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FPL Player Picks Week 26: Chalk

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A formidable template looks to be forming as England’s top clubs begin to see performances match preseason expectations.

Mohamed Salah - Liverpool FC - Premier League
Mo Salah bathes in the traditional West Ham bubbles during warm-ups.
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Fantasy managers have been blessed with an exciting phenomenon for much of the season. From the first international break around week five, up to the point Jose Mourinho was fired in week 18, managers were spoiled for choice when it came to making transfers and picking out the most in-form players. Players at the lower price tiers were performing consistently enough to warrant extreme amounts of diversification from team to team. The largest factors in this development were the inconsistent performances of a handful of Big Six clubs plus underperformance of a couple others. Manchester City was the only team to come out of the gates firing. Amid the widespread underperformance of some highly rated players and clubs, FPL wealth invested in less reliable assets was continually moved as managers sought to bring in players who looked to be starting the next big breakout.

Contrast that with where we are today, as a hardened template is beginning to form. All of the Big Six clubs are now playing at the high levels associated with the teams fighting for the Champions’ League places. This progression requires managers to dip into as many of the top clubs as they can afford. The key contributors to these teams have done so with such regularity that the points earned have drawn mass transfers for assets that overlap on many teams, greatly diminishing the differentiation that managers displayed for much of the early season.

The chalk begins to take hold as the game-week 26 deadline approaches. Having a hand in the best match-ups for the Big Six clubs is going to be crucial to sticking with massive flows of fantasy teams moving up the overall rankings. These are the key players designated for success in week 26:

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Goalkeepers

David De Gea, Manchester United (£5.7m)

The Red Devils have now kept three clean sheets in their last five games. While clean sheets are the ultimate goal of all keeper selections, the intrigue for the Spanish stopper goes beyond that. United have not shown the offensive abilities that Liverpool and Manchester City use to mitigate their opponents threat of scoring a goal. This opens the Man. U. back line to taking on some extra stress, ultimately resulting in shots on target. For goalkeepers, this is an advantageous scenario to compound clean sheet potential with save and bonus points. All you have to do is look at last week’s 11 point performance.

Bernd Leno, Arsenal (£4.8m)

The Arsenal track record for clean sheets is not nearly as good as United’s. However, it was the reverse engagement with Huddersfield that netted Leno his first clean sheet as a Gunner. Huddersfield have not scored a goal in four game-weeks, only furthering the case for the German.

Ben Foster, Watford (£4.6m)

As it stands, Foster finds himself behind De Gea on the current goalkeeper form chart (the average score over the past 30 days). Watford’s defensive form has been inconsistent this season, but they take on an Everton squad that has staged two toothless offensive performances ahead of a trip to Vicarage Road. Being at home and facing an opponent that played a midweek match could translate into defensive fantasy points.

Mathew Ryan, Brighton (£4.4m)

After returning from the Asian Cup, Ryan settled in last week with a clean sheet against Watford. The run of games from weeks 26 to 36 might be the best of any team in the league.

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Defenders

Andrew Robertson, Liverpool (£6.8m)

With key Bournemouth attackers likely to miss out again, Robertson is an easy favorite for premium defenders in week 26. Line-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold could make a return, which would only help to solidify the defense. It is not much of a reach touting the highest scoring defender in the game.

Kieran Trippier, Tottenham (£6.0m)

With Fernando Llorente likely to man a spot at forward again this week, the key route to goal comes aerially. Under that strategy, the wing play becomes an important focal point in the attacking phase of play, as teammates look to lob the ball into the box. Trippier will be main supplier on the right side of the field this weekend. And, with some of the big name premium defenders not having a game in week 27, being a week early could net you a small profit.

Sead Kolasinac, Arsenal (£5.0m)

It is quite the boon for fantasy managers that Arsenal’s best midfielder is actually a defender. It is worth referencing the Huddersfield stat from above, pertaining to the potential for a clean sheet. Kolasinac has accumulated five assists this season, placing him in a tie for fifth among defenders. Among the more prominent defensive names, his inferior minute total, only 1200, makes his performance all the more impressive (Alonso, 2147; Robertson, 2053; and Trippier, 1645; each of these players has 5+ assists).

Luke Shaw, Manchester United (£5.0m)

After liking David De Gea, a Manchester United defender should get a nod as well. Luke Shaw’s offensive influence does plenty to put him in contention for the supplemental bonus points if he can avoid those dastardly yellow cards.

Sol Bamba, Cardiff (£4.6m)

Cardiff played a complete game last weekend, inspired by the tribute to those involved in the plane crash that took the life of Emiliano Sala. Neil Warnock’s defensive game plan managed to secure a clean sheet against Bournemouth, albeit a side missing many key contributors. For the fifth time in seven clean sheets, Sol Bamba was on the receiving end of the bonus points. An eighth clean sheet could be on the cards if Danny Ings is unable to get healthy in time for the weekend.

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Midfielders

Mo Salah, Liverpool (£13.6m)

Do you remember when Mo scored that hat trick? Who was that against? Yep, that was Bournemouth. A hattrick is a lot to ask for, but a captain-worthy haul should be on the cards.

Heung-Min Son, Tottenham (£8.7m)

On the Fantasy Premier League “Transfers” tab, if you sort all midfielders by minutes, you will not see Heung-Min Son until you get to the third page. But, when it comes to points, Son ranks seventh for midfielders. SEVENTH! The South Korean has compiled ten goals and seven assists, propelling him to unprecedented levels when looking at the per-minute rates.

Paul Pogba, Manchester United (£8.6m)

If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not retained as the full-time manager, perhaps he should pursue a career in safe cracking. Fantasy managers’ only ask was that he unlock the attacking potential that had been so tightly constrained under Jose Mourinho. No player has demonstrated this impact more than Paul Pogba. Since the managerial change, Pogba has amassed six goals, six assists, and ten bonus points in eight games.

Pascal Groß, Brighton (£6.7m)

The long wait for Groß to return to last season’s form is over. In his last three games, the German has scored 21 points. The most staggering number from that run of games came last week, when he tallied ten attempted assists, according to Fantasy Football Fix’s metric. Looking at the upcoming run of games, that kind of production should result in quality fantasy point scoring opportunities.

Gerard Deulofeu, Watford (£5.5m)

Everton have no answers in defense. Plus, there is the added bonus of Deulofeu having the opportunity to script his own revenge-game narrative.

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Forwards

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal (£11.2m)

PEA is playing the same Huddersfield side that allowed five goals last week to Chelsea. If Arsenal show up ready to play, a similar goal total for the Gunners should be expected, and Aubameyang should be at the center of any Arsenal goal scoring outbreak. Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m) deserves a shout, too, if he is a better fit for your budget.

Roberto Firmino, Liverpool (£9.3m)

Firmino played the role of the primary table setter when Liverpool last played the Cherries. In a game that the Reds should dominate, all those fantasy points have to be spread around somehow.

Marcus Rashford, Manchester United (£7.7m)

Are you beginning to sense a theme? Five goals in six games is a run of form that is hard to ignore, especially when the opponent is Fulham.

Raul Jimenez, Wolves (£6.7m)

Way back when Jimenez was a measly £5.5m, the hope was that he could return a Roberto Firmino-like ten goals with ten assists. All the Mexican international has done is exceed expectations and put himself on track to accomplish what Bobby did in 2017-18, fifteen goals and eight assists, which is completely astonishing for a player opening the season at £5.5m.

Salomon Rondon, Newcastle (£5.7m)

Wolverhampton are still conceding plenty of goals, despite what Matt Doherty might have you think. We may see the first combination of Rondon and Miguel Almiron come Monday night. While it is too early to pull the trigger on the Paraguayan midfielder, the safest cover is to select the beneficiary most likely to partner in any contribution Almiron could possibly make.

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The game-weeks feel like they are becoming more chalky as each one passes. With all of the Big Six clubs playing at such high levels currently, going away from players on those clubs seems like an undue risk. The Manchester City versus Chelsea game is likely to decide the points outcome for many managers. With City sandwiched between a DGW and a blank, and with Chelsea on the same blank-week horizon, it will be interesting to see where ownership levels go. How many week-27 blanks are managers willing to hold given the costs associated with those key players?

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With a chalky template emerging, what Big Six mainstays are you holding? Where are you looking outside of England’s rich football factories? Please let us know in the comments below!

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