FPL fixture analysis: Making a hot start

Fantasy Premier League titles can’t be won in the first five weeks, but they can be list. OK, that’s not strictly true but we all know how important it is for your FPL season to get off to a good start, especially if you play in a head-to-head draft league. The last thing you need is to go into September/October with a negative win/loss ratio.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have got irrationally excited upon the release of the Premier League fixtures on Thursday. For me, this signals the beginning of eight weeks of intense preparation for the new season.

On average, I probably own four or five of the players in May that I drafted all the way back in August, meaning that stacking your roster with a range of players who benefit from a favourable start to their Premier League season is not a bad policy at all, especially if you get the opportunity to trade high on a few of those assets.

Here are a few teams I think you should target, as well as a few to consider and a few to avoid.

Teams to consider

Manchester City ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I know, you’re probably thinking “wow, pick Manchester City players, there’s a hot take.” However, bar an early fixture against Tottenham Hotspur, City will have a great chance to start their latest title defence with five wins in a row.

An opening day trip to West Ham is a potential banana skin. But, then again, who knows what version of West Ham we will see this season.

The Tottenham fixture is a home game for City, one that you’d expect them to win, while games against Bournemouth, Brighton and Norwich City shouldn’t provide much of a test for the Champions.

One conundrum to consider is who will begin the season leading the line for City with Sergio Aguero anc Gabriel Jesus expected back late from pre season thanks to Copa America commitments.

Liverpool ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another hot take for you here, pick some players from the European champions.

No disrespect to Norwich City and their fans but I doubt Liverpool could have asked for a kinder first fixture as they kick off the Premier League season on August the 9th.

With the Super Cup final against Chelsea to follow during midweek, some early rotation can be expected for fixture number two against Southampton, especially with Roberto Firmino’s Copa America exploits still, no doubt, playing some part.

On paper, Arsenal at home is their first tough game. On grass, it hasn’t been that way over the last two seasons with the Reds winning that contest 9-1 on aggregate. They’ll fancy their chances of winning that one to really get their 2019/20 season underway.

Burnley away and Newcastle at home should provide stern tests but ones that Liverpool must conquer if they are to go one better than last season’s league result.

Three Defenders and three attackers will stick out in the draft and should help you off to a hot start. They should need no introduction…

Everton ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Everton finished last season extremely well and arguably have the kindest run of fixtures at the start of the 2019/20 campaign.

The Blues face none of the top six in their opening five with their biggest test coming in Gameweek four where the host Wolves.

Crystal Palace away on the opening day is never easy but it may be a completely different test to normal if the expected departures of Wilfred Zaha and Aaron Wan Bissaka do go through.

Watford (home), Aston Villa (away) and a trip to Bournemouth completes a favourable opening five for Marco Silva’s men who must be looking to break into the top six this season.

I fully expect Everton to add to their ranks before the curtain raiser but the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Richarlison and Lucas Digne should all feature at the top end of drafts this summer.

West Ham United ⭐⭐⭐⭐

As previously mentioned, you never quite know what you’re going to get with West Ham United.

The Hammers finished a roller-coaster season on a high with very handy displays at Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United: the first of which resulted in a 1-0 win thanks to Michail Antonio’s strike.

We should get a good idea of what to expect when Manchester City visit the London stadium in Gameweek one. A good performance should act as a springboard ahead of four winnable games, even if that performance results in a narrow opening day loss.

When the City game is out of the way, the Hammers travel to Brighton and Watford before facing off against two newly promoted sides in Norwich (home) and Aston Villa (away).

All eyes will be on Marko Arnautivic this summer following his apparent u-turn in January. There’s no rumours of a departure this summer… Yet.

Felipe Anderson should feature very high on draft boards after a stellar first Premier League campaign while it’ll be interesting to see what role Manuel Lanzini plays following the arrival of Spanish playmaker Pablo Fornals.

Teams to Avoid

Norwich City ⭐

Norwich City knew life would be tough on their return to the Premier League this season. Whether they expected this baptism of fire.

Returning as champions, The Canaries will come into the new campaign full of confidence, but the start they have been handed will certainly test their mettle.

If you’d given a Norwich fan a choice of who to face in gameweek one and where you’d face them, Liverpool at Anfield probably wouldn’t have been a popular answer. And if that wasn’t enough of a test, hosting Chelsea in Gameweek three before back-to-back champions Manchester City in Gameweek five will mean a return of six points out of the first 15 on offer would be a great result.

Those six points will have to come from a home game against Newcastle United and a trip to West Ham United, both of which will be tough fixtures in their own right.

Stacking Norwich defenders probably isn’t a wise move over the first five weeks while the value of Teemu Pukki will either rise dramatically or plummet. If he manages to get a few goals on the board early on it will surely prove that he is the real deal. No goals from five games will set him out as an early buy low target.

Newcastle United ⭐⭐

Newcastle United’s summer so far has been dominated by takeover talks as well as the future of miracle worker boss Rafael Benitez. Whatever happens, the eleven men on the field are in for a tough start to their 2019/20 campaign.

On paper, hosting Arsenal in Gameweek one should be tough. A raucous St. James’ Park could easily be enough to spur the Magpies on to a famous opening day victory. If Rafa is still in charge and the prospective takeover does happen (and bring some exciting new faces in with it), expect the Gallowgate end to be rocking.

Gameweek two is kinder thanks to a trip to the aforementioned Norwich but facing their first trip to the new White Hart Lane to face Tottenham a week later will be another stern test.

Watford are the second to visit the Toon in Gameweek four and will be no mugs after a decent 2018/19 before Newcastle’s opening five weeks conclude with a trip to Anfield. Tough.

It feels like a massive summer in the history of Newcastle United and much is likely to change between now and the curtain raiser. Whatever happens, 2019/20 is sure to start with a bang.

Arsenal ⭐⭐

Arsenal could easily make me look extremely stupid here by winning all of their first five. They could also prove me right and enter October in the bottom half of the league table. Either way, the Gunners haven’t been blessed with a kind start to their Premier League season.

The aforementioned Newcastle United welcome Arsenal on the first matchday and Unai Emery will be well prepared for a Toon side determined to cause an upset.

A traditionally stubborn Burnley are the first to visit The Emirates before the small matter of a very early North London derby with the noisy neighbours. It’s hard for even the most ardent Arsenal fan to deny that Tottenham hold the upper hand in North London at the moment. They’ll got an early opportunity to set the record straight.

Sandwiched in between is a trip to Anfield to face Liverpool. It’s fair to say that Arsenal’s trips to the red half of Merseyside haven’t recently had a happy ending. At all.

The first four fixtures won’t leave much margin for error for Emery’s outfit. They complete their first five with a less than welcoming trip to Watford.

It’s always foolish to write Arsenal off, especially if they do manage to keep the likes of Aubameyang and Lacazette while boosting their squad. A less than convincing defence will surely be tested to the max in the first five weeks of the 2019/20 campaign.

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