The first tricky test of the season has finally arrived!
This certainly comes as great news for the “serious” players and bad news for the “casuals”, as this season has seen many casuals and dead teams kick the asses of serious players following too much hype, chasing too many price rises and jumping on bandwagons which disintegrated faster than they were put together.
It has been fairly straightforward up till now. Every gw, there are games. You just pick your team and do your transfers based on form, fixtures, both or the roll of a dice.
However, a new factor comes into the equation now: the blank gameweek.
For the uninitiated, a ‘blank’ refers to a gameweek were some teams do not have games. This could be caused by a plethora of reasons: from cup games to strikes to bad weather.
For now, the League Cup final (I’m not used to calling it EFL Cup so to me it is STILL League Cup) has thrown us the first blank: GW26.
GW26 sees Southampton squaring up to United for the League Cup Final. Which means both of them don’t play in GW26, together with their scheduled opponents: Arsenal and Man City.
This means that for GW26, the confirmed blanks are:
If you have 1 or more players from each team, all your moves from now until then should be to either replace them or beef up your bench if you intend to just bench them.
Now, 2 gameweeks later, there will be another round of blanks. This time, it’s due to the FA Cup quarters replacing EPL action during the weekend.
Obviously, those teams in the FA Cups and their opponents will be the only ones facing blanks. Therefore, using the process of elimination, the games that will go on during GW28 will be:
Bournemouth v West Ham
Everton v West Brom
Hull City v Swansea City
Currently, these are the teams and their opponents for the FA Cup 5th round (to determine who goes into the quarters):
Burnley v Lincoln City
Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur
Blackburn Rovers v Manchester United
Sutton United v Arsenal
Middlesbrough v Oxford United
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea
Huddersfield Town v Manchester City
Millwall v Derby County/Leicester City
No EPL team are facing each other. So assuming they ALL win, GW28 would be potentially only 3 fixtures. This will set up for a major double gameweek coming up at a future date, so have your wildcards ready.
However, there are always some upsets. So, assuming upsets happen, GW28 will have more fixtures being added to it.
On the assumption that you do not want to burn too many -4 points, planning is crucial. Every transfer you make now should ideally be geared towards maximizing coverage for GW26 and 28. 6 teams fall into that category, and they are Everton, West Ham, Bournemouth, West Brom, Hull and Swansea.
Once you have maxed out on all these teams, or at least their more desirable options, then you may want to at least load up on confirmed non-blank GW26 players. Buying an Arsenal, City, United or Soton player would be undesirable at this stage.
With these in mind, I am now looking at:
Coleman / Baines, Lanzini / Antonio, Siggy, Llorente, Jakupovic, Stanislas, Smith / Daniels / Cook, Rondon
as options to bring into my team ahead of GW26.