The fixture list is one of the most valuable pieces of information available to a Fantasy Premier League manager when selecting a squad.
To help in that department, the FPL website offers a Fixture Difficulty Rating system (FDR) which assigns a score from one to five to each match, based on the opponent and which team is at home.
However, that system is limited – there is currently only one fixture with a rating of five – Manchester City away – while no fixture has been assigned a one rating.
That leaves just three bands of difficulty to cover the remaining opponent and venue combinations – so how can you better separate them?
Buried in the FPL website’s code is another metric called ‘strength’, which appears to power the FDR rating.
Helpfully, strength is presented on a much more granular scale, which allows us to identify potentially misleading FDR ratings by mapping them onto the same scale as FDR for a direct comparison.
Looking at the 12 fixtures rated four on the FDR scale for example, we can see that fixtures against Manchester United (a) and Manchester City (h) are far closer to a five rating.
Leicester (h) is considered to be bang on a four, while six fixtures – Man United (h) Chelsea (h) Liverpool (h) Everton (h) Arsenal (a) and Tottenham (a) are considered to be a bit tougher.
In practical terms, this means that Watford could find goals harder to come by in gameweek two against Tottenham than Norwich, who face Leicester at home, despite both teams facing games ranked four on the FDR.
Turning our attention to matches with an FDR of three, we can see that hosting one of Tottenham or Arsenal is considered more taxing than a trip to Wolves, even though all of these matches are rated the same.
A casual skim through the FDR values for GW2 and GW3 would also suggest that Burnley’s fixtures in the next two weeks are equivalent in difficulty.
However, consulting the strength ratings reminds us that the Clarets’ game against Leeds at home (3.42) is rated more difficult than their following game away to Everton (3.17)
With that information, a manager might like to add a Burnley player to their XI after GW2 and before GW3.
Finally, in the ‘easiest’ bracket – matches with an FDR of two – it is not surprising to see both home and away games against the three promoted teams occupying the bottom six spots.
While this might seem harsh on Brentford, who shocked Arsenal on the opening day, it is useful to be able to make the distinction between a home fixture against Norwich City (2.25) and a trip to established top-tier side Southampton (2.92).