Does fixture difficulty matter to Haaland + Man City?

Manchester City are ranked second-bottom for fixture difficulty over the next eight Gameweeks, at least according to our Season Ticker.

As a result, Wildcards without any City representation and plans to hand the armband to someone other than Erling Haaland (£14.1m) are already doing the rounds in FPL-land.

But do tougher-on-paper fixtures really make that much difference to last season’s runaway champions?

That’s the focus of this Premium Members article as we delve deeper into Pep Guardiola’s side.


Haaland Man City
GW Opponent xG rank (2023/24 to date) xGC rank (2023/24 to date)
8 Arsenal 2nd 2nd
9 Brighton 5th 13th
10 Man Utd 12th 10th
11 Bournemouth 15th 19th
12 Chelsea 7th 4th
13 Liverpool 4th 6th
14 Spurs 9th 11th
15 Aston Villa 6th 12th

We’re only seven Gameweeks into the season, so there’s the usual caveat about a small sample of data.

But already we’re seeing the usual cream rise to the top when it comes to the underlying numbers.

What’s striking about City’s upcoming opponents is that a number of them are more comfortable going forward than keeping it tight at the back.

Brighton and Hove Albion and Aston Villa are prime examples: they’ve looked impressive in attack, scoring 35 goals between them.

But they’ve also conceded on a combined 25 occasions, keeping just two clean sheets (against Everton and 10-man Chelsea). Villa have already been hammered by Newcastle United and Liverpool, while Brighton were hit for six by the Villans themselves in Gameweek 7.


Opponent 2022/23 result (City’s score first) City’s xG City’s xGC
Arsenal (a) 3-1 1.80 1.64
Brighton (h) 3-1 1.63 0.48
Man Utd (a) 1-2 0.65 1.72
Bournemouth (h) 4-0 1.75 0.13
Chelsea (a) 1-0 2.05 0.42
Liverpool (h) 4-1 2.96 0.33
Spurs (h) 4-2 2.37 0.81
Aston Villa (a) 1-1 2.10 0.34
Average 2.63-1.00 1.91 0.73

Last season’s results are always to be taken with a pinch of salt. For starters, half the teams are now under new management.

The Spurs of this campaign, in particular, are a million miles from the plodding outfit overseen by Antonio Conte.

But as a rough guide to how City fare in the hypothetically trickier matches, the signs are encouraging.

Guardiola’s side hit 10 goals past Arsenal, Brighton and Liverpool in these corresponding fixtures last season, all of whom had their current managers at the helm.

Liverpool fans will point out that they’ve got an all-new central midfield since that 4-1 thrashing at the Etihad; City supporters will respond by saying they did it all without Haaland.

Man City averaged 2.12 expected goals (xG) per match in the Premier League last season, so a mean of 1.91 in the fixtures listed above wasn’t too much of a drop-off.

The season-long average of 2.47 actual goals scored per match was even improved upon.

At the rear, City allowed fewer expected goals conceded (xGC) per match in these fixtures (0.73) than they did over 2022/23 as a whole (0.87).



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Premier League clubs' 2023/24 pre-season friendlies: Fixtures + dates