We continue our analysis of the newly released 2022/23 Premier League fixture list with a look at which teams rotate well from a Fantasy perspective.
We’re using our customisable Season Ticker for this article, a tool that allows you to filter clubs by rotation amongst other sortable options.
The idea here is to simply find a couple of low-cost Fantasy Premier League (FPL) assets whose fixtures dovetail, either to offer successive home matches or, at the very least, a prolonged spell of favourable opponents.
We’re focusing on budget defensive options, mainly because many Fantasy managers will resist benching premium assets.
In theory, this approach can help maximise the points returns from two low-cost picks, freeing up funds for the premium assets like Mohamed Salah and Erling Haaland.
It should be said that the rotation strategy is shunned by some Fantasy managers, as anticipating where a clean sheet or attacking return will come from is often not just as straightforward as picking the player with a home match or better-on-paper fixture. The move towards ‘big at the back’ also means fewer of us will consider having two £4.5m-and-under defenders in our squads.
HOME/AWAY ROTATION PAIRINGS IN 2022/23
There are 10 pairings that alternate home fixtures perfectly next season (credit goes to Fantasy Football Scout user Portsmouth Bubblejet for the research):
|Paired team 1||Paired team 2|
|Brighton and Hove Albion||Leeds United|
|Leicester City||Nottingham Forest|
|Manchester City||Manchester United|
|West Ham United||Brentford|
|Wolverhampton Wanderers||Crystal Palace|
Some of the above couplings are decided by geographical proximity, created by the need to spread police resourcing: Liverpool/Everton, Manchester United/Manchester City and Spurs/Arsenal being notable examples.
And a number of these combinations are largely irrelevant when it comes to rotation pairings because of the price tags associated with at least one of the respective clubs’ assets and their ability to score points on the road – Fantasy managers aren’t likely to alternate benchings for Kieran Tierney or Ivan Perisic simply because they have an away fixture, for example.
So for more realistic pairings, we have to box a little bit more clever.
BEST ROTATION PAIRINGS: GAMEWEEKS 1-16
For these pairings, we’ll look no further than Gameweek 16. It’s after that point that the Premier League takes a six-week break for the World Cup, which will be a good time to take stock. Wildcards or – if we are given them – unlimited transfers will also be flying at this point.
Pairing Brentford and Newcastle through to Gameweek 15 avoids any meeting with a side that finished in the top seven last season.
A third of the 15 matches are against newly promoted clubs, while there are two home fixtures against an Everton side who had a woeful away record in 2021/22 and a brace of meetings with a Wolverhampton Wanderes outfit who were the division’s fourth-lowest scorers.
We’ve stopped before Gameweek 16 as Manchester City and Chelsea provide the opposition in the final round of matches before the World Cup.
There should be plenty of Brentford defensive options in the £4.5m bracket, although it remains to be seen how FPL price up Newcastle assets such as Dan Burn given the money being pumped into the club. We can certainly forget about full-backs Matt Targett and Kieran Trippier being any cheaper than £5.0m.
FPL managers might just want to ‘set and forget’ Bees assets such as David Raya anyway: Thomas Frank’s troops don’t meet one of last season’s top four until Gameweek 12, while Manchester City, Spurs and Liverpool aren’t concerns until November onwards.
West Ham United are a bit like Newcastle in that their first-choice full-backs, Vladimir Coufal and Aaron Cresswell, aren’t going to be anything less than £5.0m.
FPL could price up their centre-halves a tad cheaper, however, given that only four clubs kept fewer clean sheets than the Hammers (eight) last season.
Wolves should be able to offer us a couple of viable options in the £4.5m bracket, with the likes of Jonny and Rayan Ait-Nouri potentially listed at that price point.
Rotating defenders from these two sides in the first 16 Gameweeks again gives us five fixtures against the three teams who have just come up from the Championship.
Like the Brentford/Newcastle pairing, it avoids any club who finished in the top seven of the Premier League in 2021/22.
A total of 11 out of the 16 matches would be on home soil, too.
If FPL don’t oblige us with cheap West Ham defenders, then Nottingham Forest’s fixtures dovetail fairly well with those of Wolves – if not quite as favourably, with Gameweek 9 a bit problematic.
The first eight Gameweeks are pretty good, however, for those FPL managers looking to Wildcard over the September international break.
There are four fixtures against Fulham and Bournemouth, along with a pair of matches against Leeds.
Forest conceded just 28 goals in Steve Cooper’s 38 league matches in charge last season, while it’s easy to forget that Wolves boasted one of the Premier League’s best defensive records – even if they were ‘overachieving’ based on the expected goals data.
Fulham and Leeds defenders won’t be top of many Fantasy managers’ shopping lists but Rasmus Kristensen could be one of the more attacking options at £4.5m, should FPL Towers be feeling generous with their pricing.
The Whites have improved at the back since Jesse Marsch was appointed, while they’ve added a much-needed defensive midfielder in the form of Marc Roca from Bayern Munich over the summer.
We’ve got 10 fairly favourable home fixtures by pairing the two clubs together in Gameweeks 1-15, again stopping at that point due to two unappealing matches in Gameweek 16.
There are no meetings with any of last season’s top eight Premier League sides in the above sequence but five games against the newly promoted trio.
The Cottagers admittedly came up from the English second tier with a reputation for more attacking football, so there has to be a degree of scepticism about their clean sheet potential.
COVER FOR PREMIUM DEFENDERS
If we’re being realistic, the current trend for owning premium defenders will leave many FPL managers feeling cold about the above approach.
So what if we look at this another way and ask if there are any budget defenders who can step in on the rare occasions when we might be thinking about benching our three or four heavy hitters at the back?
|Team||Benchable fixtures?||Top of the ticker (budget teams only)|
|Liverpool||Gameweek 11: Man City (h)||Gameweek 11: Wolves v Nottm Forest (h)|
|Man City||Gameweek 11: Liverpool (a)||Gameweek 11: Wolves v Nottm Forest (h)|
|Spurs||Gameweek 2: Chelsea (a)
Gameweek 7: Man City (a)
Gameweek 15: Liverpool (h)
|Gameweek 2: Wolves v Fulham (h)
Gameweek 7: Leeds v Nottm Forest (h)
Gameweek 15: Leeds v Bournemouth (h)
|Chelsea||Gameweek 8: Liverpool (h)||Gameweek 8: Nottm Forest v Fulham (h)|
Wolves provide good cover in Gameweeks 2 and 11 but have a rotten pair of matches against Liverpool and Manchester City in Gameweeks 7 and 8, to temper their appeal.
Any prospective owners of Ivan Perisic (presuming he’s a defender) could instead look to cover from the Leeds backline for meetings with City and Liverpool in Gameweeks 7 and 15. The Whites also face Southampton away in Gameweek 2.
Focusing only on the five Gameweeks above, Forest just about come out on top for fixture difficulty in our bespoke Season Ticker.
HOW IMPORTANT IS HOME ADVANTAGE AND OPPOSITION WEAKNESS?
2021/22 CLEAN SHEET STATS
|2021/22 Premier League|
|% of total clean sheets kept by home sides||56.1|
|% of total goals conceded by home sides||46.3|
|% of games in which the home side kept a clean sheet||31.3|
|% of games in which the away side kept a clean sheet||24.5|
|% of games in which a ‘big six’ side kept a clean sheet||41.7|
|% of games in which a ‘non-big six‘ side kept a clean sheet||22.0|
|% of games in which a ‘big six’ home side kept a clean sheet||43.0|
|% of games in which a ‘non-big six‘ home side kept a clean sheet||26.3|
|% of games in which a ‘big six’ away side kept a clean sheet||40.4|
|% of games in which a ‘non-big six’ away side kept a clean sheet||17.7|
|% of games in which a ‘big six’ side kept a clean sheet against a ‘non-big six’ side||48.2|
|% of games in which a ‘big six’ side kept a clean sheet against another ‘big six’ side||23.3|
|% of games in which a ‘non-big six’ side kept a clean sheet against another ‘non-big six’ side||25.3|
|% of games in which a ‘non-big six’ side kept a clean sheet against a ‘big six’ side||14.9|
A quick look at the clean sheet breakdown illustrates that while home advantage and opposition difficulty isn’t the be-all and end-all, it unsurprisingly does make a difference.
Non-‘big six’ sides kept a clean sheet in 26.3% of their home matches versus 17.7% away.
They also registered shut-outs in 25.3% of their fixtures against fellow non-‘big six’ sides, compared to 14.9% of their meetings with the top half-dozen teams.
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