Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate!
Well, well, well. What is this madness? A gameweek with all 20 clubs playing a total of ten matches? I forget how to play this game under normal circumstances.
Yes, Double Gameweek 19 is in the books and we have officially, not-quite-officially hit the halfway point of the season. Twelve of the twenty clubs are caught up on their fixtures, six have a game in hand while Everton and Aston Villa have two extra apiece. With FA Cup results over this past weekend surely to create another series of blanks and makeup games, the blank gameweek/double gameweek madness is far from over. But, for now anyway, we can enjoy the purity and the simplicity of a “normal” gameweek.
Many a triumphant story of Week 19 flashed across my social media feed, with managers hitting triple digit round scores with regularity. How I wish I could say I was among those managers. The fact is, I am supposed to be, and that is what hurts the most. You see, I finished on 99 points. That, enough, could make one feel a bit empty not joining the 100 point round club, but how I ended on 99 points tossed out all the joy I SHOULD be feeling this past week. I managed to do something I can never recall having done before in all my years of playing FPL - I brought in a player, moved him into my XI...and forgot to hit save.
That player was Michail Antonio. So, not only did I leave my latest transfer toy unused, the one time it happens, its for a 16 point swing - Antonio’s 18 minus the 2 points that Patrick Bamford scored in his place. When you see I had a front 7 of Soucek, Grealish, Son, Sterling, Salah, Kane, Bamford and now Antonio, coming in to replace Calvert-Lewin, you can see its clear Bamford was the one to bench with his single match and clear tier below the likes of Son and Kane. But you might be saying, “Hey Steve, this is a captaincy column. Shouldn’t you limit your frustrations here to that particular area?” Ok, fine. I captained Salah, the worse possible choice. Only Bamford scored less, who I couldn’t have captained because he wasn’t even in the XI in my mind when the deadline came. Otherwise, Soucek tied Salah for the lowest score in the team. Even single gameweek defender Rob Holding would have been a more lucrative armband play. So yeah, I had a round score in the top 1 million, I had a green arrow and 99 points are a lot but...I should be sitting on 115 points and if I let my turtle pick a captain, Im easily into the 120’s or 130’s. Sour grapes turned into whine once again...
Right, so no matter if you had a great round or a frustrating one, that little story should be relatable for most of you. We have another round of midweek action and then back at it again this weekend, so no more time to waste, let us look at the few standout options in this Week 20 edition of Captain Obvious.
Bruno Fernandes (11.3m)
Rostered % - 56.1% (on verge of price rise)
Total points - 140 (11 Gs, 9 As, 22 BPs)
Opponent - Sheffield United (home)
Folks, I do not mean to make this a yawnfest of a column this week. This is always a more entertaining topic when there is a healthy debate between several options this week, but what’s true is true - heading into this round, Fernandes is by far and away the most solid choice for the armband. As a general rule of thumb, if you have a fixture in which the team at the top of the table has a home game against the team at the bottom of the table (and this isn’t week 3 we are talking about) then giving the armband to the best player on that top-table side is pretty much as easy a choice as there is to make. Expect a huge percentage of managers, particularly among those ranked inside the top 1 million to back the playmaker against the Blades. To captain anyone else is a matter of what kind of risk you are willing to take going against the herd. And the herd this week is massive.
Now there may be some trepidation out there based on recent form. Bruno Fernandes has been human lately, averaging just a touch over 5 points per game in his last five games, blanking in two of his last three, but I just have to say, and this point will be brought up again with another player in the conversation, when you are as involved as Fernandes is in the attack, the lack of returns only means to me that he is due for a big haul. I have had a chance to watch more of Manchester United in the past month and it must be said, no one player is doing as much as this guy these days. His vision is next-level. Every time he is involved in the final third, a big chance is getting created. It’s only a matter of whether the Red Devils cash the chance in. Sheffield United’s defense is better now than it was when the season started, but they still have only one clean sheet on the season, collected recently against a Newcastle side that cannot score on anyone. Expect United to find the net at least once for sure and, from there, the odds of Fernandes being involved and collecting bonus will be quite high.
Raheem Sterling (11.5m)
Rostered % - 8.5% (rising steady)
Total points - 87 (5 Gs, 5 As, 9 BPs)
Opponent - West Brom (away)
There are many talented players this weekend, but between form and/or fixture, none can hold a candle to Bruno Fernandes this weekend (at least if we are limiting our picks to midfielders and forwards, more on that in a bit). The only player I think is worthy enough to join him on the shortlist this weekend is Sterling, and that is with a bit of trepidation. You see, I need to be up front about my own personal team management, because this week I transferred Sterling out for Fernandes. He was one of only two players I could swap Fernandes for without spending points and the other, Mo Salah, is simply locked in when fit. I went with Sterling a few weeks back as a challenge to the masses that went Kevin De Bruyne. The challenge wound up being rather inconsequential, but even with some nice fixtures ahead for City, I could not ignore how Fernandes is running the show on one side of Manchester while Sterling is simply one of many potential option City have.
In fact, with de Bruyne sidelined, it feels like goals could come from anywhere in this side. Ilkay Gundogan, of all people, has been the headline grabber of late, scoring in five of City’s previous seven league games. Some could argue that, with Aguero and de Bruyne out, Gundogan is certain to take on penalty duties, making him as viable, if not more viable, a captaincy option than Sterling is. One also has to always consider, even when there are major stars sidelined already, that Pep Guardiola has never hesitated to hand rests to players like Sterling. Raheem has started the last seven league games, going the distance in five of them. Had I felt compelled to keep him, despite feeling nervous about it, I would probably have taken the risk and given Sterling the armband. The issue is, maybe the attack is not where to look for an armband from City right now, so continue on to find out why...
Harry Kane (11.2m)
Rostered % - 47.0% (holding steady)
Total points - 142 (12 Gs, 11 As, 26 BPs)
Opponent - Liverpool (home)
Right, well the reason why the shortlist is extra-short this week is because three players who are usually in the top tier are facing off each other in this game. I think this is fixture to stay away from for armband talk, but I also feel there is too much talent here to not feature someone, so if I had to pick a player to back here, it would be the top-scoring player in FPL to date - Mr. Kane. I mean, 23 attacking returns in 18 games to date. He always plays, he is always involved, he is on pens, he is suddenly one of the best assist men in the league to go along with his Golden Boot-deserving track record as a goal-scorer and, if you haven’t noticed lately, Liverpool have hit perhaps their roughest patch of the Jurgen Klopp era and are struggling for healthy centre backs.
However, it has to be said that despite the injury crisis in central defense and an overall dip in form for the Reds as a whole, they are still defending quite well during this poor run by their standards. You have to go all the way back to Week 5 to find a league game where Liverpool have conceded more than one goal. Now, they only have kept four clean sheets since that time so, pretty much as dependable as death and taxes, the Reds are going to concede one goal. The odds that Harry Kane is involved in one goal are strong if Spurs get on the board and, with bonus points worked in, could easily validate his captaincy selection, but there seems to be a low ceiling for Kane and company this week.
Other options - Right, here is where the selection headaches Pep Guardiola has given us over the years in FPL finally get turned around. I cannot bring myself to put them on the shortlist, but if you have one of John Stones or Rúben Dias right now in your squad, I would at least consider them as a vice-captain. This centre back partnership has been the story of the league over the past month or two, as City is racking up clean sheet with ease. Since Week 10, when Stones came into the XI, City has played ten games, he has started nine, and kept clean sheets in all but one. Stones has played exactly 900 minutes to date, nine games to you and me, and City have conceded two goals in that span. Stones has finally arrived. And then you have Dias, who is arguably an even better option to own (or possibly captain). Guardiola likes to move players in and out of the lineup no matter what the form is like, but he, along with the rest of the world, cannot deny that the Stones/Dias partnership is leading City toward a potential title run. Playing West Brom this week, I am expecting another cleanie, which alone can justify an armband, then hoping for a bit of bonus sprinkled on top.
Mo Salah has been AWOL lately in FPL-land and Sadio Mané has not shined much brighter as Liverpool’s attack has hit a brick wall of late. I may have been bold enough to leave Salah out of the picture altogether based on recent form and a tough fixture away to Spurs but thankfully I got to see him play Manchester United over the weekend in the FA Cup. Salah was back to his masterful self, bagging a brace, thought the Reds would indeed lose to the Red Devils. I think we are going to see a return to the kind of form we expect from him in league play but, like Kane or any other options from Liverpool and Tottenham, this fixure should temper your expectations of a double digit monster-haul.
Fixtures like Southampton v Arsenal, Everton v Leicester and Chelsea v Wolves has me turned off by the idea of backing players in any of these matchups. The one other area I wanted to point out was West Ham on the road to Crystal Palace. Maybe it’s the desire to get the points back in Week 19 that are rightfully mine, but Michail Antonio has looked strong, sharp and focused since his return from injury and I am all about riding that kind of form. It’s a long gap between the confidence I have for giving the armband out when comparing to Bruno Fernandes, but that is the kind of week we are looking at, one were Antonio deserves at least a mention.
Hit me up on Twitter @FuzzyWarbles and let me know your thoughts on who you've nominated for captain and why. Good luck with your selection this weekend and may your arrows be green.