Eight games of the Premier League season have passed and teams have started showing their form – but which sides have had a truly easy start, and who can expect the next eight games to be much trickier?
The Fixture Difficulty Rankings (FDR) are a useful tool for planning a transfer strategy, but there’s a more precise rating system buried in the code on the FPL website. The ‘strength’ metric rates the difficulty of each fixture from a high of 1,350 (Liverpool and Manchester City away) to a low of 1,000 (Fulham at home).
We’ve compared the average strength rating of each team’s opponents in the first eight gameweeks with their next eight fixtures to see whose schedule is tilting in the right direction.
Four Premier League teams in particular look as though their lives are about to get easier.
Title favourites Liverpool and Manchester City have each endured one of the four toughest starts on paper but their next eight fixtures are among the easiest on average. Managers looking for premium assets should therefore consider whether it’s time to bring in the likes of Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne before their prices rise.
For bosses who don’t yet trust last season’s top two or are on a tighter budget, West Ham and Sheffield United’s own fixture swings make them attractive options.
The Hammers have kept their heads above water despite having the toughest start in the division and therefore look well placed to deliver returns from a gentler schedule. Despite some tricky fixtures, three of their players – Aaron Cresswell, Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen – have already racked up more than 30 points this season.
The winless Blades are a riskier proposition, but now could be the time to gamble on budget forward Rhian Brewster or midfield mainstay Sander Berge to free up funds to spend elsewhere.
Spurs to start rusting?
While the aforementioned teams will be looking forward to an easier schedule in the weeks and months ahead, there are also those whose lives are about to get tougher.
Tottenham have made an impressive start to the season with both Harry Kane and Son Heung-min in the ascendancy, but the fixture computer has been on their side so far.
The average strength rating of their first eight opponents was just 1,130, which is the lowest of any club, but their next eight rank as the joint-toughest (1,216). Managers holding Spurs assets may be tempted to move them on and invest elsewhere.
Anyone still hoping that their Wolves players will come good meanwhile may be well advised to cut their losses now.
The Midlands side have looked somewhat short of their best so far despite a relatively kind start and, with their fixtures about to get a lot trickier, it’s not a good time to be relying on them to deliver big points hauls.
Likewise anyone swayed by Fulham’s recent improvements – a first win of the season followed by a narrow, late defeat – should be mindful of the Cottagers’ fixture list, which looks to be the joint-toughest over the next eight rounds.
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