Welcome back for another week of FPL captaincy debate. Last week, I officially omitted Pep Guardiola from my Christmas list. There will be no card sent to the Manchester City manager this holiday season as I suffered a worst-case scenario of captaining Aguero, Aguero not starting AND Aguero making an appearance off the bench, locking away my potential vice-captain points. It was enough to make my blood boil. But, as you will find in this week's column, apparently I am a glutton for punishment, because I am going back to the well again, and including Aguero among the armband candidates.
For my fellow Aguero owners out there, that may have been the biggest headache of Week 10, but from a neutral perspective, the story of last weekend has to be the exploits of Leicester City. Already off to a fine start to their season, they made a loud and clear statement against Southampton - they are legit Champions League contenders. And hey, they are only two points behind Manchester City and have a better goal differential than first place Liverpool, so, considering the Foxes won an unimaginable title already, is it far-fetched to imagine them clawing their way to the top with 28 weeks to play? You simply cannot count them out and, now second in the league in goals scored, you can certainly look their way for potential captain options going forward. But that is enough of a sneak peek at what is to come, let us go ahead and dive into the Week 11 edition of Captain Obvious...
Raheem Sterling (12.1m)
Ownership % - 39.1% (last week, 38.1%)
Season points - 64 (7 Gs, 1 A, 7 BPs)
Opponent - Southampton (home)
You can understand how Manchester City players typically dominate the shortlist, and I believe Sterling has been featured more than any other option in the league over the first ten weeks, dropping out just once when I successfully predicted a rest for him against Watford in Week 6. With a home game against a Southampton side that is coming off a match in which they gave up nine goals on their own ground, City options are on an even higher pedestal than usual. For Sterling owners, it may take you all week to come up with a reason not to captain him. Everything you want to be in good standing to captain him is in very, very good standing. So let's do a quick line on each factor...
Form: Sterling is coming off a nice 11 point haul in Week 10, his first double-digit round since the opening weekend, collecting the maximum three bonus points in the process.
Fixture: As stated already, the Saints come marching in, or, more like plodding in, on the heels of the worst defensive performance of any club this season. And this one is at home for the Citizens.
Pep's Rotation/Rest factor: Favors Sterling. He was given a full rest for the Carabao Cup midweek, kept out of the squad entirely.
History vs. opponent: Sterling had his highest score of the season last year in this fixture, where he bagged a brace and had a pair of assists. He should lead all players in captaincy percentage this weekend.
Kevin De Bruyne (10.2m)
Ownership % - 39.5% (last week, 36.5%)
Season points - 72 (2 Gs, 10 As, 10 BPs)
Opponent - Southampton (home)
With a 3% rise in ownership, de Bruyne has surpassed Raheem Sterling as the highest-owned midfielder in the game, now just under 40%. He trails only Jamie Vardy in total points scored through ten weeks, but considering KdB missed one match to injury while Vardy has played every minute, de Bruyne is tops in terms of points per games played. He, like Sterling, was left out of the squad entirely for the midweek Cup tie with the Saints, so is primed to take his usual spot in the XI for the weekend, which is great news not just for those that own him, but for those that own any City attacking player, as his involvement could be the difference between a 3-1 win, as was the scoreline in midweek, and a 6-1 win, which is the score City won by last season in this fixture.
Come to think of it, de Bruyne would be at least tied with Vardy for the highest scoring player in the league thus far, were it not for a phantom touch by David Silva on a cross that seemingly found the net untouched and was originally credited to the Belgian. KdB put up no argument though, and perhaps that is because he is on pace to deliver 38 assists on the season, having racked up ten now in the first ten weeks. For the 60% of managers out there who do not own Sterling, de Bruyne has to be considered the next "safest" option for the armband this week.
Sergio Agüero (12.1m)
Ownership % - 25.8% (last week, 28.8%)
Season points - 62 (8 Gs, 3 As, 6 BPs)
Opponent - Southampton (home)
I admittedly got it wrong last weekend, including Aguero in the shortlist as I felt confident Pep Guardiola was not going to bench the Argentine striker in consecutive league games. Well folks, perhaps I need a checkup appointment with my primary care physician because I am doubling down and not backing off by saying there is NO WAY a healthy Aguero sits for three straight, and while, yes, he was benched in what was a home game last week, he can be most-trusted in Etihad fixtures than road fixtures for the armband.
Yes, Aguero did start in the midweek cup match, but here are a couple of positive things to take away from that fact -- 1) he scored a brace in that game, so the form and confidence you want is there as he faces the same opponent again at the weekend and 2) perhaps more importantly, Gabriel Jesus ALSO started the cup tie. So, between the last two gameweeks and the midweek match, Jesus has been playing more minutes and he is the one due a "rest" more of the two. Of course, I cannot be 100% sure of anything, I cannot say Aguero starting is a "guarantee". But, should Pep bench him for a third consecutive league game, in my view, it would be a signal that there is some sort of falling out going on and perhaps the brass at City are looking toward the future and prepping Jesus to be the top choice at striker. I do not believe that is the case, hence my confidence Aguero will start here, but if he doesn't, then it seriously lowers Aguero's stock, not just for the short term but for the rest of the season. Kun did get a healthy return in this fixture last season, grabbing a goal and an assist at home against the Saints.
Who's been left off the shortlist and why...
Sadio Mané (11.8m)
Ownership % - 30.9% (last week, 30.3%)
Season points - 64 (5 Gs, 3 As, 8 BPs)
Opponent - Aston Villa (away)
This week has provided the shortest of shortlists so far this season, where I simply see the Manchester City assets in their matchup as a clear tier above everyone else. That is not to say success cannot be found in backing another player. Every week, you have the chance of picking a good horse who doesn't wear a Sky Blue shirt, and of course, Liverpool is a solid source of potential captains just about every week.
That said, they hit the road this week to play Aston Villa. I simply see less goals for the Reds in this one versus City against the Saints. I think a reasonable prediction is two goals for Liverpool here, perhaps three, whereas City's floor seems to be four goals, with a legit chance to score five or six. More goals equals more opportunity for your captain to get a piece of the action. Villa are not stalwarts at home defensively, but they have kept a pair of clean sheets at Villa Park and have yet to concede more than two goals in their home games. True, none of the previous opponents at home are at the level of Liverpool. It really comes down to how they hold up in the second half. The Villans have been consistently keeping the opponent out in the first half of games, then leaking their goals against them in the second frame.
Mane is up to his usual Jekyll and Hyde level of consistency. Over the last five gameweeks, he has had scores of (2, 3, 12, 2, 5), one jackpot, one acceptable return, and three duds. For what it's worth the 12 and 5 point scores both came at home, and all three misfires came on the road.
Mo Salah (12.4m)
Ownership % - 29.1% (last week, 30.6%)
Season points - 62 (5 Gs, 3 As, 7 BPs)
Opponent - Aston Villa (away)
Folks have been steadily shipping Salah out over the last few weeks, with his absence in Week 9 causing many managers to finally give up on the Egyptian international. However, after a bit of an injury scare near the end of the Tottenham game last week, Salah is declared fit heading into Week 11. Pretty much the same thoughts about Salah as captain are the same as his teammate, Mane. In fact, the two couldn't be much closer at this stage of the season, both sitting on five goals and three assists at the moment. One factor I didn't mention for Mane's case that I saved for Salah is that both of these players were left out of the squad entirely during their midweek cup win over Arsenal. Rest and rotation is not as concerning for the Reds as it is for Manchester City, but it is still comforting all the same to know that both of Liverpool's big weapons will have had a full week to get their legs back before taking on Aston Villa.
One thing very encouraging for Salah, perhaps giving him the advantage over his teammate as an armband option this weekend was his heavy involvement against Spurs last weekend. He took a season high seven shots against Spurs and hit the target five times, more than double his highest total so far this season, which was two, on several occasions. Were it not for the heroic exploits of Paulo Gazzaniga making the most saves of any keeper in any match this season, Salah could have had a breakout game. It is a good sign for the Reds going forward, but again, the matchup away to Aston Villa seems a clear level below the potential City options will have this weekend.
Jamie Vardy (9.3m)
Ownership % - 22.7% (last week, 14.1%)
Season points - 74 (9 Gs, 2 As, 13 BPs)
Opponent - Crystal Palace (away)
Vardy made his way into my column last week, though admittedly he was kept off the shortlist. I had mentioned last week that his goal-scoring rate was far better at home than on the road, which is true, but what I failed to realize was that Vardy had previously never scored against the Saints, appearing in eight of the nine matches played against Southampton and failing to score once. Had I known that stat, I may have left him out of consideration entirely, but I was more focused on his solid form heading into the Week 10 matchup and the concern for me, as silly as it feels now, was captaining a Friday night option, on top of Vardy's road-scoring record.
Well, everyone knows that the Vardy Party has returned in full swing after his monster haul last week. A result that is a catalyst for why City options are so heavily favored this weekend, because the Leicester striker did all of his damage against Southampton. Now the top scorer in all of FPL, it would be criminal to not consider him as an armband option and he will likely see his share of managers anointing him as their captain this week. I would certainly not consider it a foolish decision coming off of his incredible performance, but I cannot ignore the fact that Crystal Palace have been very good at home defensively. In fact, the points they have collected so far this season is due more to their home defensive form more than anything else. They gave up just a single goal over their first four games at Selhurst Park before finally being "solved" by Manchester City, who scored twice. Well, if it takes the likes of City to score as many as two goals at Selhurst, then one has to think Leicester are perhaps looking at a pair of goals, at most. The Eagles will certainly provide a better challenge than the Saints did last weekend, it would be difficult to do worse, but it has to be said that as well as Leicester are doing and it would not surprise to take three points from Palace in this match, it is unlikely to see an explosion of goals. That said, if the Foxes only score once, perhaps twice, odds are Vardy will be involved.
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.