Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate!
Welp, with this season backloaded with fixtures galore due to the pandemic, we are finally approaching a break from the Premier League, an international break and the first break of any kind since the first half of November last year. So, naturally the last round leading into the break is going to be another one of those super-sized gameweeks, with talk of triple captains or boasting a side featuring 15 double gameweek players and a Bench Boost to give you 30 fixtures to collect points on, right?
Wrong. I suppose it has been so long since the PL has taken a break, it needs to ease us into the idea, which is how we have arrived at the dreaded BLANK GAMEWEEK 29. (I figured the use of “all caps” for dramatic effect was a valid one)
Yes, with much of the league still in the FA Cup competition and those cup matches playing a round this weekend, it leaves us with a paltry four PL fixtures instead of our usual ten (or more). Expectations for huge scores this round are scarce around the FPL community. Even if you have a Free Hit chip left to play, many of the teams featuring the league’s most in-form players are not going to be in the mix, making the “obvious” part of my Captain Obvious this week a rather short discussion. There simply are not many attractive options out there when you take out clubs like Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Leicester City, Liverpool and Everton. You then have a star player injured on one team playing (Spurs) and another star player with question marks surrounding his recent time in the disciplinary doghouse (Arsenal).
Basically, this is going to be a top-heavy column because I am already going to go ahead and spill the beans. This round is all about one thing - are you going to captain Harry Kane, or are you going to captain someone else? Because, given the players available this week and early polling showing Kane’s potential captaincy rate, this week’s decision should come down to a philosophy or a strategy - do you want to “follow the herd” and therefore “play it safe” by backing Kane along with the majority of active managers out there, or do you want to pick this moment as an opportunity to “beat the system” and back a player who is not named Kane. Whichever player you choose is going to have a low captaincy rate and, if you hit big, it will have a larger, more positive impact on your rank than in your average week.
Right, it will be a tough choice for some, so let’s dive in with a whittled-down version of this week’s Captain Obvious for Week 29...
Harry Kane (11.5m)
Rostered % - 43.9% (rising fast)
Total points - 185 (16 Gs, 13 As, 31 BPs)
Opponent - Aston Villa (away)
So here it is...the shortlist. One guy. It is good to debate the merits of backing other options over Kane this weekend but it is hard to argue, historically speaking, that there is a more established, trustworthy captain option out there with a stronger track record than Sir Harold of Tottenham’s. So instead of wasting time reminding folks of what they already are aware of, which is that a healthy Kane is armband material just about every week, let us focus on some of the things that might give folks a bit of concern over his viability.
For one, despite a monster haul against Crystal Palace two rounds back, in general Kane’s fantasy production has been down in the second half of the season when compared to his monster first half. Even with that 19-point haul against the Eagles, he has blanked in four of his previous six starts. The Palace score also contained a pair of assists - his first since Week 17. In fact, the Week 17 assist is the only other one he has registered since Week 11. So that makes ten assists in the opening eleven games, three assists ever since. Even more concerning about this area of production for Kane is that the vast majority of those 3-point dimes he dished out were to Heung-Min Son, who looks set to be absent entirely for the first time all season in league play. Not only do we potentially not have that direct Kane-Son connection, but we also haven’t seen the Spurs attack without Son very much.
While Kane has been blanking more frequently lately than we would like to see or come to expect, there is hope in his stats during recent weeks that he has had some bad luck and is due for a goal or two. However, he has the unlikely timing of facing off against who I feel would probably be nominated as the best keeper in the league right now, Emiliano Martinez, and a Villa defense who have kept clean sheets in more than half of their league games to date. Four points behind Spurs with a game in hand, these two clubs are pretty evenly matched, certainly more so than pundits would have imagined at the start of the season.
In summary, Kane is the most-established captaincy pick this week and his armband rate figures to be by one of the of the biggest landslide margins of the season. There is safety in going with him, in that, should he fail, you are failing along with the masses. If you take the risk of opting for someone else who does not haul and he explodes, then it would result surely in a massive negative hit to your rank. Again, this is not to anoint Kane as a “must” captain, nor is it a suggestion to gamble on someone else. This is simply laying out what the hard truth is - you either are with Kane or you are against him. So let’s now look at some of the likely names we will see out there as alternatives to Kane...
Other options - Sticking with Tottenham, and from a personal standpoint, I am just happy to have at least one occasion to mention him in this column this season, we need to point out club legend Gareth Bale. Had we not seen him lifted before the hour mark in an ineffective shift in last weekend’s North London derby, I think there would be more buzz around him this week. He will get some folks to back him surely, as he has been the most-transferred-in player in the entire league this week leading up to GW29. It is a risky selection to be sure, because he is not going to give you 90 minutes. He hasn’t even made it to 70 minutes since his recent uptick in form. So, its going to be a lot of frustration for managers if he gives you a 65 minute blank. But, if you are feeling nostalgic, maybe you want to give this FPL legend one more honorary armband designation.
It had been for weeks that I planned out transfers to get to this blank gameweek with certain players coming in to replace ones I did not mind dropping, while maintaining the players I want to keep. So, mainly because of his price tag at a position that features most of my premium players, I was not entertaining the thought of working toward including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the Week 29 squad. He then grabbed a goal against Burnley a couple of rounds back, and I began to tinker with my squad to see if there was any potential way to bring him in. Then, the derby came last weekend, and Arsenal’s star player was nowhere to be found, left out of the squad entirely for disciplinary reasons. Everyone is expecting, myself included, that Aubameyang has served his punishment and will be on the team sheet this weekend for the trip to West Ham. So, he could be a massive differential for those who have him in their squads this weekend. If I had a Free Hit chip to play, I could definitely see myself going after Aubameyang, simply because of the surplus of cash I would have at my disposal. But even then, do I double down and give him the armband? I don’t think I could based on his track record this season. Here are the rounds in which Aubameyang has scored goals - GW1, GW7, GW13, GW19, GW24 and GW27. That is shockingly inconsistent for a player of his caliber and price tag. Just one six week gap between goals after another. If I am thinking outside the box, and wanted to back Arsenal in some way, I’d think about Martin Odegaard, who is fresh off his first goal for the club and has some momentum behind him, scoring in two straight when factoring in all competitions.
Opponents, West Ham, have a couple of names that will likely have a handful of armband support - Jesse Lingard, and to a lesser extent, Michail Antonio. Antonio has been pretty consistent when fit, but it is the fitness that hasn’t been consistent, as a lack of another legit striker option has pushed Antonio to his physical limits this season. Lingard, on the other hand, had been sitting in bubble wrap for about half a decade before arriving to West Ham, and now, he’s in the form of his life. He has yet to go consecutive matches without an attacking return since joining the Hammers, which would mean he is due this weekend because he did not even feature against Manchester United last weekend.
Leeds will be sweating on the fitness of Patrick Bamford for this round’s Friday night kickoff, and fantasy managers who are actively monitoring the situation are likely to avoid the risk of captaining the Peacocks most consistent attacking player. They do have a couple of other cheeky options that could return nice hauls this weekend if Leeds do the number on Fulham. It’s a much more important game for the Cottagers, so I am not seeing Leeds going in there and dominating this one, but, no matter the outcome, Raphinha has to be an honorable mention for the armband. With only one attacking return in his last five, and blanks in the last three, from an FPL points perspective, there is not much to be excited about. However, Raphinha has been one of the most involved wingers in the league since the calendar flipped to 2021, involved in chances at a rate better than the mighty winger duo of Mo Salah and Sadio Mané, even. I am also going to go ahead and throw out the name Stuart Dallas. A pick not for the faint of heart (or, it could be argued, sane of mind), it is weeks like this that players like Dallas intrigue me. An out-of-position defender who has the potential to produce points on both sides of the ball.
And, speaking of defenders, my last honorable mention will go to a more traditional one - center back Lewis Dunk of Brighton. If I am trying to play “guess the clean sheet” this weekend, which many are trying to do in order to find some points in this miniature gameweek, then Brighton is my top choice to keep Newcastle from scoring. Dunk was already a target of mine for this round and he had to go and score a goal one week before I needed it. Still, if you have a knack for picking clean sheets and the rest of the climate this week looks unappealing to you for attacking players, then I think Dunk is a fair role of the dice.
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.