Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate!
Would you mind if I got the bad news of the last round out of the way first? Much appreciated. Matthew John Lowton...how dare you, sir. When the preparation for GW24 began last week, Lowton was my clear target. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was to be sold. Having Luke Shaw as well, I was ready to cash in my .1m profit on Wan-B and free up funds to make the transfer I wanted for this week, GW25, while getting some Claret defensive cover in the meantime. As the deadline drew near, two things came into my thinking, and both make complete sense in hindsight…
Making the plans with Lowton would mean that I would have had to made my transfers for this coming GW early, as in, immediately, because one of the players was on the verge of losing .1m in sell price and I only had the exact funds to make this all work. So I asked myself - what is so terrible about going with Erik Pieters instead? Costing .2m less, I still get the Burnley defender coverage and now have wiggle room to make the important transfers for the following round later in the week. Upon closer inspection, Pieters had contributed two assists in the last four games. Well, two attacking returns in four for any Burnley player, never mind a defender, certainly raises the eyebrows. Charlie Taylor was still nursing an injury but Pieters looked safe for at least the one round I needed him most, based on the assist form and Sean Dyche’s reputation of sticking with players until they are either injured or do something worthy of losing their spot. I then looked at Lowton’s “numbers”. No attacking return yet this season, one assist last season, no attacking return the season before that. So ONE attacking return in over two-and-a-half seasons. Oh, and he has never, EVER, scored a goal. So what am I paying the extra cash for? That settled it. Pieters came in and..the rest is history.
Right, so if you wanted to see how an FPL manager can take a 96 point round, which was good enough for a top 600k round score and a green arrow, and still find a way to look at it as a disappointment, well...what can I say? I have a knack for these things. What matters most is that, when the time DID come to make my transfers, I saved my bacon by spending 4 points and using the freed-up cash to turn Tomas Soucek to Ilkay Gundogan and benched Heung-Min Son. It didn’t feel good doing it in the moment, but that move paid off swimmingly as I immediately slapped the armband on Gundogan. Had you done the same, you probably had a green arrow week, no matter what other plans backfired, while managers who captained anyone else felt stung, even though the other top choices last week - Bruno Fernandes, Nick Pope and Raheem Sterling, all returned something, though Sterling’s contribution was pretty disappointing when you considered five other Manchester City midfielders alone outscored him in the round. Actually that’s beyond disappointing, that is cruel misFortune.
Well, we have more double gameweek action to come and I will go ahead and throw out a spoiler - this week’s column is going to be shockingly similar to last week’s. Four players make the shortlist, one of which is a non-double gameweek player. So let’s see what has changed this time around with two clubs - Leeds United and Southampton - playing twice in this Week 25 edition of Captain Obvious...
Bruno Fernandes (11.6m)
Rostered % - 60.0% (rising slow, price just went up overnight)
Total points - 178 (14 Gs, 11 As, 27 BPs)
Opponent - Newcastle (home)
Looking familiar already, is it not? Yes, I have one non-double gameweek player who I feel is worthy of making the shortlist this week and it’s the same dude who only played once last week. While opting for Fernandes over Gundogan, assuming you had both, would have stung a bit, it is still a solid nine point return for United’s playmaker, better than Raheem Sterling and only one point shy of Nick Pope, who was also on last week’s shortlist. His goal against the Baggies secured him two bonus points in a match that was otherwise a pretty weak showing from the Red Devils. This just underscores how much of a fantasy beast Fernandes has been virtually since Day 1 of his arrival to Manchester. Maybe I am calling it too early, but certainly if the season ended this month, he would be my Player of they Year, and not simply because he is the top scorer in all of FPL to date, but because he has meant more to his club’s success than any individual player, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer probably owes his job to the midfield maestro.
But enough showering of praise on Fernandes. What makes him once again a player to consider in a week where there are other options playing twice. Well, it is another attractive fixture that comes at a good time - home to Newcastle. The Magpies have not had a very good defensive record of late. In their last seven league contests, they have conceded at least two goals in all but one of them. So, while some new additions has helped out the attack since the winter transfer window, the defense is still in disarray, with injuries to Fabian Schär, Federico Fernandez and Javier Manquillo not helping matters. Were this not a double gameweek, I am confident that Fernandes would run away with the armband % this week. So the same logic applies as last week. You may land on another Gundogan this week, but there is plenty of reason to trust in Fernandes.
Patrick Bamford (11.6m)
Rostered % - 56.1% (rising steady)
Total points - 132 (12 Gs, 8 As, 16 BPs)
Opponent - Wolves (away), Southampton (home)
If you are looking for a double gameweek jackpot score, Bamford would appear statistically to be your best bet. He is the top scoring player to date that has two matches in this round, he is as nailed on to start both as one can realistically expect, and he is in adequate form despite blanking last week against the Gunners. What is encouraging for Bamford’s outlook this week is that despite the blank, Leeds still managed to score a couple of goals, so their attack is still as steady as ever.
I have not been as active on Twitter this season as I have in past seasons, for one reason or another, but incidental to this topic, one of my recent public observations was how much I underestimated Bamford’s chances for success in the top flight. I had seen him play about 700 minutes in the top flight during his young career, managing just one goal in that time, and it seemed he was to be in the mold of a Connor Wickham. Perhaps more successful in the lower divisions but nothing more than a fringe player on a mid-to-lower table side in the top flight. Boy, was I wrong.
Bamford has surpassed even the most optimistic fan’s expectations in his return to the Premier League and one has to think that his consistent supply of attacking returns is the number one reason Leeds are doing so well this season, pretty much already assured of safety with three months to go. He has really been a complete forward, not just supplying a dozen goals to date, still within striking distance of a 20-goal campaign, but he has also supplied an impressive eight assists to date. Of the 40 goals the club has scored on the season, Bamford has played a role in exactly half of them. So, it would stand to reason that, over the course of two games, against opponents who are both below Leeds in the table, one would expect 3-5 goals over those games, which means Bamford has a very good chance at two attacking returns as a baseline. You want a high floor as much as you want a high ceiling when choosing a captain and Bamford ticks both boxes for me in this round. He has not been usually in the captaincy discussion from week to week, but this would seem the time to reward him with the armband if you are ever going to this season.
Danny Ings (8.5m)
Rostered % - 13.7% (rising fast)
Total points - 89 (8 Gs, 3 As, 15 BPs)
Opponent - Chelsea (home), Leeds (away)
Last week, I was saying we would be talking about Ings this week, so I am simply fulfilling the promise I made. Ings was one of the best surprises of last season, when he piled on 22 goals for the Saints, finishing one goal shy of Jamie Vardy in the race for the Golden Boot. He is not on pace to reach those numbers this season, which is probably why we haven’t discussed him much in the captaincy debate. In fact, I am glad he found the net this past weekend, or else he would have been on a run of half a dozen games without a goal, making the case to include him among the top-tier armband choices this week more difficult.
Let’s be honest, the evidence before us would say that Ings is second-best to Bamford in just about every department. Bamford has the better attacking numbers, the more attractive fixtures and has been a more trustworthy, consistent supplier of points than Ings all season. So what, if anything, would make a case for the Soton striker? Two things come to mind. One, he is going to be the differential between the two. So, if you are looking to go against the grain and play risk/reward versus potentially only keeping pace with your rivals, Ings can provide that. Despite the looming double, his roster percentage is quite low. The other is how amazingly steady he is if last week’s goal can help jumpstart last year’s level of form. In that 22-goal campaign, he only bagged a brace twice, meaning he found the net in over half of Southampton’s games last season (20), compared to Vardy (16). I like brace or bust potential in a single gameweek but in a double gameweek, you have to like the spread Ings provides. Yes, Chelsea are in good form of late, and beat the Saints, 1-4, in this fixture last season, but guess who scored that one Southampton goal? Yeah, it was Ings.
Rostered % - 6.5% (rising steady)
Total points - 80 (4 Gs, 6 As 6 BPs)
Opponent - Wolves (away), Southampton (home)
With attacking returns in five straight games and a double gameweek with some fair, if not favorable fixtures, do not let the 5.4m price tag fool you - let’s not forget what a 6m midfielder was able to do last week. Now, this is not to suggest that people should expect Raphinha to match Ilkay Gundogan’s output, but in the buildup to this week’s deadline, many folks are bringing him into their sides and some of the hipster crowd of FPL enthusiasts will take the chance on giving him the armband. The overall captaincy stats may not have him Top 4 once those numbers are released but, considering the amount of ghost teams among the over-8 million FPL accounts, who have their armband permanently on Mo Salah or someone of that ilk, I can guarantee for managers in the top 10k, Raphinha is going to have Top 5 armband representation.
In his last three games, Raphinha has collected a total of five shots on target and ten key passes, so that is an average of being involved in a major chance five times a game. He is also locked in on most corner kicks, so he’s one glancing header away from adding to his assist total with every dead ball kick. Not to mention he is a slippery fellow on the ball. Playing on the right, he will likely have his way against newly-returned-from injury Jonny when facing Wolves and veteran Ryan Bertrand when up against the Saints. With the current form and matchups, I do think that chances are slim Raphinha blanks twice, but I just have some concerns on his ceiling potential versus the other top candidates this week. That said, if you back him and he delivers big, you can proudly wear the “smug crown” for the remainder of the season.
Other options - Among the two double gameweek sides, I can see only one player from each that deserve at least a blip on the radar, Stuart Dallas for Leeds and James Ward-Prowse for Southampton. I love players like Dallas in double gameweeks, when you have the potential for attacking and defending returns spread across two games, there is just so much time and so many different ways to get a return. Ward-Prowse, meanwhile, is not the source of consistency you want in a captain but, again, with two games, and his dead ball skills which can get him returns against even tough opponents (Chelsea for example), Ward-Prowse may not be a popular armband choice this week but if he ends the round as the top scoring midfielder, there would be no surprise, only regret that he wasn’t in my side.
As far as singe-gameweek players go, it is pretty thin for me other than Fernandes. Obviously, his teammates are facing the same opponent, but the like of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani are so hit and miss week to week. Rashford is the only one seemingly nailed on every week and even he has twice played under 60 minutes over the last six games. When you have Fernandes rostered by 60% of FPL managers, it is hard to imagine owning another United player and not him. And if you had both, I am not sure how you could make a case for anyone being a better bet than Fernandes.
Otherwise, I really cannot give a strong recommendation, even for the second-tier. Matchups are tough this week. West Ham hosting Spurs, Arsenal hosting Man City, Villa hosting Leicester and then the Merseyside derby...I am just hoping to get something from players involved in these games, but I see no player in this lot worth opting for over the double gameweek options already mentioned. Cut me some slack for the inevitable one or two players that play once and score big. There are over 200 players starting every week, one or two are going to pop up with a big score. So if Neal Maupay scores a hat trick, I apologize in advance for not suggesting him. This week’s shortlist though should present some options that will come as close to a guaranteed return as one can expect.
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.