This nifty little graphic shows when each @premierleague team's hardest and easiest games are. Tough start for @NUFC. pic.twitter.com/VpQwdJcPyK— SOURCE: Snappa (@snappa) June 17, 2015
For all intents and purposes the 2015/2016 season has effectively begun. Of course, it's too early to say who will win the Premier League. The lack of real-time transfers and usual transfer gossip is indicative of the early pre-season period. But I feel that we have enough information at hand to look at some interesting fixture patterns which may influence our initial picks. For instance, Steve McClaren's return to the North East could be problematic as his team faces Southampton (H), Man United (A), Arsenal (H), Chelsea (H) and Man City (A) in 5 of their first 8 matches. Such a difficult patch may mean another relegation run for the beleaguered Geordies. In fact, McClaren may already be a hot favourite for the first sacking of the season without a ball being kicked!
Another manager who will be very anxious is Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool ended the season on a downer and are still bogged down with the "Will he? Won't he?" Raheem Sterling saga. To top this off the early signings of Bogdan, Milner and Ings are hardly inspiring to say the least and don't exactly ooze Champions' League material. But what's even worse is their upcoming run of away games. Having a quick glance, Liverpool's first "easiest" away game won't come until December 19th v Watford! This means that Liverpool need to secure a virtually perfect home record before the end of the year so that they can cater for any bumps on their away journeys. Ironically, this also means that rotating Liverpool defenders will be a lot easier for FPL manages in the first half of the season, as you could bench them away from home with almost no worry.
Looking at the newly promoted teams, their run of games varies considerably and will offer different narratives throughout the season. For instance, Bournemouth's first 8 Gameweeks are relatively reasonable but this is offset by the fact that their December fixtures are very hard and they could come unstuck by the midway point. Watford's final 6 games of the season aren't too difficult and this could be key if they are stuck in an expected relegation battle. As for Norwich, they have a tricky August but could potentially make up lost ground between September-October.
Finally, the fixtures of the Top 4 teams are probably the most interesting. Man United have a good run of games in the first half of the season, specifically in November and December. But crucially, their April and May fixtures aren't too bad either, which will complement their chance of a semi-serious title challenge for the 2015/16 season, subject to some decent transfers. Bale, anyone? Chelsea's fixtures are relatively balanced month by month, but they could fill their boots during December. Failure to do so could be a make or break point for them. In relation to this, City's mid-November to mid-December games could be even more problematic and their final 5 games of the season aren't exactly that fantastic either. As for Arsenal, they have a mixed bunch of "easy" and "difficult" games for each month of the season. However, their March-May games are fairly decent and winnable, which could put them in good stead if they are pressing for the title around that time.
There you have it. I look forward to tinkering with my team once the game resets around early-mid July. If you haven't already done so, you're welcome to join the @FPLHints League by entering the code 9672-5608 (only valid until the game resets - don't use it afterwards). Aside from that, I will be picking my team a bit differently in the upcoming season. I will hopefully be relying on algorithms. Keep an eye out for this method from early July!