Welcome back for another week of FPL captaincy debate. Last week, for the vast majority of FPL managers, it was an unmitigated disaster. What else can you say about a round in which the two most expensive players in the game, Salah and Aguero, don't even play while defenders who started the season priced at 4m, Sergio Rico and John Lundstram, were saviors? Of all the top candidates for the armband, only Raheem Sterling delivered, and that was just a lone assist with a yellow card thrown in. Otherwise, you went rogue with a maverick selection and credit to you if you did and it paid off.
A gameweek like Week 9 can be the kind to cause many to have a kneejerk reaction, and second-guess naming one of their premium options as captain in Week 10. That is going to be a mistake for many. Names like Aubameyang and Mane and Aguero are still viable options most weeks, though I concede that Aguero playing away from home cannot be trusted. More on that in a minute. With Sterling being the only premium player to deliver, he should see a huge amount of investment this week. Wouldn't it just fit the narrative perfectly if Pep Guardiola decides to rotate and give Sterling a rest against Aston Villa? But, enough of the pessimistic outlook. Things cannot possibly be worse in Week 10 than they were in Week 9, can they? So, let's take a look at what we have to choose from in this edition of Captain Obvious...
Raheem Sterling (12.1m)
Ownership % - 38.1% (last week, 38.2%)
Season points - 53 (6 Gs, 1 A, 4 BPs)
Opponent - Aston Villa (home)
I led off with Sterling in last week's column, and he actually returned something, so he is entitled to kick things off here again this week. Raz notched his first assist of the season against Palace and will give further confidence to those who followed Manchester City's Champions League exploits where he scored a hat trick against Atalanta. Though his assist against the Eagles last weekend was his first, the numbers show that playing the role of provider could be a more common event. In the first four games he played this season, he averaged just one key pass per game. In the last four games he has played, he has been averaging three key passes.
Aston Villa are not the worst defense in the league by any means, but they have yet to keep a clean sheet on the road and one would assume that trend would continue with a trip to the Etihad. It's been a few years since Sterling has faced the Villans in the top flight, so there is not much to take away from previous history. What is more recent is that the last time City played at home, they were held goalless by Wolves. The odds of City being held goalless at home in consecutive games are extremely thin. Rice paper thin. The only worry, as briefly touched upon in the intro, is the possibility of "Pep Roulette' coming into play, where Sterling would start this match on the bench. While Sergio Agüero seems to be managed in such a way where he always starts at home and gets his rests on the road, it is worth noting that the one rest for Sterling so far this season was in a home game.
Kevin De Bruyne (10.1m)
Ownership % - 36,5% and rising
Season points - 66 (2 Gs, 9 As, 10 BPs)
Opponent - Aston Villa (home)
With Manchester City playing at home to Aston Villa, fantasy managers will understandably want to back a Citizen for the armband but there is understandable trepidation for fear of who will start and who will not, particularly in games coming off a midweek Champions League tie. de Bruyne would "appear" to be the safest of the "big three" City attacking options for those who want to consider safety over everything else. After returning from injury to play a full shift last weekend, the Belgian playmaker did start against Atalanta midweek. Unlike the other two big names to be mentioned here though, de Bruyne did not play the full 90 in CL play, which would lead one to believe he is being preserved for a certain start this weekend.
Once you feel confident of a start from de Bruyne, there's not much to go against him as a captaincy play. True, he blanked against Palace last weekend, but he is still averaging more over one assist per games played so far this season, with nine in total, to go along with a pair of goals. You've heard me say it before and I do not intend to be a broken record but, with de Bruyne as your captain, you are getting the highest floor of any of the options. The odds are he will give you something. Even if it is only a single assist, coming off of what transpired around the league in Week 9, one should be happy with that return and optimistic that there could be added returns and bonus points to go along with it.
Sergio Agüero (12.2m)
Ownership % - 28.8% (last week, 29.6%)
Season points - 61 (8 Gs, 3 As, 6 BPs)
Opponent - Aston Villa (home)
Here's the deal from this point on until proven otherwise - Aguero is a legit captaincy option in home games and should be avoided in road games. This is not to say that Kun cannot explode with a massive round on the road, but there is just too much risk involved when you look at how he has been used. In five games away from the Etihad so far this season, this has been Aguero's minutes for each (21, 90, 90, 24, 0) This is not to suggest that Aguero is on a clear pace to not start in 60% of City's road games, but is it irrational to think he may be on the bench for 40%, or 33%? There is a clear pattern here and it is simply too often for captaincy consideration.
That said, what matters is that Aguero is at home this weekend. Yes, he went the full 90 in midweek, but combined with his full rest the previous weekend, his legs should be fine. He bagged a brace against Atalanta, in front of the home crowd, and has the potential to repeat that performance again on Saturday. He, more than anyone, should be motivated to produce after the goose egg against Wolves in the last league game at home. He was quite poor in that one, taking three shots but not hitting the target once. It was also the only time in any start this season, home or away, where he did not register a single key pass. Aguero's ownership has dipped a bit since last week, but folks are not in full panic mode yet. With City playing at home again next weekend against the Saints, odds are current owners are going to give him the next two rounds to have their faith restored. If he doesn't deliver in the next two, I would expect folks will have had enough and transfer him out en masse.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (11.1m)
Ownership % - 28.9% (last week, 28.1%)
Season points - 57 (7 Gs, 1 A, 10 BPs)
Opponent - Crystal Palace (home)
Another example of how this FPL season so far has been like an episode of The Twilight Zone is the case of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. For the first seven rounds of the season, he was Mr. Dependable, providing an attacking return in every single week. Yet, during that entire time, his price never rose once. Cut to Weeks 8 and 9, and PEA has seen investment in him surge, so naturally he blanks for the first time, and follows it up with another blank. It is enough to make you rip clumps of hair out of your head. I warned in last week's column that a trip to Sheffield United was not an appealing one, after witnessing how good the Blades looked despite losing to Liverpool in their previous home game. They shut Aubameyang completely down as he managed just a single shot and it did not hit the target. He also failed to provide a single key pass in that one.
Despite the mini-drought, I still think Aubameyang is a solid captaincy choice for those looking for an option away from Manchester City. You know he is going to start and playing at home to Crystal Palace presents more optimism than playing away to Sheffield United. Arsenal only took one point in two head to head matchups against the Eagles last season, but that did not stop Aubameyang. He scored a goal in each fixture, so this is an opponent he likes to face. He is my differential choice of the week.
Who's been left off the shortlist and why...
Sadio Mané (11.8m)
Ownership % - 30.3% (last week, 21.4%)
Season points - 59 (5 Gs, 2 As, 8 BPs)
Opponent - Tottenham (home)
Mane is just a few transfers away from matching Mo Salah in terms of ownership percentage as the Egyptian international's no show last week was the last straw for many. Mane's newest owners did not get a return last weekend against Manchester United and, now that Salah is back fit again, yet another factor to be nervous about is whether Salah starts to outperform Mane just when one is surging in ownership while the other is being abandoned. Well, midweek would indicate that it is possible for both to reward their owners, as Mane and Salah both found the net in their Champions League tie, with each going the full 90 minutes. Rotation is not a worry like it is at City, so expect the duo to start this week in a marquee matchup with Spurs. As shocking as it may be to say, given how much they have underperformed so far this season, the reason I am keeping these Liverpool options in the second tier is Tottenham. Yes, they can't win at home against Newcastle, they got destroyed by Brighton and they barely eked out a draw with Watford, but Tottenham have played better when playing the top clubs. They managed to get a draw at the Etihad earlier this season and I think they are going to play it tight here against the Reds. Liverpool should score a goal here, but I get the feeling that goal is as likely to come from Georginio Wijnaldum or James Milner or someone else you wouldn't expect as it is to come from the big two goal suppliers.
Mo Salah (12.4m)
Ownership % - 30.6% (last week, 35.2%)
Season points - 55 (4 Gs, 3 As, 7 BPs)
Opponent - Tottenham (home)
Pretty much the same feeling applies to Salah as it does to Mane. What is more appealing for Salah owners is that he got back on the score sheet in midweek and, coming off a quiet stretch, could be poised for a nice run of form. They are both still armband candidates enough to feature them in this column but I think this a week where it is best to focus on City options exclusively...or take a chance on Aubameyang in a solid matchup.
Jamie Vardy (9.1m)
Ownership % - 14.1%
Season points - 54 (6 Gs, 1 A, 10 BPs)
Opponent - Southampton (road)
I am seeing a fair amount of backing for Vardy this weekend so I think he deserves a mention. Leicester have a nice run of fixtures ahead of them and they should see plenty of investment from fantasy managers right now. I currently have the maximum three Foxes in my squad at the moment and am feeling optimistic about the next several rounds. But, as far as captaincy goes, I am not a fan of Vardy when he plays on the road. He is another player that has a clear gap in performance and output in home/road splits. So far this season, of his seven attacking returns collected, only a single one of them came away from King Power Stadium. Another thing I do not like, and this is just a personal preference, is giving the armband to a player in a Friday night game, unless it is a truly lopsided matchup. The Foxes are playing far better than the Saints, but not enough for me to feel it vital to captain someone like Vardy. I cannot stomach a captaincy fail before Saturday even arrives.
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.