In Frisking the Fixtures, we take a look at teams and players with strong medium-term fixture runs from Gameweek 9.
An overview of the clubs with less appealing matches will follow later.
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Fifth-placed but third in a table of 2023 league matches, Aston Villa have recovered well from the opening day’s 5-1 loss at Newcastle United. Five of the next six were won, including their own thrashing of Brighton and Hove Albion.
Some of FPL’s most currently desired assets play for Unai Emery’s side, including Ollie Watkins (£8.1m). Having blanked just once, Watkins’ recent 23-point haul means he’s the game’s joint-top scorer overall. Number one for attacking returns (11) and joint-second for penalty area shots (24), he’s one of very few appealing forwards right now but costs £1.4m more than midfield colleague Moussa Diaby (£6.7m).
Often up front in a 4-4-2, the summer signing has two goals and four assists, ranking joint-fourth for big chances created (five). By the time Gameweek 10 comes along, FPL managers may opt for a double-up rather than having to pick between the duo.
Villa provide goals at both ends of the pitch, being joint-third best for shots conceded (87) whilst simultaneously being joint-third worst for allowing big chances (27). Should they rediscover a solid backline, Matty Cash (£5.0m) will become even more attractive.
Over 2.5 million managers have purchased Cash since his two Gameweek 3 goals, leading to five price rises. They’ve realised that he’s sometimes used as a 4-4-2 right-winger, explaining his place as the leading FPL defender for attempts (16), shots on target (eight), penalty area touches (26) and expected goal involvement (xGI, 3.84).
Left-back Lucas Digne (£4.7m) has contributed three assists but could be impacted by rotation when Alex Moreno (£5.0m) recovers.
WEST HAM UNITED
Their Gameweek 9 opponents West Ham also have an encouraging fixture run afterwards. We recently ran a piece comparing midfielders Jarrod Bowen (£7.3m) to James Ward-Prowse (£6.3m), concluding that the former is best at scoring but the latter is cheaper and a better creator.
Not only is five-goal Bowen the joint-best midfielder for big chances (seven) and second for shots inside the box (19), manager David Moyes has spoken of trying him as a centre-forward.
“I just felt it was maybe the right time to see if we could have a look at Jarrod [Bowen] at centre-forward in a really serious game.” – David Moyes after West Ham faced Freiburg
Meanwhile, at the back, the Hammers are conceding the second-most shots (149) and have the third-worst expected goals conceded (xGC, 16.56). At least they have cheap goalkeeper Alphonse Areola (£4.2m) to thank, ranking as the best for expected goals (xG) prevented. Shots on target have totalled 15.50 goals yet he’s stopped 3.50 of them.
But if managers can’t take the Areola route, defensive coverage can be provided by centre-backs Nayef Aguerd (£4.5m) – the recipient of three big chances so far – and Kurt Zouma (£4.5m).
It’s been a generally positive start for Liverpool, one where only Newcastle have a better xG (16.92) and elite midfielder Mohamed Salah (£12.6m) has delivered in all but one appearance.
The 15-point haul of Gameweek 8 puts him alongside Watkins as the best, with 59 points. Salah leads the way for big chances created (nine), comes fourth for shots (26) and is the main reason for many Wildcard activations of late. Capturing such form likely requires a squad overhaul, so it’s a shame that four names are fighting for the other two attacking spots, ruling out a viable alternative.
Luis Diaz (£7.5m) has started seven of eight, whereas the explosive but unreliable Darwin Nunez (£7.4m) outdoes Salah for big chances (eight) and minutes per chance (19.6). Yet their allure is tainted by Jurgen Klopp’s reluctance to start far-travelling South American talents immediately after an international break. Neither started in Gameweek 5 and, with the Merseyside derby being a lunchtime kick-off, expect the same in Gameweek 9.
Not only that, their defence has gifted 115 shots to opponents. Six of their last eight domestic matches have seen them go 1-0 behind, meaning they’re stuck on one Premier League clean sheet. Of their defenders, Andrew Robertson (£6.6m) has created more chances (19), Virgil van Dijk (£6.0m) takes the most shots (eight) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m) averages more points per start (3.4).
A much stronger defence belongs to Crystal Palace, on a streak of three successive clean sheets. It puts them with Arsenal on four, where the Gunners and Manchester City are the only sides to let in fewer goals than their seven.
Individual assets are becoming shrewd FPL purchases, as Sam Johnstone (£4.5m) is the game’s joint top-scoring goalkeeper and Joachim Andersen (£4.9m) is the leading defender. The latter’s four price rises are explained by his two goals and 51 points. Centre-back partner Marc Guehi (£4.5m) comes cheaper and has scooped six bonus points during this trio of shut-outs, as opposed to Andersen’s three.
Creative midfielder Eberechi Eze (£6.1m) will miss a month because of hamstring issues but he remains on the league’s third-most shots (27) despite being the only member of the top 14 to start less than eight matches.
Team-mate Odsonne Edouard (£5.5m) missed Gameweek 7 with his own hamstring injury. After the first four rounds, he ranked second overall for attempts and shots inside the box but – over his last three outings – just one of both has occurred.
Palace travel to Newcastle in Gameweek 9, another side with a good defence. The Magpies have conceded the fewest big chances (seven) and are third-best at restricting shots (87) and xGC (8.20).
Kieran Trippier‘s (£6.8m) price hike from 2022/23 hasn’t deterred managers from buying him – certainly not with this kind of form. 44 points, five assists and 10 bonuses from his last four matches, bagging a score of 18 during their 8-0 mauling of Sheffield United. Regardless of position, he’s the best for chances created (27) and successful crosses (23), although cheaper defenders Dan Burn (£4.6m) and Sven Botman (£4.7m) have both netted a goal.
This international break comes at the right time for Eddie Howe’s men, as injuries are piling up. Alexander Isak (£7.5m) could be the latest, having withdrawn from the Sweden squad. Both he and Callum Wilson (£7.8m) are joint third with 11 shots on target but their rotation continues to frustrate potential owners.
The only player to top Isak’s six goals, 10 big chances and 5.41 xG is Erling Haaland (£14.0m) but Wilson started over him – and scored – in Gameweeks 5 and 6.
So, for those determined to get coverage of the leading side for big chances (31) and xG (17.48), perhaps cheap midfielder Anthony Gordon (£5.6m) could work. Back from suspension, he’s already on two goals and four assists, with Harvey Barnes‘ (£6.3m) toe injury reducing left-wing competition. But be careful – Joelinton (£5.8m) can also play there.
Elsewhere, Arsenal’s next three home matches look very promising. The status of Bukayo Saka‘s (£8.6m) injury will be heavily monitored by the FPL community but at least we know Gameweek 8 hero Gabriel Martinelli (£7.7m) is back in contention. A safe pick is Martin Odegaard (£8.5m) and his share of penalties.
Defensive assets are advised too, although it’s not totally clear whether David Raya (£4.8m) is locked in as first-choice goalkeeper or if Gabriel Magalhaes (£4.7m) is back to being rotation-proof, unlike the first three Gameweeks. Pricier names William Saliba (£5.2m) and Ben White (£5.6m) should be fine.
Both Burnley and Nottingham Forest have decent runs. The Clarets offer bench enablers that can step in like Charlie Taylor (£3.9m), Jordan Beyer (£4.0m) and Lyle Foster (£5.0m), whilst Forest provide cheap stopper Matt Turner (£4.1m). It’s a shame about Taiwo Awoniyi‘s (£6.6m) groin problem, as he could’ve been a great differential at home to Luton Town.