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Fantasy football round 14: Looking ahead

Over the course of an entire season the Premier League fixture schedule evens out, with all 20 teams playing each other home and away. However, at any given point in time certain teams will face an easier run of upcoming matches, while others face up to the prospect of the month from hell.

When you are thinking about your transfers, it is well worth looking beyond the imminent gameweek to check whether your potential new signing’s team is about to embark on a relatively easy or relatively difficult stretch of the season.

With that in mind, here is a quick piece of analysis looking at each team’s schedule through to mid-December, covering the next four gameweeks.

Using data to supplement judgement

Obviously, it is possible to ‘eyeball’ each team’s fixture list and make a subjective judgement about whether their upcoming matches are easy or tough. Armed with a copy of the league table and your own knowledge of each team’s results and performances, you will come no doubt come to some sensible conclusions yourself. But if you want to use data to validate your conclusions or to provide an objective view of the schedule, you will find a quantitative analysis of the next four weeks below.

I have chosen a four-round period as a happy medium. There is little point looking just one or two weeks ahead – with just one free transfer available per week, you do not want to be constantly chopping and changing players in pursuit of a fleeting short-term advantage. Conversely, if you extend any analysis over too long a period, things quickly start to even out to the point of meaningless. Hence four weeks represents a reasonable middle ground.

Here’s how my analysis works.

To begin with, I have ranked every team from 1 to 20 based on their current league position. I have then allocated a points value to each of their next four fixtures as follows:

  • Firstly, take the league position of each opponent. Therefore, when Chelsea (1st) play Birmingham (18th) next weekend, this produces a raw score of 18 for Chelsea and 1 for Birmingham.
  • Secondly, I take into account whether the fixture is home or away. I have arbitrarily conferred an advantage of +5 points upon the home team, with the away team receiving a -5 point penalty. Therefore, Chelsea receive a score of 13 points for their away match at Birmingham, while the Blues are -4. Overall, this makes an allowance for home advantage, and also means that a team with three home games and one away receives a boost over one who has to play three out of four on the road.
  • Finally, I add up the individual scores for each team’s four matches to give an overall ‘ease of schedule’ total for the upcoming month. I then convert this to a 1-20 ranking.

In theory, if everyone’s fixtures were equally difficult, each club’s ‘ease of schedule’ would be identical. Over a relatively short period such as four gameweeks, however, there are some marked variations, as the table below shows:

Analysis © Tim Liew, from Fantasy Premier League data. Any errors are my own

Interestingly, this shows that the Premier League’s top two – Chelsea and Arsenal – are about to enter a relatively tough run of matches while the four teams below them – Manchester United, Manchester City, Bolton and Sunderland – face relatively easy games. Arsenal face the third-trickiest schedule, with three of their four games against teams in the top nine, whereas Chelsea, who will be missing central defenders John Terry and Alex for an extended period, must play three games on the road, including trips to top eight sides Newcastle and Tottenham.

Speaking of whom, my data suggests that Newcastle and Tottenham face the hardest month of all. Newcastle’s next two games are against top five sides (Bolton and Chelsea), and they do not face any teams in the bottom eight, while Spurs face difficult trips to Arsenal and Birmingham, and play Liverpool and Chelsea at home.

Matt Jarvis has a good chance of racking up points as Wolves face a relatively easy schedule over the next four weeks

Conversely, Sunderland have the least challenging schedule – their next four games are all against teams in the bottom eight – with winnable away trips to Wolves and Fulham mixed in with home games against Everton and West Ham. Manchester United have the next easiest set of fixtures, with three out of four matches at home and games against Wigan, Blackburn and Blackpool preceding a tough home match against Arsenal. And, interestingly, Wolves have the third easiest schedule – insofar that any schedule can be ‘easy’ when you are second from bottom – with three games against other teams in the bottom seven.

So would I be in a hurry to put lots of Spurs or Newcastle players in my team right now? No. But would I consider a Sunderland defender or Wolves’ flying winger Matt Jarvis? You bet.

As in real life, timing is everything. It may not be possible to accurately predict the future, but looking ahead at the next few weeks can certainly help you play the percentages and catch players and teams before they come into a decent run, rather than afterwards.

Previous posts in the Fantasy Football series:

Ten tips to boost your score

Don’t panic!

Improving your squad

The importance of formations

A question of rotation

Following and bucking trends

The top 20 forwards

In-form midfielders

Defenders’ goals are vanity, clean sheets are sanity

Goalkeepers make saves – and savings?

Following the form book

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

6 Responses to Fantasy football round 14: Looking ahead

  1. John says:

    This is just too scientific for me.

    Whatever happened to random? Probably why the positions in the FF table are as they are 😦

    Though I am taking one for the cause, I will have two Spuds players by Saturday, maybe one as captain, and whenever I select someone they stop scoring…

    • Tim says:

      Random? And you a numbers man as well!

      Quality inevitably rises to the top. I will admit to breaking my own rules and advice all too frequently, but then as in life it’s all about knowing where and when it’s appropriate to bend the rules a bit …

      Pleased you’re taking one for the team by including Spurs players for Saturday. I feel I have done my bit for the cause by putting John Terry in a couple of weeks back. Result. I’m thinking about putting a United defender back in again now. 🙂

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