FPL Fixtures Analysis Gameweek 30
Welcome to FPL Fixtures Analysis Gameweek 30. Hopefully you all enjoyed your international break – I don’t care what people say, I enjoy the breaks personally. Well, I would get to enjoy the breaks had I not signed up to do MLS again, but that’s a different rant for a different article. But in a normal world, a just world, you get to see your global superstars put on different kit and play for the glory of the homeland whilst the leagues take a hiatus. And the players who didn’t get called up sometimes get to play in club friendlies that you otherwise would never see. It’s all a good time. And then Seamus Coleman got taken out by a Welshman and nearly all goodwill I’d had towards the international games went out the window. It’s bad enough I have to watch a US team with Jozy Altidore on a regular basis, but then to have one of my favorite Everton players crushed like that? It was just too much.
So I’m of two minds this week. Half of me is still clinging to the dark cloud that covered the break – and I’m still not in the best of moods about it. And the other half of me is just glad to be getting back down to the business of regular league football. It’s a good business.
Before I go into the article, I just want to make clear that I’ll still be covering the teams over the course of their next three matches. I know there are DGWs on the horizon, but I’m still focusing this article on the basis of which teams (I think) have the best schedule for GW30 – GW33. Init will be covering Tips this week, and he’ll have more content that relates to building towards GW34.
Top 3 Best Bets:
#1) Man United – WBA (H), EVE (H), SUN (A)
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[/three_fifth]Yes I know they have a DGW coming up, but that didn’t go into my consideration here. The process of picking the top team every week begins with a little conversation in my head. Does the team have at least two home games? Check. Does the team avoid all Top 4 sides? Check. Does the team play Sunderland at all? Check. Bingo bango, we have a winner for the top pick of the week.
You see, I’m not a super smart man. I just type really fast and don’t take myself too seriously, and somehow that was enough to get this job. But if you think I have some sort of secret algorithm to help me pick the teams every week, you’d be mistaken. I just wait until my internal dialogue lands on ‘bingo bango’ and I roll with that.
But honestly, this schedule is setting up very nicely for United, and they should be taken seriously on the merit of this run alone. Starting off, I understand that West Brom recently beat Arsenal. But WBA are a backwards team – and when you gameplan to play a backwards team, you get results against them (prior to playing Arsenal, they lost in shutouts to Palace and Everton). What do I mean they’re a backwards team? They only score with defenders, and their attackers really aren’t great. In fact, if you flipped that whole team around and put the defenders up front from the beginning, they’d probably be pushing for Top 4. But when you keep their defence in the proper half of the pitch, you take away their greatest scoring threat. Seems simple. It is simple, actually. I should be a coach somewhere, I swear. Say what you will about United’s general offensive philosophy, I think they have enough about them to take down WBA with a simple tweak or two.
The Everton game will be tricky for United, I won’t lie about that. And I’m not just saying that because I’m an Everton fan (though even if I am saying that because I’m an Everton fan, you can’t prove anything). But we still don’t know how Everton are going to look without Coleman as a regular mainstay in the back, but no matter who they put in his position, it will be a downgrade in quality. And I think tit-for-tat, you have to look at that fixture and think that United have the inside track for the win, and Everton would be thrilled with a draw at best.
Finally, David Moyes is continuing on his greatest hits journey and will be playing against the dream club that canned him. Moyes has been slowly putting together his Everton team again from 8-10 years ago, and the best he can hope for against United is for Steven Pienaar to lure Fellaini into an unmarked white van where he and Sylvan Distin will threaten to cut off his hair if he doesn’t join the old crew. But as for the game itself? Sunderland have no chance.
#2) Middlesbrough – SWA (A), HUL (A), BUR (H)
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[/three_fifth]This pick makes me a bit hesitant simply because Middlesbrough may not have enough of a positive element about themselves to truly take advantage of this gift of a run. But honestly, any team in the league would be falling over themselves at this stage of the game to have a set of fixtures like this, and that can’t be discounted.
And make no mistake, Middlesbrough are second bottom in the table for a reason, they’ve played horribly for a while and every team ultimately deserves their final league position. But as we near the end of the game, is a team firmly in the middle of the table going to be more motivated to get points, or is the team fighting relegation going to pull out all the stops to get the results they need?
Looking at their opponents, Swansea are losers of their last two, and their hold on the 17th spot in the table looks tenuous at best. Hull are just a place above Middlesbrough and their spots could be reversed with a win. Burnley are still getting credit for defensive performances from earlier in the year, but they haven’t actually won a game themselves since the end of January.
I know, this may not be a popular pick here, but like I said, this is probably the best schedule of any team in the league for this stretch. It’s do or die for Middlesbrough, and they have to know that they won’t have a better chance to earn 9 points again this season. This may not affect your thinking at all, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
#3) Leicester – STK (H), SUN (H), EVE (A)
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[/three_fifth]Leicester are back, and it’s a good feeling. Nobody knows the details of how exactly Claudio Ranieri managed to lose the locker room just after winning the league title, but it’s clear now that the problem for Leicester this year was the schism between the players and the coach – not the talent level of the players in the club. Many people have said it, but Leicester have gotten back to basics and look all the better for it. The players on the pitch seem to know what exactly their role is again, and they’re more than capable of doing their jobs and getting results. It’s easy to still be negative about this side, and people will say that they’re still only 6 points away from relegation – but they’re also only 6 points away from being top half in the league. And given this run of fixtures here, I’m fairly certain that they have a better chance at the positive side of that equation.
It really is like somebody turned on a light switch for this team. Leicester couldn’t score and could barely defend for the longest time. But then after Ranieri left, the team has managed to score 3 goals in each of their last 3 matches, all resulting in wins. It’s remarkable. And now that they have a feel for the goals again, you have to make them strong favourites for positive results in the schedule they have coming up.
For starters, Stoke haven’t won a game on the road since mid-January (no surprise, they beat Sunderland of all teams). And given the form of the two sides right now, you have to give the edge to Leicester at home in that clash. Sunderland are still Sunderland, and the more you watch them play, the more it makes you wonder how they managed to earn the 20 points that they do have. And as for Everton, it’s a bit too far out for me to call. But I would have to think that Leicester will be going into that game with a good deal of momentum behind them. I don’t think that 9 points are out of the question for Leicester here, but I think they are nearly guaranteed to get 6-7 points.
Teams To Avoid:
#1) Everton – LIV (A), MUN (A), LEI (H)
See? I’m not such a complete Everton honk that I’m oblivious to the reality of the challenge they’re facing. Truth be told, Everton have an enormously hard schedule, and should probably count themselves lucky if they manage a single win or three draws from this series. The derby could go either way depending on which team has more players thrown out. I know that history favours one team over the other in these things, but in live action, it could go either way. United away and Leicester at home are going to be as tough as the Liverpool match, and Everton will have to be at the top of their game to secure results from either of those matches as well. It’s not a great time to lose your best attacking full back if you’re Everton.
#2) Crystal Palace – CHE (A), SOU (A), ARS (H)
Palace are just 4 points clear of the relegation line, and they haven’t been given as much attention as some other clubs that are fighting for their spot in the league next year. But it’s fully possible that Palace could come out of this series of games with no points at all, and that could be disastrous for them. Chelsea haven’t clinched the league title yet, but you have to figure they’ll be keen to wrap things up as soon as possible – and games like this against Palace are just gimme’s for them. If Southampton have their attack healthy again in two weeks time, they’re the obvious favourites over Palace in that match too. Really, depending on the mental state of Arsenal, that might be the only game that Palace has a chance to snatch a result in. And I’d say a point is the most they’d get out of that match either way.
#3) Bournemouth – SOU (A), LIV (A), CHE (H)
It’s really up for debate whether Bournemouth or Palace have the toughest schedule coming up – but no matter who you think wins that debate, both are losers. Bournemouth have at least done well to give themselves a bit more of a cushion in the table to absorb a hit in their schedule. They’re not elite by any means, but sitting on 33 points means that even if they lose all three of these matches coming up, they won’t be in the relegation zone as a result. I’m not saying they’ll accept three losses as a good thing, but would you make Bournemouth the favorites in any of these games? I didn’t think so.
Notes on Sunderland
Of course Sunderland should be considered to have a bad schedule – they’re the underdogs in every game they play. But writing about Sunderland every week would get boring and dull. I mean, they do have to play Watford (A), Leicester (A) and United (H) in their next three, so they’ll probably lose the lot of them. But we bashed them enough earlier in the article, so there’s no need to punish them more in the Teams to Avoid section. No, I felt it more prudent to bash them in their own little private section instead.
The Tracker in full…
DGW34 IS ON THERE AS CONFIRMED BUT DGW37 IS VERY MUCH PROVISIONAL!
That’s our best guess as to how it will pan out and there is still Southampton vs Arsenal to be rearranged. That looks likely to be in GW35 or 36. The FPL site itself has said that they expect the remaining games to be confirmed on or around the 7th April.
Teams with DGW’s ahead… (with thanks to Rosco)