NMA – Premier League 2021-22: Early Fixture Analysis
The nominal Premier League fixture schedule (pending TV time adjustments and cup-tie rescheduling) has been released, which makes the start of the season feel that much closer. Fixture lists have a huge bearing on fantasy strategies, helping managers plan player rotations, transfers, and prospective chip strategies in FPL. Let’s take a look at the sides with the best & worst first-5 fixtures:
Man United: LEE (H), SOU (A), WOL (A), NEW (H), WHA (A)
The Red Devils kick off with some great fixtures, facing only teams outside the perennial “Big 6” (caveat: West Ham had a great season last time out, finishing 6th). Even after these first five matches, United face Aston Villa and Everton in the next two game-weeks; it’s not until GW-8 that the opposition stiffens, and United could be top of the table by then. So fantasy managers must target OGS’s men in the preseason draft, with the usual Bruno Fernandes likely to be the pick of the bunch. If OGS buys someone exciting in the summer transfer window, he might be an instant board favorite, especially in Fantrax with its soft new-boy pricing.
Liverpool: NOR (A), BUR (H), CHE (H), LEE (A), CRY (H)
Liverpool will be hoping to bounce back after a disappointing campaign last season. The Reds have some sweet early fixtures to get off the mark and get their noses in front. They face newly promoted Norwich City in their first game, with their only real challenge against Chelsea in GW-3. Liverpool finished last season in great form, having made up some lost ground from their dire run following Christmas. Salah/Mane offer up great captaincy options for these.
West Ham: NEW (A), LEI (H), CRY (H), SOU (A), MUN (H)
West Ham shocked many last season, being in the fight for Champions League football for quite some time, eventually finishing 6th and qualifying for the Europa League. European football may well cause problems, testing squad-depth as the season goes on, but in the early days it’s definitely looking positive for the Hammers. Based on last seasons form, you’d back them in a few of these games, and then Leeds comes up in GW-6 for a possible goal-fest.
Aston Villa: WAT (A), NEW (H), BRE (H), CHE (A), EVE (H)
Led by Jack Grealish, Aston Villa really hit the ground running at the beginning last season, and with him healthy again, there is a great chance that the Villans will do the same again with these fixtures coming up. Out of the first five, they face two newly-promoted sides (Watford FC and Brentford), along with Newcastle who struggled for most of last season. Talisman and captain Jack Grealish offers up a great fantasy option if you can afford him.
Everton: SOU (H), LEE (A), BHA (A), BUR (H), AVA (A)
Everton is one of the few teams that avoids the “Big 6” in the first five, and the Toffees even follow with an appealing GW-6 fixture against Norwich. They had a mixed season in the end, not keeping pace as the campaign went on, slipping to 10th. They’ll begin this season with games against quite a few sides who have been known to concede goals, so attacking options could offer great fantasy value.
Norwich City: LIV (H), MCI (A), LEI (H), ARS (A), WAT (H)
Funny enough, when the Canaries got promoted to the 2019-20 Premier League season, they had a flying start against some tough sides, but it looks like an even bigger challenge this time. I would avoid any assets, but striker Teemu Pukki does have EPL history and could be a differential. He famously led his side to victory over Man City a couple seasons ago.
Chelsea: CRY (H), ARS (A), LIV (A), AVL (H), TOT (A)
Chelsea is one of the strongest teams in the league that will surely will be pushing Man City all the way in Thomas Tuchel’s first full season in charge. The Blues have great assets, but it’s worth keeping them on ice as they face three of the “Big 6” in their first five fixtures. The Gunners may have finished 8th last season, but they did complete the double over them, so it won’t be an easy fixture by any means. Man City also await them in GW-6. After this they’re well worth targeting, with a couple of promoted sides coming up.
Crystal Palace: CHE (A), BRE (H), WHU (A), TOT (H), LIV (A)
Crystal Palace usually starts off relatively well in a season and drops off later. The Eagles will be without club legend Roy Hodgson who stood down at the end of last season. They face three of the “Big 6”, plus a strong West Ham team. Crystal Palace wasn’t the best source of points last season, so there is no need to consider them any time soon.
Leeds: MUN (A), EVE (H), BUR (A), LIV (H), NEW (A)
Leeds is a very unpredictable team facing a mixed bag of opponents, so it’s hard to guess what will happen. Last season, a newly-promoted Leeds opened against league champions Liverpool and lost 3-4, earning plenty of attacking points despite the loss. So it wouldn’t be the biggest shock if Patrick Bamford bagged a couple of goals during this time, but overall these fixtures aren’t appealing, with two title contenders and then a couple of resolute sides mixed in with Newcastle who were on looking better at the end of last season. Straight after this they move onto West Ham. Only invest in assets whom you consider to be “fixture proof”.
Wolves: LEI (A), TOT (H), MUN (H), WAT (A), BRE (H)
Wolves looked pretty toothless without talisman Raúl Jiménez who suffered a shocking head fracture last season. Jiménez is now back in training, but it’s hard to assess how far along his recovery is and what kind of form he will be in. Their first three fixtures are probably the toughest in the league, which doesn’t bode well for player-confidence entering the easier games that follow. Caveat: Wolves will have a new gaffer, so they could get some new-manager bounce. That’s good for the fans, but it’s actually difficult for fantasy managers who may need weeks to assess the new RL manager’s selection proclivities and role assignments.
What teams/players will you target in the first stage of next season? Are you going for any players with tough fixtures? Whom do you view as “fixture proof”? Have you thought about chip strategy yet? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments!