Update: New graphs have been generated for the 2016/2017 Premier League season.
A collection of fixture difficulty graphs for the 2015/2016 Premier League season.
Using various odds from bookmakers, I was able to calculate a basic “difficulty number” for each team. i.e. Playing Manchester City away at the Etihad Stadium is going to be a lot more difficult than playing Watford at home (well, on paper at least). Likewise, a fixture against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is “mathematically tougher” than having to play Everton at home. I have also adjusted the difficulty rating to reflect whether the team is playing at home or away. Although the ratings aren’t perfect, they do give you a good indication of the tough spots that a given team will have to go through (handy for Fantasy Football and the like).
Who has the most difficult start to the season?
In the first six games of the season, both Crystal Palace and Everton have it the hardest. In their first six games, Crystal Palace have to play the likes of Arsenal (H), Chelsea (A), Man City (H) and Tottenham (A). Everton, on the other hand, have to play Southampton (A), Man City (H), Spurs (A), Chelsea (H) and Swansea (A). If you define the start of the season as being the first eight games, then it is Newcastle that has the most difficult run in. In their first eight games, they have to play Southampton (H), Swansea (A), Man Utd (A), Arsenal (H), Chelsea (H) and Man City (A).
Note that while many of you might have assumed that Liverpool have the toughest start, fixtures such as Bournemouth (H), Norwich (H) and Aston Villa (H) worked to bring their figure down.
Who has the “easiest” start to the season?
Southampton has the easiest start to the season, with fixtures such as Watford (H), Norwich (A) and West Brom (A). Relegation-battling sides such as Leicester, Norwich and Sunderland also have a great opportunity to start the season on a high note.
Who has the toughest end to the season?
Manchester City have the toughest end to the season, with fixtures such as Chelsea (A), Stoke (H), Southampton (A), Arsenal (H) and Swansea (A).
Who has the “easiest” end to the season?
Manchester United have the easiest end to the season, with fixtures such as Leicester (H), Norwich (A) and Bournemouth (H).
Fixture difficulty graphs for each team:
A few observations:
- Manchester City’s tough end to the season will obviously impact their title hopes. If they drop points to lesser opponents with the same frequency that they did last year, then it’s going to be difficult for them to clinch it in the closing stages.
- The opening fixtures for Southampton will provide them with a great opportunity to start the season on a high. Will this allow them to resurrect their confidence and emulate last season’s results?
- If Manchester United stay within touching distance of the title, their last few fixtures may provide them with the chance to go on and clinch it.
- Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea also have a favorable run of fixtures at the end of the season (hence my remark about important it will be for City to put lesser opponents away).
- All of Liverpool’s toughest fixtures occur in the first half of the season. However, they also have a bit of tough spot between the end of February and the start of April.
- Last season, my calculations showed that Leicester had an “easy” run of fixtures at the tail-end of the season (this obviously showed, as they went on to save themselves from relegation in the end). However, this year, their closing fixtures are not nearly as favorable.
- I have a feeling that Arsenal’s season will be defined by the results that they pick up in the middle of the season. In January, they have the likes of Liverpool (A), Stoke (A) and Chelsea (H). They have Manchester City (H) at the end of December and Southampton (H) at the start of February.
If you have any observations or questions; feel free to post them below.