At around this time last season, I was able to write about some fairly surprising schedule-strength imbalance, even at the season’s halfway point. In my late-2017 post “Grueltide for Cherries…”, I noted especially that AFC Bournemouth’s first half-season was much tougher than their second half.
This season, there are no such surprises. Every Premier League team will have played a nearly balanced schedule in their first half-season. (Even Leicester City, whose fixtures so far have been most clearly “on the easy side of average”, will rapidly get back into balance when they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this weekend.)
So let’s look beyond the halfway point, into the second half of the season. Which teams face the easiest, and hardest, starts to 2019? The answers can all be found in the schedule-strength charts, which for each team can be viewed by clicking on the team’s name in the alt-3 league table.
Bournemouth and Newcastle face tough start to 2019
In their first 7 matches after the halfway point, Newcastle United will face Chelsea, Spurs and Wolves away, and Manchester City at home. As a result, the Magpies will have around 2 “effective games in hand” after their away match at Wolves.
Bournemouth’s tough start to the second half-season lasts a bit longer. After the Cherries play Manchester City at home, 10 matches into the second half of the season, they too will have around 2 “effective games in hand”.
Both Bournemouth and Newcastle can look forward to (what should be, on average) a substantially easier set of fixtures in the remainder of the season, after those difficult runs of fixtures are completed.
Spurs, Everton, Leicester, Burnley, Huddersfield: Harder later
Among the very top group of clubs this season, only Tottenham Hotspur face a slightly unbalanced second half-season. After Spurs have played the away match at Everton this coming weekend, their next 9 matches will all be in the (at least notionally) “easier than average” category.
At the other end of the league table, Huddersfield Town will take on fellow strugglers Fulham, Burnley and Cardiff in their first 3 matches after the halfway point. Huddersfield really need to caplitalize on those early opportunities to gain some points: they face a much tougher series of fixtures after that.
Leicester City and Burnley both have notably hard run-ins at the very end of the season. In both cases their last 4 matches are all in the “clearly harder than average” category.
What about other Premier League clubs?
To see your own team’s schedule-strength graph, just click on the team name in the current alt-3 league table.