Back To The FPL Future: GW26

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Bogey teams. Glaring differences between home and away form. Those players who just always seem to score against certain clubs. Sometimes fixtures past can offer some insight into fixtures future.

Looking at the recent history of the fixtures for the upcoming Gameweek can provide some potentially useful insights as to what we might expect to unfold. This is reinforced by a study of 25,000 games of football, which demonstrated a direct correlation between previous fixture results and the next fixture results. It is the reason why, for example, Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Old Trafford in 2020/21 was so notable as their first win at Old Trafford in the Premier League since 2006; it was the exception that proved the rule.

Common themes, potential upsets, unexpected blanks or hauls for certain players. Sticking with examples from North London, there are well known cases like how Jamie Vardy always scores against Arsenal. Or how Harry Kane always scores against Arsenal. Or how Kevin de Bruyne always scores against Ar…. you get the idea.

So, let’s take a look at the GW26 fixtures:

Newcastle v Wolves

A draw last season as well as in the reverse fixture in October, but there were two Wolves wins in the two fixtures prior to that and this is probably how you’d expect this one to go too. Wolves may not have hit the heights of their previous two seasons in the top flight, but they are ticking along and probably have more about them than a poor Newcastle side. An interesting side note on this fixture; Newcastle have had a man sent off in each of the last 3 home fixtures vs Wolves. Any takers on who it might be this time?

No players particularly stand out in this fixture, and there are probably not many managers who own assets from either of these teams for DGW26.

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Everton v Southampton

This fixture has ended 1-1 in three of the past five seasons. Whilst Southampton have been in miserable form and may be expected to continue this at Goodison Park, Everton have not been the most convincing either and often follow up good results with poor ones. Still, in the last five seasons they average double the goals per game that Southampton do in this fixture, and many FPL managers will own one or two Everton players for DGW26.

In-form Richarlison has 2 goals in the last 2 meetings at Goodison Park, a record equalled by Danny Ings in the same time. Digne got an assist last season, but given that Southampton are averaging almost a goal a game in this fixture, this might not be one where Digne owners can bank on clean sheet points as well.

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West Brom v Everton

There are no fixtures in the last couple of seasons to look at thanks to the Baggies’ relegation in 2017/18. In the 3 fixtures prior to this there were 2 Everton wins and a bore draw. There is probably not a lot to be gleaned from these 3 fixtures given the amount of squad turnover in both sides since they last met at The Hawthorns.

Everton will probably go into this game as favourites given their respective league positions, but West Brom go into every game now knowing they need to win to survive, and Everton have been guilty at times this season of dropping points against ‘lesser’ opposition, losing in recent weeks to Fulham and Newcastle.

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West Brom v Brighton

There is not a lot to be learned from the 1 fixture between these teams in our timeframe. Brighton had their recent fine run of form stopped in surprising fashion by rivals Crystal Palace but are the better team on paper, whilst West Brom struggle to put any kind of run together but are the home side and will be fighting tooth and nail for survival. This one could be hard to predict.

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Leeds v Aston Villa

For a Leeds fixture there is a surprising amount of recent history here, thanks to both teams’ shared time in the Championship. Leeds just have the edge over this time period despite a couple of 1-1 draws, and the loss of Jack Grealish and Matty Cash is likely to be a significant blow for Villa. This could well push the advantage to Leeds once again, and Villa may well require the heroics of Emi Martinez to get anything from this. Despite only having 1 fixture in a double gameweek, Leeds players could be offer decent points potential if you are unable to field a full team of double fixture players.

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Sheffield Utd v Aston Villa

The advantage lies with Sheffield Utd in recent times in this fixture, although a corresponding result in this game would come as a surprise given the home side’s torrid season. Sat rock bottom of the league with just 11 points from 25 games, it is hard to know where Sheffield Utd are going to pick up points, and they may struggle again here despite the loss of Grealish and Cash for Aston Villa. Sheffield Utd themselves have a raft of injuries to key players and have struggled for any kind of form.

That said, Villa have not travelled well to Bramall Lane in recent years, and the Blades may have an opportunity to get some much needed points on the board here.

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Man City v West Ham

Four City wins on the bounce have followed an unexpected defeat in 2015/16, and given the unstoppable form of the home side it hard to see anything but a fifth being added to the tally. City have averaged almost 2 goals per game at home to the Hammers, whilst the visitors haven’t scored in the last 2 meetings at The Etihad.

De Bruyne particularly seems to love this fixture; he has 2 goals and 3 assists in the last 5 seasons and has only blanked in one. You wouldn’t bet against him extending his record on Saturday. Also of note is that Bernardo Silva has an assist in each of the last 2 games, whilst Sterling has no returns since the 3-1 win in 2016/17.

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Man City v Wolves

There are only a couple of fixtures in our time period here, with Wolves famously beating the Citizens 2-0 on their own turf last season thanks to a brace from Adama Traore. City did win comfortably the season before however, and on current form you’d expect a similar result here.

With only a couple of fixtures it’s hard to find particular players who stand out, although Jesus bagged a brace in that aforementioned 3-0 home win with a Sterling and De Bruyne assist brace, while it will be interesting to see if Traore can have a similar impact.

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Crystal Palace v Fulham

Another fixture with just a single game in our timeframe. This finished 2-0 to the home team, but the visitors appear to have more about them than the Fulham team 2 seasons ago. Fulham are far more solid, and Palace struggle to score without Zaha who is not expected back for at least another week.

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Fulham v Spurs

Not much to be gleaned from the single previous fixture, which was a better Spurs team against a worse Fulham team. Despite that, it was a still a close game, and it is likely to be close again with Fulham being tight at the back and not conceding a lot of goals, and at the same time Spurs have been struggling to score.

It could potentially be slim pickings for the likes of Harry Kane, who nevertheless tends to be involved in one way or another when Spurs do score. Fulham keeper Areola could be in for some save points, whilst the Spurs back line could be in for a clean sheet against often goal-shy Fulham.

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Spurs v Burnley

This is an unusual one to predict; the games have mostly been very close including a 1-1 draw, but last season was an demolition job by Spurs, with most of the aggregate score coming from that one game and greatly skewing the averages. Perhaps it’s best to expect one of the narrower scorelines again this time round; Burley are a strong defensive team, and with the way Spurs play under Mourinho they often struggle against a low block.

However, when Spurs do score, talisman Harry Kane is usually involved in some way, and the England forward boasts an impressive record recently with 2 goals and 2 assists in the last 2. It must be said that he did not get any returns prior to the 1-0 win in 2018/19, however. Son also scored and assisted in the 5-0 last season, but did not have any returns prior to this. Out of favour Dele Alli has 2 goals and an assist over the last 4, but otherwise there are no other stand-out players.

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Liverpool v Chelsea

Chelsea have not won at Anfield in the past 5 seasons, and have lost the last two conceding 7 goals in the process. Chelsea look more solid under Tuchel so far, whilst Liverpool are in extremely poor form and need to make a statement win. This is a tough one to call, and a repeat of the 3 consecutive 1-1 draws doesn’t seem unlikely. Liverpool fans will certainly be hoping for a repeat of the more recent victories to get their season back on track.

Both Liverpool full backs hauled with a goal and an assist each last time out, whilst Salah has 2 goals and 1 assist across the last 3 and Mane has 1 goal and 1 assist in the last 2. That was against a much more porous Chelsea team mind you under Frank Lampard, and this game might not be as open and free-flowing.

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Sheffield Utd v Liverpool

Reigning champions vs bottom of the league. Surely there is only one winner? If the Chelsea game is likely to be a close game for Liverpool, then they’ll be hoping there will be far more in this one for them.

It was only a narrow 1-0 win for the Reds last season, but that was back when Sheffield Utd were performing well and looked like a good team. They now have a raft of injuries to key players and you just cannot see where they are going to pick up points. Liverpool have their own injuries of course, but their backup players are better than those of the Blades.

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Crystal Palace v Man Utd

A pretty one-sided fixture over the last 5 seasons, Utd have won all but 1 game, averaging 2 goals per game along the way to Palace’s 0.8. Given current form, and Zaha’s continued absence, it’s hard not to see this continuing.

Rashford hauled last season with a goal and assist, whilst popular full back Shaw got an assist the season before that. Utd strikers have historically done well, with Ibrahimovic, Lukaku and then Martial all getting on the scoresheet in subsequent seasons.

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Chelsea v Man Utd

A close fixture this one, with 2 draws and a Utd win sandwiching 2 home wins. An 8-5 aggregate demonstrates how close, and relatively low-scoring these games have been. Possibly not the highest ceiling for attacking returns.

Despite generally poor form, Martial has a strong recent record in this fixture with 3 goals over the last 2 games. Defenders have often popped up with attacking returns in this fixture, with goals from Maguire, Rudiger and Cahill in the last 5 as well as assists from Wan-Bissaka, Azpilicueta and Alonso. This is promising for owners of popular pick Luke Shaw.

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Leicester v Arsenal

The King Power has not been a happy hunting ground for Arsenal for most of the last 5 seasons, having drawn 1 and lost 3 of the last 4.

Leicester average 2 goals per game in this fixture, and this is often down to Jamie Vardy who has an excellent record. With 6 goals and 1 assist over the last 5, it almost feels inevitable that he will be involved in a goal vs the Gunners on Sunday. Tielemans has a goal and an assist over the last 2, as does the injured Maddison. With just 1 goal scored in the last 4 meetings, it is unclear where any Arsenal goals will come from, although eyes will inevitably be on Aubameyang for this who did score in the 2017/18 defeat,

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Footnotes:

Past meetings in cup competitions have been excluded from the table of results, as we are only interested in league results. Not to mention cup competitions can have more erratic/unreliable results with unique atmospheres and weakened teams often played.

There are also varying amounts of fixture history in the last 5 seasons to draw upon, by virtue of 3 teams being relegated to and promoted from the Championship every year. Leeds, for example, have been absent from the Premier league for 16 years and so will often have little to no league history in the last 5 years versus certain teams. It was considered to replace those teams in these articles with ‘similar’ teams for the sake of comparison, but it was decided that this would be more unreliable, subjective and arbitrary and therefore would not represent an accurate or fair analysis.

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