Liverpool are the pace-setters at the top of the Premier League after 12 games, with Norwich City propping the rest up – but is the table a fair reflection of things?
Everybody has to play everybody else at some point, but it’s still early enough into the season that a team could argue their position in the table is skewed by a run of tough – or indeed easy – fixtures.
Well, using footylabs data, we’ve ranked the 20 teams by the difficulty of their fixtures so far to see who we might expect to climb the table in the coming weeks and whose early-season success has perhaps been helped by an easier fixture list.
As with any kind of data like this, it is not foolproof, but footylabs, designed to help Fantasy Premier League players, calculates the difficulty of fixtures for each team based on their current table position and the standing of their opponent.
Starting with the hardest, here’s the difficulty of every club’s 12 fixtures so far.
2. Newcastle United
3. Sheffield United
6. Crystal Palace
10. Aston Villa
11. Leicester City
12. Manchester United
17. West Ham
19. Manchester City
It’s good news for Liverpool, who’ve had the ninth hardest start to the campaign yet lead their rivals by eight points already. And Jurgen Klopp’s side have the second easiest next five games of all Premier League teams, according to the data. Indeed, only two teams have a harder rest of the season entirely based on current league positions.
Manchester City on the other hand have had the second easiest start to the season but have the third hardest run over the next five games, with only Everton, who’ve had the easiest fixtures so far, and West Ham facing tougher matches.
Leicester, meanwhile, will fancy their chances of further establishing themselves in second position with their next five fixtures the easiest in the Premier League on paper.
Behind the Foxes, Frank Lampard has been praised for the impressive job he’s been doing at Chelsea, especially as the Blues had a transfer ban in the summer. However, they have had the third easiest start to the season so, it could be argued, are exactly where they should be in the table.
In fifth place, Sheffield United have impressed everybody with their brilliant start to the season and it is even more impressive when you look at these statistics. The Blades have had the third most difficult fixtures so far this season so any suggestions that their current position may by misleading are well wide of the mark.
*Credit Reddit user u/weekapang
In terms of teams under-performing against expectations so far this season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mauricio Pochettino are under a lot of pressure at Manchester United and Spurs respectively, but the two managers will be optimistic that they can turn things around with, according to current league positions, the two easiest fixture lists in the league for the remainder of the season.
Everton and West Ham on the other hand are arguably the two biggest underachievers so far this season sitting just above the relegation zone despite having had among the easiest opening 12 game. They also have the hardest remaining fixtures so it could be a tough few months for Marco Silva and Manuel Pellegrini.
Southampton may be 19th in the table at the moment, but no other team has endured a more difficult opening period on paper. Therefore, Saints’ fans can be a bit more optimistic about the rest of their season.