FPL – Favourable February Fixtures

The transfer window has been and gone with plenty of new arrivals vying for a place in Fantasy Premier League teams, whilst the Africa Cup of Nations is also drawing to its conclusion with some big names already back with their clubs. With this in mind, we will take a look at what February has in store and how you can potentially alter your team to get the best out of your transfers.

Some managers may have already pulled the trigger and used their wildcard whilst others are holding on until later in the season (double gameweeks anyone?). If you’re dead set on pulling the trigger soon though, you may want to take a look at the relative strength of each team’s fixtures over the next month;

As the above table shows, some teams only have two fixtures in gameweeks 24-26. That is because of the League Cup final that will take place at the end of the month between Southampton and Manchester United. Manchester City and Arsenal also lose a game because of this, meaning those four teams will have at least one double gameweek at some point later in the season. The Fixture Difficulty Ranking (FDR) may be misleading for some sides like Man City but we’ll look at this in more detail below.

Favourable Fixtures
Man City have the ‘easiest’ set of fixtures in February but that comes with the caveat of only having two games. They are closely followed by Crystal Palace and Everton.

Man City have the lowest FDR but only play two fixtures in February. However, those two games are very favourable and it may be worth chancing your arm with a couple of players for those two games before planning accordingly for gameweek 26, when they don’t have a fixture. It’s difficult to predict what Pep Guardiola will do with his team with him having so many options, particularly in attack. Whilst Sergio Agüero (£12.8m) has always been one of the players everyone tries to fit into their budget, the emergence of new signing Gabriel Jesus (£9.0m) may mean the Argentine has become an expensive commodity, especially if he isn’t guaranteed to start. Jesus has made an impressive start to his Man City career and could be an option if he retains his place in the side. Another man who looks set for an extended run in the team is Leroy Sané (£7.5m); he’s put in a couple of impressive performances and could become a key fantasy component moving forward. At the time of writing, he’s only selected by 0.3% of teams which would make him a unique differential.

Palace finally picked up their first victory under new manager Sam Allardyce and now have a run of favourable fixtures, but caution must still be applied when looking at their players. Whilst they have two home games either side of a tricky looking trip to Stoke, the two home games are against teams also battling it out to avoid relegation which could make them trickier fixtures than their FDR suggests. Out wide, new signing Patrick van Aanholt (£5.0m) could be a cheap option at the back with him likely to continue to get forward like he did in his Sunderland days. Wilfried Zaha (£5.5m) is back from AFCON action and will hope to build on his impressive form that resulted in his selection for Ivory Coast. Zaha will once again be tasked with creating channces for Christian Benteke (£7.3m), who is Palace’s best hope for goals.

The Toffees have gone six Premier League games unbeaten, with their 4-0 demolition of Man City the obvious stand out result in that run. They now have a run of easier fixtures to come and could be the ‘go-to’ team in February. The move to three at the back has seen Mason Holgate (£4.2m) start three games on the spin and he represents a cheap option if you’re struggling at the back. For those with a little more in the bank, it’s hard to look past Seamus Coleman (£5.6m) who is always a threat in an attacking capacity and has even more freedom in his new wing-back role. Tom Davies (£4.4m) appears to have won a starting role and if he can be allowed to roam forward, he could be an option for a midfield filler. If bringing in either of those cheap options frees up funds for a striker, Everton are always going to be looking at Romelu Lukaku (£9.6m) up front to score their goals.

Unfavourable Fixtures
Swansea (3.7) and Middlesbrough (3.3) have the highest FDR for February with six teams following with an FDR of 3.0. Out of those, we’ll take a look at Arsenal and Hull.

For the second month running, Swansea have the highest FDR. They shared that honour last month with Tottenham and Burnley but are out on their own this time around with an FDR of 3.7. Following the appointment of Paul Clement, the Swans suffered a heavy defeat against Arsenal but have since won back-to-back games against Liverpool and Southampton to jump out of the bottom three. Although they’ve improved, it’s still difficult to put forward any of their players with two of the most difficult away fixtures of the season coming up in February. They have to travel to Man City and Chelsea and with that in mind, Swansea players are probably best avoided. Gylfi Sigurðsson (£7.2m) is again one that could be considered with two goals and an assist in his last two games whilst Jordan Ayew (£5.0m) could be an interesting option should he become a regular starter following his move from Aston Villa.

Middlesbrough have gone from having one of the best set of fixtures – according to the FDR – to one of the worst. It was difficult to pick out any players last time around and this time it is even trickier. They have scored the lowest number of goals in the Premier League this season with 19, which makes selecting any of their attack-minded players a questionable call. However, at the other end of the pitch, they have a very good defensive record with only 26 goals conceded which only five clubs better in the Premier League. If you feel you need a ‘Boro player in your side, Ben Gibson (£4.9m) is again likely to be the most reliable option.

Arsenal had the lowest FDR last month but have one of the highest this month which is even more concerning because they only play twice. Following a shock home loss to Watford, the Gunners travel to Stamford Bridge for a game with leaders Chelsea before hosting a Hull side who just held in-form Man Utd at Old Trafford. Whilst it would be easy to say Arsenal players are best swerved in February, we know better than that. Alexis Sánchez (£11.9m) remains Arsenal’s most consistent player and is still the highest scoring FPL player this season so it is a brave fantasy manager who fields a side without the Chilean in your ranks. Of course, by the time the Gunners sit out gameweek 26 it may be wise to temporarily swap him out.

Hull are one of the most intriguing teams this month. Following the appointment of Marco Silva, the Tigers have offered some impressive performances which culminated in a valuable point at Old Trafford against Man Utd on Wednesday night. Whilst their next two fixtures look difficult, their performances under Silva suggest they could potentially cause some shocks. A home game against out-of-form Liverpool followed by a trip to the Emirates would usually put off most FPL managers from including Hull players, but there could be some value in looking at their players, especially with a home game against Burnley to round off the month. Kamil Grosicki (£5.5m) could be the man to fill Robert Snodgrass’ shoes after he departed for West Ham whilst Andrea Ranocchia (£4.5m) could help shore up the defence, although he might be a more astute signing come the end of the month. Additionally, does anyone still have Eldin Jakupovic (4.0m) in their team? The big goalkeeper was popular earlier in the season before being dropped, but has now returned between the sticks and put in a sterling performance to deny Ibrahimovic and co. in gameweek 23.

Other Points of Interest
Keep an eye on your Burnley players, especially if they don’t improve their away form. Whilst Turf Moor has been a fortress this season, they play there only once this month, and that’s when they entertain Chelsea. They have only picked up a single point away from home all season and five of their next six are away games. Tom Heaton (£5.0m) has been a great choice in goal this season with him currently topping the FPL standings for all ‘keepers, but this next set of fixtures could prove difficult to pick up points with so many games away from home.

Sadio Mané (£9.0m) has seen his value drop whilst he’s been away at AFCON but Liverpool have missed the Senegal man hugely during his absence. He was one of Liverpool’s best players in the first half of the season and could be the man to turn the Reds' form around, making him a potentially valuable pick-up.

Saido Berahino (£6.0m) finally got his move during the January window with a transfer to Stoke. Although he hasn’t started for his new side yet, he surely hasn’t been signed to warm the bench and should get his full debut soon. If he plays up front, he could be an interesting option between now and the end of the season. Watch this space…

An important month ahead with some tough decisions to make, especially if you’ve stock-piled players from any of the four clubs with just two games. Don’t forget though, if you’ve still got the wildcard in your possession, it may be worth holding on to use tactically later in the season for a potential double gameweek for those teams.