Welcome back for another week of FPL captaincy debate. Well, that was one eventful international break. An emotional roller-coaster, if you will. After some tough luck over the past couple of months, Week 12 went swimmingly for me, personally, and I was ready to lean back in my chair and absorb all the positive feelings that came with a successful round in which I got the transfer right, I got the captain right, and my overall rank number was cut in half. Nothing could possibly spoil my mood in the world of football, with two weeks to bask in the glow...and then my club sacked my manager. It has taken a couple of days to process the news of losing Mauricio Pochettino and then very quickly coming to grips that José Mourinho would be taking over the job. I say "coming to grips" because, despite being one the most famous managerial names out there in the past generation of global football, I was never a fan of his attitude. I cannot take away the achievements that the Portuguese skipper has collected over the years, and I have no problem saying that he has one of the brightest minds in the game. But that doesn't always translate to success if you lose the ability to have players buy into your approach. It was pretty clear that his time at his most recent gig with Manchester United was a disaster, and, much like players we analyze in the FPL game, you cannot ignore current form. Did Spurs decide to give up on Pochettino, who undeniably lifted the club to a higher level over the past half-decade, in order to bring a big name into the fold, when there is a chance that big name's best days are behind him? That's honestly what it looks like to me. But time will tell, and I would love to be proven wrong. For more on the firing of Pochettino, check out Neal Thurman's column from earlier in the week.
Right, back to the focus of this column. Tottenham are certainly the talk of the week in the buildup to Week 13, and fantasy managers and pundits are all in a tizzy trying to determine who benefits from the managerial switch and who needs to be in their fantasy squads. I suppose the skeptic in me is going to take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to Spurs, which means, when it comes to captaincy options, the likes of Harry Kane have not suddenly shot up the ranks. Manchester City, Liverpool, Leicester City and Chelsea still dominate the options for the armband. They have been consistently a cut above the rest of the league all season and their situations are stable. That said, if Kane comes out Saturday with a brace or better and Spurs look like an entirely different side against West Ham, you bet I will be on board with investment and Kane would certainly make the shortlist next week when Spurs host Bournemouth. For now though, it is business as usual in the captaincy debate, so let us go ahead and dive into the Week 13 edition of Captain Obvious...
Jamie Vardy (9.6m)
Ownership % - 36.4% (last week, 29.0%)
Season points - 92 (11 Gs, 3 As, 13 BPs)
Opponent - Brighton (away)
Isn't it nice when a player has the form that makes you confident in giving him the armband, and that player not only gives you a return to justify his appointment as captain, but his score was joint-highest in the league for the round? Such was the case for Vardy two weekends ago, adding to his league lead in goals with his eleventh, as well as an assist and swallowing up the maximum bonus points again. Vardy has been a BP hawk, especially of late. He has accrued two BPs or more in half of his games so far this season, and lately, that rate has actually been better, scoring two or three bonus in four of his last six. That is ghost pepper hot. He has a brace and a hat trick in that span of time, and he had blanked just once in the last two months, a forgivable quiet day in a road game against Liverpool.
Vardy faces a Brighton defense that is certainly capable of getting run over by these red-hot Foxes, but the Seagulls have had some decent defenses displays on their own ground, with two clean sheets in their last three at the AmEx Stadium. Mind, those result came against a Spurs side that was hitting rock bottom and recently a Norwich side that has only scored two goals in their last seven games. I think it is safe to say Leicester will score once for sure, likely twice, and a decent shout at three or more in this fixture. This is why Vardy is such a solid armband choice right now. When the Foxes score and get results, he is almost always in the mix, plays the full 90 minutes, is free of midweek European involvement and, as mentioned already, is a bonus point magnet. Last round, he was the top captaincy choice among managers in the Top 10k, I would imagine heading into this weekend, with his ownership percentage soaring over the break, that he will be the clear-cut most captained player among the 7 million + managers out there.
Raheem Sterling (12m)
Ownership % - 35.0% (last week, 37.9%)
Season points - 67 (7 Gs, 1 A, 7 BPs)
Opponent - Chelsea (home)
After getting beaten rather handily, 3-1 by Liverpool in the last round, and seeing the club drop to fourth in the table, this is as low a point City has reached in terms of confidence in backing one of their players for the armband. For once, and probably not for long, backing a City player for the armband can actually be looked at as a differential. I think there are a couple worth considering, starting with Sterling. Yes, Sterling's form is not ideal, but that's why he is a roll-of-the-dice play for the more than 1 out of every three managers in the FPL game that own him. He did start and go the full 90 for England in the last of their two games over the international break, but that was a Monday night game, plenty of time to recover as if it were a normal gameweek.
What jumps out at me, and yes Chelsea are under new management from Frank Lampard, so they are not the same club they were last year, but in this fixture last season, City destroyed the Blues to a tune of 6-0 and Sterling delivered, with a brace and an assist, one of his best performances from the previous campaign. I think there will be goals in this game and I think City will likely win or at least draw this one, determined to bounce back from the loss and drop in the table at the hands of the Reds in Week 12. There is legit double-digit return possibility from Sterling and my next nominee.
Sergio Agüero (12m)
Ownership % - 21.3% (last week, 23.9%)
Season points - 70 (9 Gs, 3 As, 6 BPs)
Opponent - Chelsea (home)
My case for Aguero is much like the case for Sterling, except that he would provide an even greater differential than his teammate this weekend as a captain option. Early polling sees Sterling still a Top 5 choice for the armband this weekend but Aguero is way, way down the list. He's got some confidence to build off of from the international break, scoring against Uruguay in Argentina's latest match. True, it was a friendly, but it was a highly competitive match that saw strong sides starting for both countries. What may be the most important takeaway from Aguero's international involvement is that there is no travel to and from South America. These friendlies among the South American teams took place in and around the Middle East, with the most recent match taking place in Israel, so travel should not be a factor for the striker. Yes, Gabriel Jesus' threat to be selected over Aguero is always in the back of people's minds, but between this being a home game for City and a marquee matchup, I am confident that a healthy Aguero will get the call.
As well as Sterling did in this fixture last season, Aguero was even better, scoring a hat trick against the Blues at the Etihad. Aguero has not had a hat trick yet this season, but all three he collected last campaign came at home and two of them were against big clubs, Chelsea and Arsenal. Yes, Chelsea are playing better than they did last season, but I see goals from both sides here, so there are armband options all over the shop, but I am giving the edge to City options on the shortlist, as I think they are the favorites to win, which means they are also likely to grab the bonus points, which should certainly come from attacking players. There is no denying an option like Vardy this week is a "safer choice" given form and fixture, but this matchup for Aguero is the kind where he tends to really show his class and Pep Guardiola will demand the best from his players following the Liverpool loss
Sadio Mané (12.1m)
Ownership % - 36.7% (last week, 33.4%)
Season points - 83 (7 Gs, 4 As, 11 BPs)
Opponent - Crystal Palace (away)
No shortlist would be complete without including a Liverpool option and, with Mo Salah a doubt with injury, it makes choosing one option in Mane rather easy. Mane has been pretty consistent for a stretch, providing returns in four of his last five games, and that included a return against Leicester, currently the best defensive side in the league, as well as returns against Tottenham and, most recently, Manchester City. So there really is no fixture that Mane can't handle. Honestly, playing away to Sheffield United might be the scariest opponent, but Liverpool already played that fixture and, wouldn't you know, Mane blanked.
Palace began the season as a tough defense when they are playing in their home of Selhurst Park, but recent home games has seen them come back down to Earth. That tends to happen when the likes of Leicester and Manchester City come to town, as both sides scored twice in wins over the Eagles. I would expect a similar result here, a 0-2 win for the Reds, and, with Salah questionable to start or even feature, odds are Mane will get an attacking return of some sort if the Reds score twice. Mane has had success against the Eagles in recent matchups, scoring a goal in both the home and away fixture last season.
Ownership % - 24.7%
Season points - 69 (8 Gs, 1 A, 12 BPs)
Opponent - Southampton (home)
Aubameyang stands out this week based almost entirely on matchup. Southampton are struggling this season, and now have the worst defensive record in the league. It is kind of hard, then, to overlook Aubameyang when he gets a home matchup against the Saints. I think that is enough alone to include him on the shortlist, and I feel a bit of an obligation to include him, with early polling showing him to be the most-backed armband candidate heading into the weekend behind only Jamie Vardy.
That said, his nomination in the shortlist comes with some trepidation. It cannot be ignored that PEA has had only one attacking return in his last five games, after starting the season with a return of some sort in each of the opening seven rounds. Sure, he has had some tough fixtures recently, with road games against Sheffield United and Leicester, but he still blanked in home games against Bournemouth and Crystal Palace during his recent dip in form. And, of course, it has to be mentioned that Arsenal as a whole are going through some turmoil. Honestly, I thought Unai Emery was the North London manager to get the chop over the international break, not Mauricio Pochettino. Anything other than a resounding win against the Saints this weekend has to be looked at as the final straw. I am not saying Aubameyang cannot come good in this game, but it is more dependent on the poor defensive showing by the Saints than it is the confidence in the Gunners attack. PEA has only one double-digit haul this season, and that was a brace against Watford, who, at the time, were the worst defense in the league, so perhaps, unlike Sergio Agüero or Sadio Mané, who seem to perform best against the top sides, maybe PEA is worth backing when he is playing the worst sides in the league.
Who's been left off the shortlist and why...
Tammy Abraham (8m)
Ownership % - 50.5% (last week, 48.8%)
Season points - 81 (10 Gs, 2 As, 16 BPs)
Opponent - Manchester City (away)
All praise deserved for Abraham who, after the last round, has seen his ownership percentage rise above 50% and his starting price has risen a full million to his current 8m tag. That's what happens when you nail down the striker role for a big club who are doing well in the league. Abraham is doing well himself, being amazingly consistent, having yet to go more than two matches in a row without an attacking return. He got the job done again last weekend, hitting double digit goals with a strike against Palace and adding to his joint-best in the league 16 bonus points.
To see Abraham score a goal against City this weekend would not surprise me, but I think that's about the most you can expect in this fixture, I still maintain City are favorites here, and that would mean a four point goal with no bonus points in all likelihood. That would not be a tragic return if you gave him the armband, but the reason he falls just off the shortlist is that all players mentioned before look to have higher ceilings.
Kevin De Bruyne (10.2m)
Ownership % - 39.9% (last week, 40.4%)
Season points - 76 (2 Gs, 10 As, 10 BPs)
Opponent - Chelsea (home)
Every major City option has seen a drop in ownership to some degree following their loss to the Reds, but why even .5% of owners would decide to give up on de Bruyne confounds me. Based on consistency and points per pound, I think he is a better player to own that Raheem Sterling if you were to own only one midfielder from the Citizens. That said, it cannot be ignored that KdB is hitting his roughest patch of form this season. After missing out Week 8 through injury, he has had only a single assist, no goals and no bonus points to speak of in the last four games. In my mind though, the Belgian's game is such where dips in form are an aberration waiting to balance itself out. I feel like he needs to stay off the shortlist, but still in the conversation until he returns to the "at least one assist every week" sort of production we come to expect from him. So yeah, he has the potential to get a haul this weekend, but I understand the lack of confidence as an armband candidate. But for heaven's sakes, don't transfer him out of your squad. You will be wanting him back soon enough, I promise you.
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.