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Player Analysis

Captain Obvious: Week 26

by Steve Rothgeb
Updated On: February 26, 2021, 8:31 am ET

Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate!

And what a round this promises to be as we a have a super-sized double gameweek with seventeen fixtures on tap. Only six of the twenty clubs in the league play once, so chances are, without really doing much planning in advance, your squad is likely full of double gameweek players already, as FPL managers around the world will be salivating over the prospect of a triple-digit round score.

Readers of this column have probably recalled my saying this several times before, but it has to be said again ahead of this round - there is no bigger decision, week in, week out, that determines the success of your FPL season more than picking one’s captain. That being said - this week may present that one yearly exception. You see, with a round like this, the use of chips are going to likely be record-breaking in Week 26. So while getting the armband right is key, this time, picking the right chip to use may wind up being just as, if not more so, important.

Colleagues on social media who have been in this game a long time seemed to come together on a most-popular strategy - using their second half wildcard last week (relying on speculation of these added fixtures before confirmation) in order to use their bench boost chip this week. Remember, you cannot use more than one chip in a given round, so if you were thinking of building a wildcard team now with all fifteen players in your squad playing twice so you could bench boost - well, you cant. You can wildcard but not get bench points or you can get bench points by not wildcarding.

The Free Hit chip is another weapon to use but probably the least effective of them all for a round like this. Most folks do not want to create a team solely for this round only to revert back to the squad they had before. This chip is best used for circumstances like the upcoming GW29, when we only have four fixtures. Lastly, there is the coveted triple captain chip, which for me, seems to be the avenue to take. I could see ahead of last week that, with the added fixtures that were expected to be in place for this week but were not confirmed, that a four point hit was all I would need to build an XI about as attractive as any I would use with a wildcard. So instead of burning through two chips in back to back weeks now (wildcard/bench boost), I decided this was the week to go triple captain. Here’s hoping I hit big, because last weekend’s round for me was nothing short of abysmal. Believe me, I am elated to have double gameweek talk to distract me from a round where my round rank was around 6 million or so. Painful, I tell you.

Right, well I have been bold enough (and I like to think justified in hindsight) in nominating single gameweek players for captain in a double gameweek, but let me go ahead and spoil the news for you now -- you pretty much HAVE to give the armband to a double gameweek player, so let’s see which options are drawing the most attention in this Week 26 edition of Captain Obvious...

 

Bruno Fernandes (11.6m)

Rostered % - 60.4% (transfers holding)

Total points - 190 (15 Gs, 12 As, 30 BPs)

Opponent - Chelsea (away), Crystal Palace (away)

 

Naturally, being the one player who I have trusted as a captaincy choice in double gameweeks where he only plays once, only to prove the risk was worth it each time, of course the highest-scoring player in all of FPL is going to be on the shortlist when he plays twice. Last week, he continued to pile on the points with his tenth double-digit return of the season. He has now scored four goals in each of his last four games, not to mention three assists, with his lowest total being a seven-point return in that time. There becomes a point in a season when a player who has been this good - you run out of things to talk about. 

In fact, when it comes to Fernandes, even the fixtures or strength of opponent doesn’t really change my thinking. In my mind, when you are stretching his production over the course of two games, whether it be Fulham and West Brom, or Manchester City and Leicester, it just seems impossible to imagine keeping this superstar quiet for back-to-back games. The only way the points are going to dry up is if Fernandes himself hits some kind of unexpected rough patch, whether it be physically or mentally. Because, right now, with sound mind and body, there isn’t an opponent capable of stopping him. So, while both of Manchester United’s fixtures are away and one of them is against a solid side in good form (Chelsea), I cannot fault anyone for backing Fernandes this week and he will surely be a top choice, both among the overall field and among managers in the top 10 percent. The Blues played United to a 0-0 in the reverse fixture earlier this season but, in only his second game with the club last February, Fernandes had an assist at Stamford Bridge in a 0-2 United win, his first-ever FPL attacking return.

 

Harry Kane (11.1m)

Rostered % - 28.6% (rising fast, could be in for 2nd price rise of week before deadline)

Total points - 155 (13 Gs, 11 As, 28 BPs)

Opponent - Burnley (home), Fulham (away)

 

I cannot lie. It is going to be difficult for me to analyze the appeal of Harry Kane as a captain this week, given my Spurs bias. The way my club has looked for the much of this season, that bias is not a positive one. But I still think, in my professional, void-of-emotion opinion, Kane is a top armband candidate for this double gameweek. I will run down the list of bullet points as to why he deserves consideration, but first, let’s talk a bit about how Tottenham looked last weekend. Yes, it was another poor result for the club and Kane did not have an attacking return, but he did take a whopping six shots and he came close to cashing in on a couple of them. In fact, his shot volume has been prolific if you cherry-pick over the last several weeks. By that, I mean, in the last five games, toss out the matches against Liverpool where he played only 44 minutes, and Manchester City, who no one is doing well against these days, and you have three other matchups, including a West Ham side now sitting top four, and Kane managed a minimum of five shots against them.

It would stand to reason, then, that given the opponents - Burnley and Fulham, Kane is in store for plenty of volume. Yes, one would prefer Tottenham as a whole to be in better form than they are now to back a captain from their side in a pivotal double gameweek but (and perhaps this is where my bias comes in), it really is now or never for this club in the Mourinho era. If Spurs limp their way through these two fixtures, gaining anything less than four points, then this latest Daniel Levy experiment is over as far as I am concerned. So maybe it takes a pundit who isnt a supporter of the club to lend more credibility to this prediction, but I think Tottenham are on the verge of a goal explosion. Just to keep the hype in check though - these were not high-scoring affairs in the reverse fixtures - Spurs won a 0-1 squeaker at Turf Moor (on a Kane-assisted goal) while only scoring once in a draw with Fulham just a few weeks ago.

 

 

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (7.7m)

Rostered % - 38.8% (rising fast)

Total points - 124 (13 Gs, 6 As, 16 BPs)

Opponent - Southampton (home), West Brom (away)

The return of Dominic Calvert-Lewin from injury could not have been better timed for those looking for yet another strong double gameweek captaincy option. He returned last weekend as a substitute after having missed Everton’s previous two games through injury and immediately supplied an attacking return in his brief 28-minute appearance, his sixth assist of the season. Combine that with the fact that in the two games before the injury, he had pitched in with two goals and an assist, good enough for a better-than-10 point return over those two rounds, meaning the form was there before the injury and appears to not have left him upon his return. 

Everton have been one of those Jekyll and Hyde type clubs this season, sometimes looking like a solid top-four contender (they spent several weeks in that company earlier in the season) and other times, looking like a lower mid-table club, doing enough to survive relegation, but not much more. What can be said about the haphazard form though is that, when all of their big weapons are fit and available, the Toffees are a much more difficult club to handle - and that is precisely the window that is open for them right now. It has not been often the case, but DCL, Richarlison, James Rodriguez, Lucas Digne, and even Allan is fit heading into this double gameweek. Add in what appear to be two very tantalizing fixtures - a reeling Southampton side that has collected only a single point from their last eight games and a West Brom side that boasts the worst defensive record in the league by a considerable margin, and you can see how Calvert-Lewin is a solid bet to get multiple attacking returns over the course of two matches. The only slight concern I would have is that he is yanked on the hour mark in the Southampton match as a precaution.

 

Raheem Sterling (11.6m)

Rostered % - 12.5% (rising steady)

Total points - 128 (9 Gs, 7 As 10 BPs)

Opponent - West Ham (home), Wolves (home)

With the honor of sitting top of the table, in fantastic form and given the benefit of two home games for their double gameweek, it is impossible to ignore Manchester City assets. At the same time, more so than any other club, there are sure to be traps among the players being considered for the armband, as you can all but guarantee there will be some names that only start one of the two games. Having just played a knockout round tie in the Champions League, and postponements due to their involvement in all cup competitions, City’s fixtures are coming quick and relentlessly, so even though Pep Guardiola has a reputation for sitting star players at any given time, you have to think about that risk more than usual when considering a City asset, even the one I am suggesting among the bunch in Raheem Sterling.

I will go ahead and let it be known that Ilkay Gundogan did not make the short list for me and I will elaborate on that later. That said, if you have a squad with Gundogan and not Sterling, and you feel compelled to back a City double gameweek player, I cannot fault the gamble. Talking about Sterling alone - he is in solid, consistent form, collecting attacking returns in four of his last five and six of the last seven in which he has appeared (he was absent for GW21 v Sheffield United) Basically, I see two different identities for City, the sides that features Kevin De Bruyne and the sides that do not. Now that de Bruyne is back in the mix, I find myself trusting more in an option like Sterling and less in an option like Gundogan. De Bruyne is likely to help set up goals for Sterling while I am afraid Gundogan’s attacking style in the period of de Bruyne’s absence is going to recede. We saw it happen last weekend as a one-match example, which admittedly is a tiny sample size, but I am of the belief that it is not a coincidence. So I will back the player who I feel is most likely to start both games and be involved in the goals the most, which for me, is Sterling. His price tag keeps his roster percentage low, but if you have him, you have an excellent differential on your hands.

 

Other options - So, am I suggesting there is no other City player worth making a captain of? Not at all. I can only say that I am quite worried about rotation and I really want an option with a very good chance at starting both games (despite, admittedly, being very happy with Gundogan’s return in a DGW in which he only featured once. Honestly, if rotation was of no concern, I would be most interested in captaining a defender here. Their defensive record is what is going to seal the title for City and with two home games against opponents like this, any City defender that starts twice should be looking at eight points as an absolute floor. However, Joao Cancelo, Kyle Walker Rúben Dias and John Stones are all at risk of playing only once. Dias would be the strongest pick to play both, but if you go this route, do prepare for a potential sting when we see the team news.

Heung-Min Son SHOULD be in the discussion, but, with only one goal in his last nine games, the trust factor is not there at the moment. However, if you feel, as I do, that Spurs are going to get the attack going against these next two opponents, you have to think it will take Son getting back on the score sheet to play a role in that turnaround. Before things went south in North London, we should not have such short memories - the link and resulting production between Son and Kane was as lethal as any combination in the league.

As well as Leicester have been doing lately and for the entire season in general, it would seem they must have a player or two worth adding to the debate. Harvey Barnes is having a terrific season of growth and is currently in great form, while James Maddison looks to be heating up, but the dead ball specialist is nursing an injury and is a question mark entering at least the first of two games that will feature Arsenal at home and Burnley on the road. That creativity and dead ball accuracy that may be missing from Maddison lowers my appeal for options from the Foxes, but if you are going to consider one, it has to be Jamie Vardy. He’s got that kind of legendary status that makes one a believer heading into a double gameweek.

And then, there was Liverpool. The fact that I am only now bringing them up at the tail end of a captaincy column when they have a double gameweek tells you everything you need to know about the current state of affairs at Anfield. They will be playing away to Sheffield United and then at home to Chelsea and, as much as the Chelsea fixture seems the clear worrisome one, I am pessimistic even about the trip to play the Blades. It almost feels like a 1-0 Sheffield United trap waiting to happen. That said, would anyone be shocked if the biggest scorer of any player across the FPL landscape was Trent Alexander-Arnold? We simply have to let things play out. But with so many legit options out there in a week where the armband carries even more weight than usual, some player or club usually needs to be sacrificed to help whittle down one’s selection, and for me, Liverpool is that side, based on the combination of form and fixtures. If half a million people have the armband on Salah, keep in mind most of those are going to be on “dead” teams.

 

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.

Steve Rothgeb

Steve Rothgeb is a contributor for NBC Sports Edge and WorldSoccerTalk.com, a self-proclaimed fantasy sports oracle, and Tottenham Hotspur fanatic. He can be found on Twitter @FuzzyWarbles.