Welcome to the Fantasy Football Scout Guide to Gameweek 26 – the longest Gameweek of the season so far. The first match of the inaugural ‘winter break’ kicks off an hour after Saturday’s 11:30 GMT deadline with the last match not taking place until nine days later.
Between today’s cutoff and FPL updating at the end of the Gameweek, a full 228 hours will have passed.
The good news for those of a romantic disposition is that we will be completely free to focus on Valentine’s Day next Friday without having to worry about transfers or captain decisions. Our neglected other halves will no doubt be overjoyed!
Although for most Fantasy managers, one love affair could be coming to an end.
John Lundstram has captured our hearts this season with his swashbuckling flair and rock-solid dependability. We will never forget the unbridled joy we shared when he banged in two goals against Burnley in early November. It felt at the time that this was a relationship that would last forever.
Although it wasn’t always plain sailing, he has blanked on occasion. And he really shouldn’t have come home empty handed from his trip to Norwich in December. Nonetheless, he’s often surprised and delighted us so he can be forgiven the odd indiscretion.
But sadly it would appear that after six months the honeymoon is over.
The warning signs were there. Following two early substitutions, he had us worried when he turned up late against Manchester City in Gameweek 24. To then repeat the offence at the next opportunity didn’t go down well. He has since been unceremoniously dumped by thousands of Fantasy managers.
Is there any hope? Can this relationship be salvaged? For those still clinging onto memories of the good times, Neale, who probably knows him better than any of us, had this to say:
Given Wilder’s previous for not for making unnecessary changes – the other eight midfielders and defenders have basically played whenever they’ve been available – then I wouldn’t hold me hopes up. I’ve seen people talking about ‘oh there’ll be rotation now in central midfield’, well that really hasn’t been Wilder’s style this season, Norwood and Fleck, even in the Championship were playing pretty much every game. So I’m not in the slightest bit confident he’ll get his place back.– Neale, Team News video
The only straw to clutch at is that his attacking threat might be favoured for a winnable home match against Bournemouth. But there are no guarantees. For those still holding him get ready to be let down again.
Indeed when David cast his eye over the new arrival at Bramall Lane, Sander Berge, who appears to have stolen Lundstram’s spot in the Blades’ midfield, he concluded:
It will be hard to expect much more than a series of one-point cameos from Lundstram.– David
The good news is that there are a number of potential suitors lining-up to take his place in our Fantasy affections. And our friendly Scoutcast trio of Joe, Karam and Tom assessed our options:
Willy Boly of Wolves at just £4.7m finds himself in Joe’s Wildcard team and offers excellent value; we have O’Connell or Egan if we fancy sticking with Sheffield United; there’s Newcastle with Fernandez and Lascelles enticing us ahead of a nice run of fixtures – although Tom cautioned that they have been overperforming their numbers recently; Tom favoured Charlie Taylor who at £4.2m offers a cheap route into a Burnley defence that has kept nine clean sheets this season.
Pro Pundits Az and Ash also had their say, with both opting for slightly more expensive options. Az plumps for team-mate Enda Stevens, while Ash turns to Burnley’s Ben Mee highlighting his improved attacking potential:
What’s telling is that Mee has registered the joint-most number of goal attempts inside the box among all defenders in the past four Gameweeks.– Ash, Pro Pundit
Out in the Cold
The dispersed nature of the matches over the winter break means that we won’t hear from a dozen managers until after the Gameweek has started.
There remains the very real possibility, then, that a number of players will be declared as unavailable – or passed fit – long after the Gameweek 26 deadline has been and gone, leaving FPL managers powerless to do anything about it.– Neale, Guide to the Winter Break
Thinking of the captaincy, one strategy Joe is promoting is captaining and vice captaining players from different weekends. Just in case there’s a no show, or perhaps the weather disrupts the fixtures.
Red or Blue?
In the main, this week’s captaincy would seem to be a straight choice between Mohamed Salah and Sergio Aguero.
Salah currently leads the way in our captaincy poll, chosen by just under 40% of participants compared to Aguero’s 22%. But it was the thought of Aguero taking the armband that prompted Joe to enthuse:
It’s that rare beautiful moment in FPL where you get someone with unbelievable form and stats against the worst defence.– Joe, Captaincy Video
Over the last four matches the Argentine is top for shots in the box, big chances, shots on target, and he has the best expected goal involvement (xGI) of any player. He faces a West Ham team who have the worst expected goals conceded (xGC) of any team. He also tops this site’s Rate My Team tool.
The only caveat is rotation. As Neale mentioned in his Captain Sensible article, his rival for the centre-forward role is due a start:
And will Gabriel Jesus (£9.5m) be again deprived of a place in the starting XI, meaning that he will have gone a full month without any kind of start before City are in action again in Gameweek 27.– Neale, Captain Sensible
If the risk of a benching is too much for you then Salah offers an excellent alternative.
TheFantasyFreÆK highlighted his potential in his Gameweek 25 review, noting that the Egyptian tops the charts for several key stats in midfield and should have recorded even more points of late given that only one of the five big chances he created has been converted by his teammates.
Neale summarised his appeal:
Salah’s form and all-round points potential (in the top two for both shots in the box and big chances created over his last four matches) will understandably see many FPL managers again handing the armband to the Egyptian.– Neale, Captain Sensible
The Scout Picks feature Salah as part of a heavy-hitting midfield at the expense of Aguero up front. And FFS Members Cup-finalist Pep Pig revealed he will be handing the Liverpool midfielder the armband in his predictions for Gameweek 26.
Meanwhile RichP_LFC decided to take a novel approach and looked at Fantasy Points Against to pick out players for our FPL teams. His research found that “Salah is the clear choice in midfield, and a punt on Redmond could work well.”
Redmond is also the headline differential pick as the Saints begin an excellent run of fixtures.
However, the article’s author, Tom Freeman, went for Harvey Barnes as his under 5%-owned option on the Scoutcast. Over the last four matches, only Salah has a higher xGI than Barnes.
Fellow Pro Pundit Sam Bonfield agrees with his selection, noting in her Sam Says video that the Leicester City youngster has four attacking returns in his last four Premier League games.
And we’ve had reports and analysis on two new Premier League recruits. Steven Bergwijn marked his Spurs debut with a goal and travels to Aston Villa this week, Neale considered his potential. And Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes was the subject of a members-only article by David.
Finally, following last week’s FA Cup replays, we know a little more about how the fixture schedule is shaping up.
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For those interested in the Head-to-Head Leagues, the main page can be linked to here. The fixtures for Gameweek 26 can be found below:
Use the drop-down menus to show your league and division. To find out which league and division you are in, follow the instructions on the main Head-to-Head page.
Once the Gameweek starts, if you click on your opponent’s name you will be linked to their team on the FPL website.
May your arrows be green!
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