FPL Fixtures Analysis Gameweek9 2016-17
Welcome to FPL Fixtures Analysis Gameweek 9 2016-17.Well would you look at this site now? It’s like this site is a character in an old RPG video game and it just leveled up and took on a completely new form. Usually leveling up comes with new abilities and gear. But in this case you still get me writing the Fixtures article. I haven’t lost any weight. I haven’t developed any new attacking moves or finishing combos. Still just me. But…in anticipation of this change, I did mark Stoke City #3 on my list of Best Bets last week. That raised a few eyebrows at the time, but after their 2-0 victory over the weekend, it may prove my FPL prowess is still good enough to be used in the future quests of this here site.
And that’s probably enough with the nerd metaphor. But I will say, if nothing else, picking Stoke last week has to cover up the sin of recommending West Ham once upon a time. Or maybe it doesn’t (*ugh*). Let’s just get to this week’s fixtures.
The Tracker in full…
Top 3 Best Bets
#1) Arsenal – MID (H), SUN (A), TOT (H)
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Arsenal are undoubtedly going to be in most people’s top 3 given the current schedule. Should they be the #1 pick though? Given the tough Tottenham game right before the break, you could make a case for another team to take the top spot. And given the fact that Arsenal conceded 2 goals to Swansea, you could definitely make a case that they should be a bit lower on the pecking order. But I’m going to say that Arsenal’s positives far outweigh any negatives, and that moves them to the top of the heap for me.
First point I’m going to make here is quite obvious – Theo Walcott is on fire, and he looks like one of the best players in the league. As predicted, Arsenal have made a push to be the highest scoring team in the table, and they’re now tied with Man City with 19 goals each – and Walcott’s 5 goals have been crucial to that end. Arsenal have found the sweet spot for scoring success. They’re not unbalanced like Chelsea (only 5 goal scorers with Costa having 7 himself), and they’re not erratic like Man U (3 multi-goal games and 4 games with just a single goal scored – *stats prior to Man U v Liverpool on Monday night). Arsenal, on the other hand, have been very steady in their scoring with 6 of their games having multiple scores, and they’ve spread that scoring out between 7 different players. It’s a tired cliche now, but as long as they stay healthy…
The second point that moves Arsenal to the top of the list this week is the fact that they have Sunderland in their schedule. We picked on Stoke early in the year because they had some monstrously bad results – but we knew they at least had a bit of talent on their squad. Sunderland are a different story altogether. Sunderland are the only remaining team in the league without a win, and based on their performance against Stoke, it appears that they have a real shot at not getting a single win all season.
As for the rest of their schedule, Middlesbrough shouldn’t pose any danger – there’s a reason they are just a hop, skip and a jump away from relegation themselves. And the Tottenham game may not be a lost cause. The recent history between these teams suggests that it will end in a draw or a 1 goal difference either way – but there’s nothing here to suggest that playing Arsenal will be any sort of liability for you.
#2) Liverpool – WBA (H), CRY (A), WAT (H)
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*Note that this article was written ahead of the Liverpool v Man U match for Round 8
Win or lose against Man U, Liverpool aren’t going to be playing any team of United’s calibre for the next stretch – and it looks unlikely that any of these teams listed here have any sort of an answer for the Liverpool attack. West Brom have been praised for their defence to this point, but they really haven’t been tested yet. Their two clean sheets came against Palace in the opener and then Middlesbrough two weeks later. But against ‘bigger’ clubs like Everton and West Ham? They conceded 2 goals to each. And against Tottenham this past week? They conceded the single goal against a side that was still not fully intact coming off internationals. Prior to the Man U game, Liverpool sit just one goal behind Arsenal and Man City for the scoring lead, and that type of attack is something that WBA haven’t had to deal with yet.
And as far as it goes for Crystal Palace and Watford, both clubs have had their shining moments, but both have also shown in recent results that they’re still off the pace of the truly big clubs in England. Neither of those clubs possess any real threat to Liverpool as long as they’re playing up to their standard.
But highlighting Liverpool’s competition is just half of the equation. On their own, Liverpool have to be reckoned with whether you like who they’re playing or not. Their defense isn’t stellar, but it’s serviceable enough to achieve their goals of fighting for the Top 4 (in the current top half of the table, only Liverpool and Watford have conceded double digit goal tallies). And even you if you consider their defense a hinderance, it’s still not enough to outweigh the potency of their attack. And their attack has the most Russian Roulette feel to it, doesn’t it? Even though Liverpool have had 7 different goal scorers on the year (just like Arsenal), you honestly don’t know who will be scoring on a week to week basis. At least teams like Arsenal have a sense of a system of check-downs (kind of a like an NFL QB running through his progressions – the best players in Arsenal get first chance at scoring). With Liverpool, nobody knows which player is even considered the star of the team, much less who is going to take first crack at the goal on any given day.
But that’s part of the charm, isn’t it? Whether we, as fantasy players, appreciate the randomness of the pattern of their goal scoring or not, you can’t deny that it’s effective and that it’s yielding results.
#3) Man City – SOU (H), WBA (A), MID (H)
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Any time you get three teams from the Top 4 as your Best Bets, it feels like a boring article to me. But with the schedule that these three teams have, it would be disingenuous to not have them listed here. I would love to have a team like Stoke or Watford to write about as my third pick this week – but City’s schedule is just as attractive as Arsenal’s or Liverpool’s.
And we can’t get things twisted, Man City are the best team in the league right now. And that’s not just something obvious to say because I looked at the table, but I think that the table merely reflects that this squad, top to bottom, are the best in the league. As an Everton fan, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see us hold onto the draw against City this past weekend – but c’mon, City should’ve won that match 3-1 or 4-1 (I can’t understand why Aguero continues to be on penalties).
Even though they’re the best team in the league, I’m putting them down here at #3 based on the Southampton match. Southampton were unlucky to concede late to Burnley, and if they could’ve held that clean sheet it would’ve been four straight matches without conceding. Now, 1 goal allowed in four matches is still pretty impressive, and I think they have the momentum to at least keep City to a reasonably low scoreline this week. But past that match? I think WBA and Middlesbrough are going to get toasted (same reasons as those listed above).
On their own merit though, City are looking incredibly dangerous now that they’re fully fit again. Aguero may be absolute ‘gah-bage’ when taking PK’s recently, but a healthy KDB will help to cover over those types of ills. Let’s not forget, prior to getting hurt, KDB was sitting on a pair of goals and 6 assists to start the year. Nolito is looking like a solid super-sub option. Sterling is healthy. Kompany looks like he may be due to return for a bit of leadership at the back. I could go on and on, but you get the point. The team is loaded, and a nifty little run like this should be good for another 9 points to their campaign.
Teams to Avoid
*Let’s just all agree that until something drastic happens, Sunderland should always be a team that you should consider avoiding. What’s a drastic change? Coaching, major transfer? Who knows. But writing about them every week would just get boring. So let this be my blanket statement in saying that I fully acknowledge that Sunderland are the worst, and I’m not ignoring that fact on a week to week basis.
#1) WBA – LIV (A), MCI (H), LEI (A)
I’ve touched on WBA a couple of times up above, and I don’t need to rehash all of those talking points. What should be considered then is that any team with this schedule coming up would merit inclusion into this list. If Arsenal had this schedule coming up, I’d probably put them down here too. It’s just a really tough run having to go on the road to Liverpool and follow that up with a home match against City. Besides that, Leicester are better at home than you think (see below). Based on the probabilities here, WBA are probably due for a maximum of 1 point over their next three.
#2) Crystal Palace – LEI (A), LIV (H), BUR (A)
Palace might get a result at the end of this run against Burnley, but their first two matches are going to be incredibly tough. As for Liverpool, well, we’ve talked enough about them for one Everton fan’s liking today. But for Leicester? They’re not as bad as you’d think. Leicester have fallen off the radar for many folks this year, but consider that all of Leicester’s 8 points this year have come while at home – in fact, they’ve yet to lose a home match, and have only conceded a single goal at home this year (it’s true, I had to check 3 times, but it’s true). Leicester’s home form combined with Liverpool’s attack is going to make this a very hard run for Palace.
#3) Middlesbrough – ARS (A), BOU (H), MCI (A)
The only reason that Middlesbrough aren’t in the relegation zone right now is due to their goal differential – and that’s about to change with this schedule coming up. Arsenal and City away? Not good. And Bournemouth at home? That might have looked better up until Bournemouth showed that they at least have the ability for big scores after tacking 6 on Hull this weekend. I don’t think it’s a matter of whether or not Middlesbrough slip down into relegation by the international break, I think it’s more a matter of whether they feel better about fighting for 18th or 19th place.
One Week Punt
Stoke – HUL (A)
Stoke were a Best Bet last week, and rightly not many people took me seriously. I’m not offended, I didn’t pick them up either, but I don’t make transfers after international breaks. Ok, I made that up. But I didn’t make any transfers after this last international break, and I’m thinking that Arnautovic might have been a good idea now (not as good of an idea as getting Walcott, but you get the picture).
We already missed out on the super easy Sunderland game, but Stoke are now going to play Hull City after Hull just conceded 6 goals. I know that playing away is always a tough ask for clubs, but now is the time that Stoke can do the most to escape from the relegation zone and put a bit of respectability into their campaign. With Sunderland locked in as the worst and Middlesbrough heading south, Stoke could do themselves a huge favor this weekend with a win.
And if the one week punt equates to browsing turning to buying, Stoke will host 19th place Swansea the week after they play Hull. Just some food for thought there.