Welcome back for another week of FPL captaincy debate. What happened in the last round that deserves mention? I am not sure. We are coming off of an international break and Week 7 seems so long ago. Ahh, I remember now. My Spurs got completely embarrassed. Manchester City put up a goose egg at home and, unless you owned Sadio Mané, it was a pretty rotten, low-scoring week all around. I was shaking my head most of that weekend and could only crack off 43 points for the round and yet I received a green arrow in my overall rank. That's when you know you cannot be satisfied, feeling glum after a green arrow.
This week, I am really excited about the armband choices, because we have a more diverse shortlist than we usually have had to date this season, with some big names falling off and some mid-price ranged options emerging as stars this season with great fixtures to potentially add to their totals, so let's take a look at what we have in this Week 9 edition of Captain Obvious...
Raheem Sterling (12.1m)
Ownership % - 38.2 % (last week, 37.8%)
Season points - 48 (6 Gs, 4 BPs)
Opponent - Crystal Palace (away)
We kick things off with one of the regular featured players on the shortlist in Sterling, but, if you look at what he has produced over the last several weeks, one can almost make a case to keep him off the shortlist. I nearly did, but he is coming off an inspirational performance in midweek, scoring a brace for England in a Euro qualifier over Bulgaria. He also was subbed off early enough in that game to suggest he will be raring to go for City this weekend, and not a casualty of "Pep Roulette". That said, it cannot be ignored the dropoff in production in recent league play. He has blanked in four of his last five PL matches, scoring just once against Everton, and has no bonus points in that time. He is not the automatic selection he once was, especially given the matchups some of the other armband candidates enjoy this weekend.
Another tricky trap for Sterling to overcome is Crystal Palace's defensive form at Selhurst Park. In four home games thus far, the Eagles have three clean sheets and conceded only a single goal. Granted, the opposition in those games have attacks that cannot hold a candle to City's but it does make one pause somewhat. With that record and the Citizens' most recent performance, where they failed to score against Wolves, it may be a game where only one or two goal can be expected, rather than three or more. It is uncertain as of this writing and may still be uncertain before the FPL deadline this week whether Kevin De Bruyne will be back in the mix. Naturally, it is a strike against City attacking options if he is not in the XI.
Tammy Abraham (7.7m)
Ownership % - 42.6%
Season points - 54 (8 Gs, 11 BPs)
Opponent - Newcastle United (home)
Abraham is ticking all the boxes heading into Week 9 and has transformed from a fringe roll-of-the-dice armband option to a legit captaincy choice. Looking at the early online polling around social media, he is the most trusted option this weekend. Casual managers may still push the overall armband stats toward the likes of Sterling or Sadio Mane, but Abraham should be at or near the top for those currently sitting in the top 10k of the rankings. The form is there. He has had three shots on target in four of the last five rounds and has eight goals to his name since becoming the main striker in Weeks 3-8. His ownership has skyrocketed, now well over the 40% mark, so the idea of captaining him is becoming less of a radical move and, this week, more of a prudent one.
The main reason for that being the case is the attractive fixture. They host Newcastle United, who, outside of a shocking clean sheet away to Spurs, have been positively dreadful defensively on the road. This includes three goals conceded away to Norwich and Liverpool and, most recently, a five-goal thrashing at the hands of Leicester City. Liverpool and Manchester City are still the top two sides in terms of goals scored, but Chelsea is right behind the Reds, scoring the third most. Odds are extremely high they score a couple of goals here and odds are quite high Abraham will get a piece of it this weekend.
Callum Wilson (7.9m)
Ownership % - 13.2%
Season points - 48 (5 Gs, 3 As, 8 BPs)
Opponent - Norwich City (home)
Joining Abraham as a mid-priced striker on the shortlist this weekend is Bournemouth's Wilson, who, somewhat ironically, is coming off his first blank of the season in a 1-0 away loss to Arsenal. That marked the first time the Cherries were held goalless, so, while Wilson's streak of a return in every game has snapped, his streak of an attacking return when Bournemouth score at least once remains intact. Wilson has also been enjoying the home cooking, putting up impressive underlying stats in his last two at Dean Court. He has taken eight shots in those two games, with six shots hitting the target.
What really propels Wilson into the captaincy stratosphere this weekend though is the best of possible fixtures, playing at home to a horrendous Norwich City defense. The Canaries have just one positive result in their last six games, have conceded more goals than any other club, and haven't picked up a single point on their travels. They haven't even scored themselves on the road since Teemu Pukki's goal at Anfield in the opening weekend. Still at a relatively low 13.2% ownership, Wilson looks to be the differential choice of the week.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (11.1m)
Ownership % - 28.1% (last week, 24.8%)
Season points - 55 (7 Gs, 1 A, 10 BPs)
Opponent - Sheffield United (away)
Well, it finally happened. For the first time all season, Aubameyang has finally had his first price change, going up .1m over the international break. What is peculiar about the timing, much like Callum Wilson, the investment has risen coming off of the Gabonese international's first blank of the season. I guess this is what happens when Wilson and Aubameyang play against one another. It causes a temporary black hole in the spacetime continuum. He did manage four shots against the Cherries, hitting the target once, which is a pretty standard statline for Aubameyang week-to-week. He is normally successful when hitting the target but it is a bit concerning in my view that so much rests on Aubameyang's shoulders in terms of goal involvement but he has not had more than two shots on target in any league game so far this season. It's tough to get more than one return in a game with those numbers. You want high ceiling potential with your captain and it appears PEA's ceiling is relatively low.
Folks may be thinking this is the week Auba sees a rise in shots on target, facing a promoted side in Sheffield United, but not so fast there, Speedy Gonzales. Arsenal already have had the benefit of playing leaky sides such as Newcastle, Watford and Bournemouth as well as a home game against a promoted side in Aston Villa, so there's not much reason to expect more against the Blades. On the contrary, Sheffield United are proving to be a tough nut to crack at home, recently conceding just a single goal to Liverpool in a game they were unlucky to get a result from. In four home games for the Blades, they are averaging precisely one goal conceded per match. The Gunners may only score once and the odds would be with PEA to be the scorer of that goal, but there is reason to temper expectations beyond anything more than a single 4-point attacking return.
Sadio Mané (11.6m)
Ownership % - 21.4% (last week, 21.4%)
Season points - 57 (5 Gs, 2 As, 8 BPs)
Opponent - Manchester United (away)
Now if you want a high-ceiling play, look no further than Sadio Mané, who is averaging an 8 point return over the last five rounds, the best points per game average over the last five in the entire FPL game. His last four games tells the story of the up-and-down Senegalese international. Twice he has blanked and the other two times, he had returns of 15 and 13 points. Both of those double-digit hauls came at home but Mane has proven already this season he can do the same on the road, with a 13 point round away to Southampton earlier in the campaign. He is getting plenty of looks, firing off three shots or more in three of his last four games.
The days of seeing a trip to Old Trafford as an automatic excuse to forget about a player as an armband candidate are over. However, despite floundering in twelfth position in the table at the moment, United are keeping the score down, conceding just eight goals in their first eight games, while only scoring nine themselves. They are much like Sheffield United in that regard, who have both scored and conceded just seven goals. I would imagine Mane will see his share of armband investment coming off a big round and United struggling in the league, but for a boom or bust style player, this matchup is leaning more bust on paper.
Who's been left off the shortlist and why...
Sergio Agüero (12.2m)
Ownership % - 29.6% (last week, 29.8%)
Season points - 61 (8 Gs, 3 As, 6 BPs)
Opponent - Crystal Palace (away)
If I hesitated for a moment to keep Raheem Sterling off the shortlist this week, then I have to follow through and keep the FPL legend Aguero just outside the elite for this round. He is still an armband candidate for those who do not mind the risk, because when Aguero starts, he most often delivers. However, last round, he did not deliver, along with the rest of City's attacking options and now heads to Crystal Palace, who, as mentioned before, have done well defensively at home and in general, conceding just eight goals in their first eight games. Adding to Aguero's risk is reports over the international break that he was kept out of training for a bit, though he was never injury-flagged in the FPL game to cause a commotion, and he was also involved in a minor car crash this week, though reports are that he did not suffer any injuries. These may be red herrings though, as Aguero has trained this week, has had plenty of rest over the break, and should be poised to start against the Eagles.
A major concern for Aguero lately has been his shot accuracy. In his last three games, he has taken eleven shots, healthy enough, but only hit the target once. Just once. He also did nothing against the Eagles, in terms of goals or assists, last season in the two fixtures against them, though he only played 40 minutes in one of those games.
Mo Salah (12.5m)
Ownership % - 35.2% (last week, 41.1%)
Season points - 55 (4 Gs, 3 As, 7 BPs)
Opponent - Manchester United (away)
Wow, would you look at the drop in ownership since heading into the previous deadline for Salah. Folks are giving up on the Egyptian international, and, in many cases, making the sideways move of replacing him with Sadio Mané and pocketing the leftover cash. That loss of confidence among managers should see his captaincy numbers drop considerably this week and, along with carrying a knock into the weekend and having blanked in his last two games, leads me to believe that, in spite of Salah's potential to explode at any moment, this would be a good week to look elsewhere for an armband choice for those that still own him.
Harry Kane (10.9m)
Ownership % - 18.9%
Season points - 46 (5 Gs, 1 A, 7 BPs)
Opponent - Watford (home)
I really want to put Kane in the shortlist. I really do. He has two very legitimate reasons to hand him the armband. 1) He is playing home to last-place Watford. Typically, one would pounce on a fixture like this for captaincy purposes. 2) He had a very positive showing for England over the international break, scoring in both of their qualifier games and setting up his teammates for goals on multiple occasions. He really could explode this weekend and make myself and several thousand managers feel silly for ignoring him. But, the fact remains, this is Tottenham and not England. After getting downright embarrassed in a 3-0 loss to Brighton in the previous round, Spurs have hit or are very near rock bottom, for whatever reason. Until they get their act together, the confidence is rightfully not there. Again though, this fixture along with the international break perhaps giving the team a chance to blow off some steam and go back to the drawing board could see Spurs bounce back big against the Hornets. I think it will happen, but when it comes to anointing a captain, I want to ride a wave that exists rather than predicting when one will form.
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.