FPL Fixtures Analysis Gameweek 14 2016-17
Welcome to FPL Fixtures Analysis Gameweek 14 2016-17. It’s important to remember that there are 38 gameweeks in the FPL season. This is something I had to remind myself of constantly this weekend. No matter how badly your season is going (and there are a few stinkers out there), you still have 65% of the season remaining to get right again. Have there been some anomalous results? For sure. Have I failed to accurately predict a sufficient amount of those strange scorelines? You’re damn right – but I’m still staying positive.
Because here’s the thing: for the most part, things are actually going to script. Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal all won this past weekend. Were they wins in the fashion that you’d hoped they’d be? Probably not completely, but wins are wins when you look at it from the angle of a fixtures article. The problem we’re having is the real outliers. Did anybody see a 5-4 game between Swansea and Crystal Palace being a thing? Surely not. Did we think that Leicester would concede a pair of goals at home? Not by the stats we had on hand. And did we think that Everton would be shutout and look completely hopeless? Well…yes, I did see that happening. And my heart hurts. I’m not lying when I say that I still get a bit weepy every time they lose like that.
But my effeminate tendency to cry after a loss has nothing to do with anything. From a writing standpoint, I’m encouraged that the big teams are making my job easier by actually sticking to script. So here’s what I’m thinking this week:
The Tracker in full…
Top 3 Best Bets
#1) Chelsea – MCI (A), WBA (H), SUN (A)
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Chelsea are getting top billing this week – and by the looks of it, they’re going to be getting the top spot here for a few weeks to come unless something truly disastrous happens to their roster. So we may as well get used to me talking about them in some capacity for the foreseeable future. Maybe seeing as how Chelsea have an away game to City to start this run of fixtures would lead some to think that I should have them placed lower on this list – but with the form that Chelsea are in, they simply can’t be denied right now. Chelsea own the longest active win streak in the league with 7 consecutive. And over that entire run they’ve only allowed a single goal. Period. Couple that defensive prowess with the fact that they’re averaging 2.7 goals per game themselves over the same time frame…and you tend not to worry so much about the fact that they’re playing a team like City.
Following City, Chelsea are set to play West Brom and Sunderland, and you really have to like their chances in both of those fixtures. Sunderland, despite having two wins now, are still Sunderland – and they will allow goals all day long if you let them. West Brom are a bit of a different beast, and they’re getting some looks from managers for different reasons. But the last ‘big’ teams that WBA faced were Liverpool and Man City, and they allowed tallies of 2 and 4 goals, respectively, to those teams. So it’s not a stretch to think that they’ll just roll over and let Chelsea do as they will as well.
#2) Tottenham – SWA (H), MUN (A), HUL (H)
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Even though Tottenham lost this past weekend against Chelsea, you have to give them credit for giving a good effort. Simply put, Chelsea are just better than Tottenham right now, and it showed. But that isn’t a slight against the Spurs, they just need a bit more time to get healthy and redevelop their chemistry before they take a run against a bigger side again.
But against this schedule they have before them? They should be just fine. Sure, Swansea did put up 5 goals this past weekend, but they also conceded 4. The Crystal Palace defence isn’t in the same class as Tottenham’s, and the Swans will have to do something miraculous to put forth multiple goals on the road against one of the league’s best defences (Spurs and Chelsea are tied for best defence with 10 GA on the year). In the same fashion, Hull City shouldn’t be an issue for Tottenham at home. Hull are the lowest scoring team in the league (11 GF) and have the league’s worst GD with a -17.
The real issue here then is Manchester United. Will they be enough of an obstacle to make people think twice about investing in Tottenham? It all depends if Mourinho is on his meds, I guess. But even if United have an elite payroll, they’re not playing like an elite club. The odd thing is that both Tottenham and Man United look to be nearly identical over their last 5 matches. Both have a single win and a loss along with 3 draws. But the Tottenham results seem to be building back to full fitness and the reintegration of their main striker, whereas Man United appear to be just grasping at straws. If I had to venture a guess, if Man United manage to score against Tottenham, Juan Mata will get the goal – and right after he scores he’ll be punished and get subbed off and Tottenham can go ahead and win the game. Either that or somebody from Tottenham won’t shake Mourinho’s hand in the manner he’s accustomed and he’ll get tossed from the game and Tottenham will still get points. So yeah, I feel good about putting Tottenham second here, even with that ‘big’ game in the middle.
#3) Arsenal – WHU (A), STK (H), EVE (A)
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Arsenal looked like Arsenal again this weekend, didn’t they? I’m not sure that sentence makes any sense, but I think you probably understand what I’m saying. You either get the Arsenal that plays to a 1-1 draw, or you get the Arsenal that wins games by multiple goals in easy victories. As a fantasy player, we all know which one we prefer.
Having Giroud play the super-sub instead of being the main striker all day has paid dividends for this group. And when that plan goes off to perfection, it’s hard to stop. Yet, even with a winning formula in place, we’ve all heard the warnings that Sanchez will have to be shut down at some point for rest – but as a fellow Sanchez, I can tell you that we’re a hearty lot. So until that actually happens, you have to like Arsenal’s chances in any game they’re in.
Starting out against West Ham, it appears on the surface to be a hallmark 1-1 draw for both sides. But if the Gunners maintain this form they’re in and don’t lose any of their key pieces between now and the weekend, they should be fine. West Ham have shuffled things around in the back a bit, but they’re still sitting on an abysmal -10 GD, and they don’t have the goods to stop Arsenal on their day. The Stoke game could prove to be interesting. Stoke are winners of 3 out of their last 5, and they haven’t allowed more than a single goal to any side during that run. But the best team they’ve faced during that run was Watford, so we’ll see what happens when a bonafide bigger club puts the screws to them. And as for Everton? I can’t even bear the thought of the beating that’s probably headed their way.
As I’ve said before, this is a fixtures article, and not a tips article. But sometimes there’s a bit of gray area surrounding how those elements shake out. By the schedule alone, Liverpool should still probably be in this list in either the 2 or 3 spot – but if their recent injuries prove to be serious, that obviously changes how those fixtures play out. So until we know how badly Coutinho and Firmino are hurt, it’s best to just leave them aside. If just one of those players had been hurt, it wouldn’t change much here, but if both of those players are out, it changes the whole complexion of that squad.
Teams to Avoid
#1) West Ham – ARS (H), LIV (A), BUR (H)
If West Ham can somehow manage to get to the Burnley game with a couple of points, they will have pulled off a great feat. But it’s looking like they’re set to be overmatched in the first couple of legs of this schedule. Again, we don’t know what Liverpool will be bringing to the match, but even with a reduced squad, I’d make Liverpool the favourite at home. West Ham have been fully unremarkable this year. And even being just a single point out of the relegation zone doesn’t seem to be enough to motivate them to really go out there and fight for some results.
#2) Everton – MUN (H), WAT (A), ARS (H)
The fan inside me is looking for a positive spin on this schedule. Maybe Mourinho gets cocky and drops his guard a bit. And maybe Watford will concede a couple of easy goals. And maybe Arsenal will give us one of those 1-1 games again. And maybe, and maybe, and maybe… The truth is that Everton, regardless of the competition, aren’t looking like a side that’s prepared to take on anybody of substance right now. They need to find that rhythm they had early in the year, but for the life of me, I don’t know where they’d find it.
#3) Crystal Palace – SOU (H), HUL (A), MUN (H)
Crystal Palace have no problem scoring goals. But they can’t win a game to save their lives. Now on their 6th straight loss, what started as a bad run of form has now turned into a serious issue that threatens to put them down into the relegation zone. The fact that Hull City have conceded a ton of goals is all that’s keeping Crystal Palace afloat right now (the teams are otherwise level on 11 points). And their problem is not an easy one to solve. They’ve lost close 2-1 type matches and 5-4 high scoring matches – and have also lost with nearly every scoreline in between. Nothing they seem to do results in a win. So when you have a team like Southampton in good defensive form, you have to wonder if this gets stretched out to an even longer losing streak. The only bright spot in this schedule is Hull, but they’ll be sufficiently motivated to try to leapfrog Palace, so there’s no guarantees there either.
One Week Punt – Stoke (home against Burnley)
As I said above, Stoke have been in some kind of winning form lately, definitely winning more often than they lose over the last month or so. They’re stingy in the back, and they manage to score just enough to seal the points. Burnley, on the other hand, have had a pretty serious downgrade in form as of late. They’ve given up 6 goals over the past two rounds (4 to WBA and 2 to MCI), and they don’t look quite as apt as they did previously. Stoke should have a decent shot to up their scoring against Burnley, and if Stoke’s defence stays tight, they shouldn’t have any problem securing 3 points. This would be a true one week punt, though. After Burnley, Stoke take on Arsenal and then Southampton.