Which Premier League teams have got an easy August and which have the start from hell? Hive FPL 2022/23
When it comes to the FPL, selecting players for your squad based on the opposition that they will come up against is a major consideration for most managers.
Away trips to the likes of the Ethiad or Anfield don’t tend to return many points for opposition players while on the flip side a home fixture against this season’s whipping boys might well end with an excellent return.
However, with just 1 free transfer a week plus a couple of wildcards to play throughout the season, it’s worth looking at the bigger picture as far as fixtures are concerned to make sure you’re giving your squad as a whole the chance of success not just over a single game week but longer periods too.
In this blog, I’ll be looking at the month of August and then beyond into September to consider which teams have an easier start to the 2022/23 campaign and which have got some tough games in the early part of the season.
My basic model takes into account the difficulty of the opposition (based on last seasons final standings) and whether a fixture is home or away in predicting which teams you may wish to favour and which to avoid with your initial picks for FPL 2022/23.
An easy August?
My model suggests that Arsenal and Man City are the 2 teams that have the easiest first 5 games this year and that as such players from those sides would be worth extra consideration when picking your initial 15.
Arsenal start with a potentially tricky visit to Crystal Palace in a fixture that saw them get hammered 3-0 at the hands of Gunners old boy Patrick Viera last year.
There are no easy games in the EPL...
Thereafter, they have 3 home games against Leicester, Fulham and Villa and a trip to newly promoted Bournemouth throughout the rest of the month. You'd expect them to score goals and/or keep clean sheets in most of those games.
Reigning champions Man City meanwhile, have a couple of potentially tricky away trips to West Ham and Newcastle but some very winnable home games in August including against 2 of the newly promoted sides in Bournemouth and Notts Forest.
You would expect City’s star studded line-up to perform most weeks but the early part of the season certainly seems to be stacked in their favour (queue conspiracy theories about how the fixture list is decided) and so their players should offer good early value.
That being said the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea also have some matches that they’ll be expecting to claim 3 points from.
Liverpool’s only fixture of concern in August comes against bitter rivals Manchester United. A trip to Old Trafford used to hold fear for any side but in recent years that’s not been the case. From a United perspective a performance in that fixture (their 3rd of the season) will be key to establishing Ten Hag’s credentials as the man to rebuild the Red Devil’s fortunes.
The model suggests it's a tough game for Liverpool but last season's result indicates it might not be
Meanwhile Chelsea too face fellow top 6 opposition when Spurs come to visit on the 2nd weekend. Worth remembering that Spurs have a truly shocking Premier League record at the West London club so perhaps it’s not as difficult a fixture as the model predicts!
Of course part of the skill of FPL is knowing when to go against the grain and pick the players that others aren’t considering. You’d expect players from Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool to feature in the majority of squads, so which of the less fashionable teams might offer good value and less popular picks in the early part of the season?
The model suggests that you should consider Leeds and Wolves players in your initial selection based on easier games in August!
Leeds just about survived last season and looking at the their fixture list, a fast start to this year’s EPL will be crucial to avoid another relegation scrap. Their toughest match in August is undoubtedly the visit of Chelsea but for those of you who know your English football history beyond the creation of the Premier League you’ll know that the Elland Road faithful will be up for that game! At the same time, Leeds entertain the likes of Everton while away games on the South coast against Brighton and Southampton are hardly frightening propositions.
Wolves meanwhile travel to Leeds on the opening day and have a tough game against Spurs in game week 3 (albeit they won that fixture 0-2 last year). At the same time they host newly promoted Fulham and then Newcastle before travelling to another recently promoted side in Bournemouth. Wolves might not be the most expansive team going but they are organised and tough to score past and you’d fancy them to deliver 2 or 3 clean sheets in those early rounds.
The model predicts Wolves hardest game in August is away at Spurs but they won 0-2 there less than 6 months ago
The model suggests that the 2 teams with the most difficult fixtures in August are Crystal Palace and Bournemouth.
We’ve already mentioned Palace above who following the opening day visit of Arsenal have home fixtures against Villa and Brentford, 2 teams who would hope to be challenging them in the middle half of the table. However, in between those potentially tough games, Palace have away trips to Man City and Liverpool! While the Eagles have caused their fair share of upsets over the years, that is not a fixture list that their supporters will look on too kindly!
Crystal Palace stunned City last season and have had success at Anfield in the recent past. Can they do it again?
Bournemouth also have to overcome trips to the 2 dominant forces in the EPL in City and Liverpool within just their first 4 games of the season - welcome back to the Premier League! However, as we’ll see in the next section it might be worth keeping your eye on a few of their players once we get into September...
Selling at the top and buying the dip
A concept of course that will no doubt be familiar with most of the Hive community when it comes to crypto investing also rings true for FPL squad selection.
Looking at the fixture list over a more significant period of time can give you a good indication of when to buy a player and when it might be better to move him on.
Taking the model forward for the first 8 games of the year (up until the first international break) highlights a few early opportunities for impactful transfers not just for a single game but across 3 or more matches.
The below shows sequences of matches that are either listed as positive i.e. a run of matches that the team has a good chance of victory in or negative i.e, a run of matches that a team is likely to struggle to perform given the strength of the opposition.
Positive sequences in weeks 1 to 8
Chelsea weeks 3 to 7 ( 5 games)
Brighton weeks 4 to 8 (5 games)
Arsenal weeks 2 to 5 (4 games)
Liverpool weeks 4 to 7 (4 games)
Notts Forest weeks 5 to 8 (4 games)
Wolves weeks 4 to 6 (3 games)
Bournemouth weeks 5 to 7 (3 games)
Negative sequences in weeks 1 to 8
Newcastle weeks 2 to 5 (4 games)
Southampton weeks 3 to 6 (4 games)
Bournemouth weeks 2 to 4 (3 games)
Leicester weeks 4 to 6 (3 games)
West Ham weeks 4 to 6 (3 games)
Aston Villa weeks 5 to 7 (3 games)
Man Utd weeks 5 to 7 (3 games)
Crystal Palace weeks 6 to 8 (3 games)
Man City weeks 6 to 8 (3 games)
It is of course worth considering again as with the best points per pound team that this model is based on past performances being a good method for predicting future outcomes. In general they are and we know that for example the top 6 clubs are likely to once again dominate the league and that a few of the sides that struggled last year + the newly promoted teams will remain in the bottom half of the table at best.
However, if previous seasons are anything to go by then we can also expect 1 or 2 sides to get off to a faster start than expected while a couple of others might struggle to come out of the blocks despite the fixture list being in their favour. Which teams that will be really becomes a case of making an educated guess...