FPL Season 2022-23: Gameweek 26 preview

Did you find blank double gameweek 25 a challenge? Then all we can say is “get used to it”, because seldom has the Fantasy Premier League schedule looked as complex as it does at the moment. While the upcoming gameweek 26 is a simple one without blanks or doubles, gameweek 27 is a considerable double gameweek followed by a major blank gameweek. Gameweek 29 then, is what looks to be the season’s biggest double gameweek with no less than twelve sides playing twice. We then get two regular gameweeks before a major blank round in gameweek 32 and another big double gameweek 34. In other words, take the medium- and long-term schedule into account when making your transfers this week, activated chips or not.

From an FPL perspective, Arsenal’s home game against Bournemouth stands out in a GW26 that presents us with few relative certainties. In other times, Chelsea’s home game versus Leeds would attract major attention, but as a result of the Blues’ terrible form at the moment, it’s hard to pinpoint any kind of result here. To a certain extent, the same goes for Spurs and their visit to Wolves. The top clashes of this round are the weekend opener between Manchester City and Newcastle at the Etihad, and of course, the Northwest derby between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield. Overall, it looks like GW26 could be an interesting one as relatively few fantasy assets truly look essential this weekend.

Don’t forget, the deadline for gameweek 26 is set at 11h00 (UK time) on Saturday, March 4th, 2023.

Most transferred in/transferred out players (as per March 2nd, 2023)

GKPope (NEW), Ward (LEI), Alisson (LIV)Raya (BRE), De Gea (MUN), Sanchez (BRI) 
DEFT. Silva (CHE), Shaw (MUN), Perisic (TOT)Mee (BRE), Zinchenko (ARS), Estupiñan (BRI)Brentford and Brighton doubles in GW27, Silva and Shaw injuries, Arsenal no blanks
MIDMahrez (MCI), Gakpo (LIV), Salah (LIV)Rashford (MUN), Mitoma (BRI), Martinelli (ARS)Rashford form, Martinelli recent form, Brighton double GW27
FORNketiah (ARS), Mitrovic (FUL), Darwin (LIV)Toney (BRE), Watkins (AST), Kane (TOT)Brentford double GW27, Nketiah injury doubt, Watkins and Kane decent form

Premium pick

In the possible absence of starting left-back Luke Shaw, Mo Salah could be a decent premium fantasy pick for gameweek 26 when Liverpool host rivals Man United at Anfield on Sunday. At the same time though, we find Liverpool simply too unreliable at the moment and United are on fire, which brings us back to what has been, what is and what most likely will be our most predictable FPL recommendation until the end of the season: Erling Haaland (£12.2m). Testament to the Norwegian’s incredible debut season in the Prem is the fact that people started doubting his place in their fantasy squads after he blanked twice in a row in gameweeks 19 (away at Chelsea) and 20 (home to Man United). In the seven following league games, Haaland recorded 6 goals and 2 assists for a total of 47 FPL points, with 10 points against Bournemouth in GW25 as his latest double-digit haul. Overall, the Man City forward now sits on an unbelievable 27 goals and 5 assists. Next up is the Premier League’s sturdiest defence of the moment, as no team even comes close to the mere 15 goals conceded by Newcastle so far. The Magpies have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last three league outings though, with a 0-2 defeat at home to struggling Liverpool in GW25 their latest disappointing result. We’d be surprised to see them shut out Manchester City this weekend, which makes Haaland the outstanding premium fantasy pick for us in gameweek 26.

Non-premium pick

One player who by many fantasy managers was marked as a primary target for an outgoing transfer over the past few gameweeks was Gabriel Martinelli (£6.2m). The arrival of Brighton star Leandro Trossard in January combined with a reduced output of attacking returns from the Brazilian himself around that same period caused more than a few FPL manager to consider switching him out. Now, about a month later, it looks like it’s Eddie Nketiah’s minutes that will be shared with Trossard, at least for the moment, while Martinelli has been great for those who kept faith in him. His benching in GW24 was a downer, but in the three games since then, the winger brought the roughly 34% of managers who own him a very nice 32 FPL points. His goal as a substitute in gameweek 24 was a very unexpected gift from Villa’s unruly Emi Martinez, which he followed up with two starts and 3 more goals. We would be very surprised to see manager Mikel Arteta decide not to start the Brazilian for the upcoming home game against Bournemouth and that’s exactly the kind of game you want for an attacker in form.

The budget enabler

Brighton are one of two teams that have two double gameweeks coming up between now and GW29, the other being Brentford. The Seagulls have been going through an excellent season since losing their successful manager Graham Potter to Chelsea back in September and replacing him with Italian manager Roberto De Zerbi. At the moment of writing, they are in eighth place, just six points behind sixth placed Liverpool, and they are amongst the highest-scoring teams in the league. Only Arsenal, Man City, Man United, Spurs and Liverpool have scored more than their current 39 goals in 22 league games. Seeing as £5.1m midfielder Solly March was directly involved in 11 of those goals, we have once again selected him as our budget-enabling fantasy pick. The multifunctional winger, who is listed as a midfielder in the official fantasy game, has 5 goals and 6 assists to his name, as well as 105 FPL points in total. He recorded three double-digit hauls in his last six matches whilst also ranking fifth amongst all players in the league for non-penalty expected goal involvement, making him an absolute bargain of a fantasy pick.

The differential

Instead of writing it down, we have simply taken a screenshot of the performances of our differential fantasy pick for gameweek 26, as presented on the official game’s website. What can we deduct from this? First of all, a nailed-on starter. Second of all, a red-hot goal-scoring streak. Third of all, a seemingly high level of “fixture proofness”. Now, what if we add that this player has a largely favourable set of fixtures coming up, not featuring a single blank and including a double gameweek 29? And that this player is currently available for just £7.3m, while somehow still sitting in just 7.2% of all teams? You’d probably place him around the top of your scouting list, right? Very good, because that’s where Ollie Watkins should be at the moment. While Aston Villa have been a bit unpredictable in terms of results since Unai Emery took over in October of last year, Watkins has slowly been getting to his goal-scoring best. Just look at that screenshot! If you’re looking for an affordable option for your squad while also chasing the leader in your mini-league, the England international is definitely one of your best bets right now. This FISO topic has more FPL GW26 transfer suggestions.

The (vice-)captaincy

Our armband is going on Erling Haaland this weekend for Man City’s home game against Newcastle, mainly because of the Norwegian’s ability to score anywhere, anytime, and because the Magpie defence is going through a bit of a “slightly less solid phase” lately. It wasn’t an easy choice though, because several other fantasy assets could very well outscore Haaland in this hard-to-predict gameweek.

We like, for example, a Mo Salah captaincy punt for his home game against Man United as well. Shaw is currently flagged in the official game, which could mean that United manager Erik ten Hag will have to make changes to his defensive setup for Sunday’s game. In that same game, the in-form Marcus Rashford represents a good candidate for the armband as well. Other interesting captaincy picks this weekend include Bukayo Saka (or Gabriel Martinelli) at home to Bournemouth, Ollie Watkins at home to Crystal Palace and Harry Kane away at Wolves.