themselves a marquee striker. It will be interesting to see if Chicharrito has a bit of a ‘revenge’ game playing against his old club, and that’s one storyline to keep in mind before picking up too much United defence. Swansea are in a shambles, and they look keen to now offload their centerpiece midfielder to Everton (finally) – so that game shouldn’t scare anybody away from stocking your garage full of Chevys. And Leicester have had a pretty underwhelming pre-season thus far; they haven’t tested themselves against equal competition, and the competition they did face got the better of them in a couple of cases.
As for United’s form coming out of pre-season, you have to say that they’ve been pretty decent. They did start their pre-season against MLS clubs, so no surprise that they won those games. But they then went on to blank City 2-0 (albeit before City changed to the defensive system they look keen to use going forward), and then played in some tight games against Real Madrid and Barcelona. Finishing up the pre-season saw them win easy games against Valerenga and Sampdoria.
And you have to say, whatever the plan was that Mourinho had for Lukaku and Rashford playing up top, it seems like it’s going to pay off. Alongside Mkhitaryan, those two forwards look completely primed for the start of the year. My personal bias is leaning more towards the offence that will carry this team to victories – but even if I don’t see a string of shutouts coming their way, I still think that 9 points are due to United through this run.
#3) Chelsea – BUR (H), TOT (A), EVE (H)
This last pick came down to a toss-up between Chelsea and Tottenham – but Chelsea’s better pre-season form decided their inclusion into the list. It wasn’t much of a surprise that Chelsea beat Fulham 8-2, but to then follow that up with a shutout win over Arsenal and a narrow defeat against Bayern speaks more to their quality. And Michy Batshuayi scored in all three of those games, so no matter where Diego Costa ends up getting shipped off to, Chelsea have a player in place that’s ready to do his part for the club’s scoring. Most people would probably rather have a big name striker up front for Chelsea instead of Batshuayi, but I honestly think those same people would really just rather have a player whose name is easier to spell. As long as Batman keeps this form going into the regular season, Chelsea should be just fine.
As for the competition that Chelsea will be facing, most people already have them earning 6 points from their home games. The Spurs game will be a challenge for sure, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that Spurs will win that game outright. And even if Chelsea manage to get a point out of that match, I think that most fans (and fantasy owners) will be pleased with the results of the game either way.
Three Teams to Avoid
#1) Everton – STK (H), MCI (A), CHE (A)
I may as well get this first pick out of the way since every single online ‘pundit’ has declared that Everton = Plague. It’s not that I disagree with people over the fact that Everton have a tough schedule to start the year (they follow this schedule with games against Spurs and United also), because I think that’s a proper thought to have about this team. What I take umbrage with is the extremism of how they think that this schedule will impact a team like Everton. To hear it told in the deep recesses of FPL forums: Everton will not earn a point in the table during this run, they will score no goals against their competition, and they’re due to concede around 4-5 goals per game on average. So you shouldn’t bother picking up any of their forwards, mids or defenders – and definitely not even one player as a differential pick.
Now most of you who know me on here know that I love Everton, and that love probably borders on being irrational considering I’ve never even been to England. But let’s be honest here: Everton have had their most successful off-season in the modern era. Do I think they’ll start the year with 18 points from six games? No. But as long as I have a platform at my disposal, I’ll not let any of you think that Everton will be entering into October sitting on a goose egg either. It pains me that Everton probably do have the worst schedule of any team to start the year, and I’ll be honest about that and not omit them from this list. You’ll just have to indulge my fanboy pride and let me continue to hope for the best for them from time to time.
#2) Brighton – MCI (H), LEI (A), WAT (A)
If my wikipedia search is to be believed, Brighton haven’t been in the top tier of English football since the early 1980’s. As a baby in the remote state of Montana during that time, I wasn’t really aware of Brighton during their last run on the big stage – but to be fair, I wasn’t aware of any English football during my childhood (AKA my personal Dark Ages). But now, over three decades later, Brighton, like myself, are in a better position in life. And what better welcome back to the big league than to host a team that will treat this match as nothing more than a warm up? You always feel good about a club getting back up to top tier after so many years in lower divisions, but their first game has to feel a bit cruel, no? And once their spirits are essentially crushed by City, Brighton will have to play in a back to back set of away games. I’m sure the players and the fans have their expectations set on not getting relegated in the first year back, but they will be towards the bottom of the table to start their year.
#3) Leicester – ARS (A), BRI (H), MUN (A)
We can give Leicester the benefit of the doubt here and pencil them in for 3 points against Brighton – but we can’t do the same for the rest of their schedule given that they have away matches against Arsenal and United bookending that fixture. Leicester have a couple of things going for them, though. They still have Riyad Mahrez, and nobody expected him to still be around the club this long after winning their title that time. They still have Vardy playing forward – and if he reverts back to his routine of subsisting on energy drinks and soaking skittles in vodka, he could be dangerous again. And they also got Kelechi Iheanacho from City this year – because why not buy one more forward that you can frustrate on the bench? Leicester had an OK start to their pre-season playing in close games against West Brom and Liverpool, but they fell off against Luton, MK Dons, Wolverhampton and Burton Albion. Not really the kind of effort you’d like to see against a team that’s going to be taking on stiff competition right out of the gate, is it?
One Week Punt
Southampton – SWA (H)
I guess a ‘one week punt’ is a bit disingenuous considering it’s the start of the season – but if you like Southy against Swansea, you can feel safe that if browsing turned to buying, the rest of their schedule isn’t that bad following that match. Once the Saints roll over the depleted Swans, they’ll follow up with a decent schedule against West Ham and Huddersfield, so they’ll hardly be a liability on your squad. The defence may be a bit suspect at the moment, but Charlie Austin and Gabbiadini both managed to score goals in the pre-season, so they do have a bit of spark in them for the FPL owner in the market for a cheap differential player on a decent set of fixtures. Hey, it’s not like I’m coming out of the gate recommending West Ham again this year… though if the Mexican leading their attack comes good, I will revert back to my old form.
And yes, I managed to call them ‘Southy’ in the first article of the year. That sound you heard is me dropping the mic.
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