Fantasy Premier League Gameweek 26: Transfer tips and captain picks as Arsenal take on Newcastle United

Our high-flying manager's hints, tips, injury news and price changes ahead of FPL Gameweek 26 as big teams blank.
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Welcome once again to our regular Fantasy Premier League advice column, penned by 3 Added Minutes’ own high-flying fantasy coach. A slight downturn in form means he’s slipped from the top 500 to “only” the edges of the top 5,000, but he’ll dissect that later after offering his advice for transfer and captain picks in Gameweek 26.

With the EFL Cup final taking place on Sunday, it’s also a blank gameweek for four teams, making this one just that little bit trickier to navigate – but he’ll help you out with all of that after we remind you that it’s a late transfer deadline this time around with no early kick-off on Saturday, and you don’t have to make your moves until 13:30 BST on Saturday 24 February. So have a lie-in. Now, over to our coach…

Blanks and budget buys

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There are four teams who will be out of action this weekend – Liverpool and Chelsea because of their participation in the EFL Cup final and their originally scheduled opponents, Tottenham Hotspur and Luton Town.

With any luck, you’ve all chosen one of two paths – either you loaded up on Liverpool players for the double gameweek in GW25 and are planning to use your free hit this week, or you’ve kept your numbers of blank players down far enough that you can get 11 players out on the field this time around.

I didn’t advocate for the first path, but it all depended on how your team was composed anyway – for most teams, trimming Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool players until you have 11 starters is the way to go from here. But which players should you cut, and who should you sign instead? Let’s take a look at some of the more common options.

Looking at fixture difficulty over the coming weeks, it’s natural to lean towards losing either Chelsea players first and foremost, but outside of defenders the only Chelsea asset many players have is Cole Palmer – and he’s so cheap and returns so regularly that I can’t envision selling him. Instead, I would suggest Richarlison as the best cut of the most heavily-owned players. There are plenty of other good players at a similar price point and he’s now blanked twice in a row. Even if he trends back up again, it’s unlikely that he will score so many points compared to, say, a Jarrod Bowen or a Phil Foden.

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Pedro Porro’s injury makes him another easy cut. He will probably only miss a couple of gameweeks but his form had been in decline and he is now sharing set piece duties with James Maddison, which lowers his ceiling a little bit. At £5.7m, he’s also expensive – it’s easy to ship him, bring someone else very decent in and have some profit left to fix other areas of the team.

As for Liverpool players – well, sadly everyone with Diogo Jota has no choice but to move on. He will be out for most of, if not all of, the rest of the season, and it’s essentially a forced transfer at this point. His price will also plunge quickly. The rest of their injured contingent probably won’t be out for too long, so there’s no need to panic sell Mohamed Salah or Darwin Núñez if you have them and want to keep them for the long term.

Luton players also have a double gameweek coming up, so while I would never advise having many – I like their strikers as cheap third forward options but dislike their defenders and midfielders as long-term holds – there’s no good reason to sell them if you already have them. You won’t be able to make room for more expensive players with Luton players anyway.

The goal, for me, is to try to get to 11 players this gameweek. Having 10 isn’t a complete disaster, and I wouldn’t compromise my long-term plan just for the sake of one player for one week, but if you can avoid being at a numerical disadvantage without making a mess of things over the next few weeks, that’s definitely the ideal to aim for.

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So who should you bring in? Well, it starts by thinking about where you want to be in a few weeks time – and for a lot of players, that will hinge on whether you already have Salah back in or not. He’s the single best asset in the game, so I would definitely want to plan for his return at some stage, and that means making transfers which free up the financial space for him if you don’t already have him in your squad.

Cheap options become a priority for a lot of managers, then. In defence, I like Harry Maguire – at £4.2m he’s effectively nailed to start for the foreseeable future and United have some good home fixtures coming up, including Fulham this week. Maguire isn’t the only United player I like – Alejandro Garnacho and Rasmus Højlund are both reasonably priced, on excellent form and make for good buys.

Elsewhere, Pedro Neto looks like a fine buy in midfield, as does the slightly cheaper Hwang Hee-Chan. Wolves also have several very winnable home games in the near future, and play Sheffield United at Molineux this weekend. Brighton & Hove Albion players are also on our menu. Their next few games are all very winnable and while the difficulty level certainly ramps up after that, it’s worth remembering that a lot of GW29 matches will be pushed back, quite likely including Brighton’s game against Manchester City.

A lot of your strategy should already be based around GW29, which will see a lot of blanks once the results of the FA Cup fifth round are known. I’m personally in favour of saving the free hit for it if at all possible, but if you can’t or don’t wish to, definitely lean towards players who are more likely to be involved that week. For a Brighton player to play in GW29, then they need to lose to Wolves in the Cup and City would need to lose to Luton – not a very likely scenario.

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The only guaranteed fixtures in GW29 are Aston Villa v West Ham United, Brentford v Burnley and Fulham v Spurs – so those are the teams you should prioritise signing players from if you can’t or don’t want to free hit when we get there.

Captains, injuries and price changes

This is a tougher week to pick our captain than most. With City playing against Bournemouth’s rather leaky defence, I’d normally go straight to Erling Haaland – but both he and the team as a whole have been slightly below par for the past week or two, so I would definitely give consideration to Ollie Watkins, who plays Nottingham Forest at home, and perhaps Bukayo Saka given his form and Newcastle’s recent defensive issues. I’m tossing a coin between Haaland and Watkins.

As for injury updates, anyone hanging on to Matheus Cunha should note that he, like Jota, may be out for the season – so he needs to go. It’s worth noting that Dominic Solanke has a double week coming up but that may be somewhat cancelled out by the away game against City this time around, so he isn’t a clear-cut replacement even if you have the money. Luke Shaw isn’t in many teams thanks to all his injuries, but he too is likely done for the campaign thanks to a hamstring problem.

Alisson may miss a few weeks too, and Trent Alexander-Arnold doesn’t have a definite return date, so if you have either I’d recommend moving on if at all possible. Oliksandr Zinchenko is a doubt for the week, but there’s an even chance that he plays.

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Finally, a note on price changes. Jota will shoot down at speed, so get rid of him quickly. The same likely applies to Cunha. Hwang and Neto, players we’ve recommended as possible pick-ups, will rise in price by Saturday and Haaland is set to go up yet again to a massive £14.5m. Conor Bradley will probably rise, too, while Alisson and Bernd Leno are at risk of a drop.

3 Added Minutes FC

Finally, my weekly chance to update you on my own example team and the strategies I’m using, as well as a chance to complain gently about all my bad luck. Injuries really hampered my planning in recent weeks, but as a lot of that planning was intended to get Salah back in ahead of a double gameweek in which he only managed one game, it was arguably a bit of a wash.

The triple captain on Haaland didn’t really work out as intended, but given that a huge percentage of the player base made the same call, that too was a bit of a wash. Frustratingly, this is now the fourth week in a row in which I’ve exceeded the average score but dropped rank anyway – and I’m now down and outside the top 5,000. Not that that’s a result worth complaining about, and hopefully my chip strategy we help me jump back up into the top 1,000 once again later in the season.

For this week, what my planning has at least ensured is a full 11 players on the field, with Maguire snapped up last week. The only change I may make is dropping Cunha to avoid losing value, but the ultimate plan is still to inch back towards Salah. The big decision is whether to get him back in next week before Liverpool play Nottingham Forest, or to hold until after they play City and his fitness is (hopefully) assured. I want to keep Kevin de Bruyne, so a likely plan is something like Bowen to Garnacho or one of the Wolves players, Cunha to another cheap forward like Carlton Morris, and Foden to Salah. As always, however, I’ll wait until the press conferences to make my moves, in case there are injury updates. That’s all for this week – best of luck, and may all of your players stay fit and healthy for a change…

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