Remember Paul the Octopus? The aquatic clairvoyant who was picking World Cup winners with stunning accuracy back in 2010? Unfortunately, the tentacled talisman of telepathy met his demise later that same year, otherwise I would be hitting him up on Twitter right now for some armband advice.
That's right. I am giving up on ever doing the right thing with my FPL captaincy choice and would rather hand the responsibility over to some form of marine life. There's honestly much to be happy about with my three main fantasy teams after Week 22: I got the overall green arrow in FPL, I put a solid victory in the industry expert's league with Fantrax, thanks to a quick move to acquire Benik Afobe, and my Playtogga "Twitter" league team is virtually unstoppable, now having won fourteen consecutive head-to-head matches.
Yes, plenty of positive results to take away from Week 22, but I still have that pesky thorn in my side. I simply cannot get the captaincy right in FPL. When the deadline passed and Week 22 went live last Saturday, I immediately stuck the armband on Sergio Aguero. "He's bound to come good. He's too expensive to not look at as an every-week option", I thought. Then, by Friday, I changed my tune. I decided to move it over to Harry Kane. The more I thought about how terrible Sunderland's defense was, the more it seemed inevitable that Kane would produce without fail.
I simply couldn't leave well enough alone. I was the victim of too much time on my hands Saturday morning and began doing deeper analysis. I thought to myself, City have scored just twice in their last three, Spurs only three, none of which came from Kane and Aguero had just one strike in his previous five appearances. Meanwhile, there was this fellow named Dimitri Payet. He was coming off a goal and an assist, West Ham had managed SEVEN goals in their last three, and they were set to face a Newcastle side that had just conceded three goals at home to Manchester United, a club that were averaging about three goals a MONTH it seems. I also looked deeper at Payet's points-per-game stats, trying to see how consistent he was considering he had missed so much playing time. Basically, if you take his PPG average, extrapolate it over the matches he missed, and added those extra points to his season total, he outscores Mesut Ozil.
Naturally, the move to Payet blew up in my face, and to add insult to insult, Aguero and Kane turned out to be fine armband choices. What is even more enraging, the last time I made Payet an FPL captain, it was the week he got hurt, earning me a whopping 1 point x 2. This is how it has played out for me this season. As I mentioned on Twitter, this has gone beyond bad transfers or poor decision-making, this is downright pure evil. Everything else is kosher. When I look at my Week 23 side, I see virtually no flaws - Butland; Baines, Bellerin, Dawson; Payet, Mahrez, de Bruyne, Ozil; Ighalo, Kane, Aguero (C). With a bench of Delle Alli, Danny Simpson and Joel Ward. Potential everywhere. But, in a given week where you have maybe three viable captaincy options, I just keep picking the worst of the lot. If "Deal or no Deal" had 30 briefcases, 29 of which contained a million dollars, I would inevitably pick the one that has a penny in it.
(Please tell me that show isn't still on television)
So, fellow managers and readers of this column - do not panic. The rankings I provide have been pretty darn good overall. You can trust in them. But, if you are looking for a captaincy option, I urge you to avoid doing whatever I am doing. Just call me Captain Cooler. In a way, I am falling on the grenade for you.
Right, let's get to this week's fixtures now, shall we...
Week 23 Fixtures
Norwich City v Liverpool
Crystal Palace v Tottenham
Leicester City v Stoke City
Manchester United v Southampton
Sunderland v AFC Bournemouth
Watford v Newcastle United
West Bromwich Albion v Aston Villa
West Ham United v Manchester City
Everton v Swansea City
Arsenal v Chelsea
I am very curious to see how West Ham, who took a nosedive in their loss to Newcastle last weekend, fare at home to Manchester City. The Hammers had been looking very strong before that stumble. How they do here will be a test of their true capability in fighting for a top four finish. It will also be interesting if City can keep their powerful attacking display against Palace going, because they had only scored once in their previous three outings. Both Man United and Southampton seem to be on an upswing, so it should be an intriguing match at Old Trafford, where we are likely to see the debut of Charlie Austin, though perhaps only as a substitute. Liverpool must go to Carrow Road and grab three points convincingly. Newcastle need to carry their home form with them on the road. All of Georginio Wijnaldum's goals have been at home thus far. Arsenal and Chelsea should provide plenty of drama, but the fixture doesn't carry the same weight as it had in past seasons with the Blues poor form. Any match has the potential to be a cracker, but West Brom v Aston Villa might be one of the least appealing fixtures possible to the neutral fan. Palace will attempt to avoid being held goalless for the sixth match on the trot.
What follows are my top picks at each position. It doesn't matter what format you play, these rankings will help you figure out how players at each position compare with one another, and can help you on transfer decisions in the FPL.com game, who to start or bench in draft leagues, and who is worth putting up the cash for in salary-based leagues. You will also see how I have begun to highlight prospects that are especially valuable in formats like Playtogga, Fantrax and DFS, so that they are given the credit they deserve. At the end of the day though, nothing gets the points flowing more than goals, assists and clean sheets. So without further ado, let's get cracking...
Jack Butland - Clean sheets are not easy to come by when I analyze this week's fixtures. I give the best chance to West Brom, but this may be the week Ben Foster reclaims the #1 from Boaz Myhill. So I rely on the amazing Butland coming off a cleanie against the Gunners.
Hugo Lloris - It's fair to say that Spurs are a quality defensive side, but even more appealing is that opponents Palace have gone five straight league games without a goal. They sorely miss Yannick Bolasie.
Kasper Schmeichel - Stoke's defense is in fine form, but the attack has been pretty hit or miss. Not enough credit has been given to Leicester's improved defense which has helped then gain points in the table in recent weeks. Key Potters Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic are nursing injuries as well.
David de Gea - DdG put in another quality performance in the Red Devils win at Anfield. I trust him even more when at Old Trafford, even against a Saints side that is starting to get their attack going again.
Artur Boruc - No keeper has accrued more fantasy points in the last five games than Boruc. I am willing to trust him enough, even on the road against a Sunderland attack that scored seven times between Weeks 20-21.
Petr Cech - Cech was fantastic against the Potters last week and has kept three cleanies in four. Though Chelsea are underperforming with regularity, they still have weapons, so Cech ranks lower than he otherwise would against most opponents.
Heurelho Gomes - Opponents Newcastle have looked good the last two weeks, but that was on their own ground. In their last two road trips, they have gone goalless. Watford tend to perform better defensively at home.
Leighton Baines - Maybe he's not the FPL god of past seasons, but Baines notched two assists last week and, with a home game against the Swans, has definite potential to earn attacking and defending points.
Patrick van Aanholt - Three goals in his last three games, and an assist as well. That is a good return for a striker, let alone a defender. Maybe a clean sheet as well is too much to ask, but he looks primed to get a haul one way or another against the Cherries.
Toby Alderweireld - The highest scoring defender in the FPL game is going up against an Eagles attack that has failed to score for five straight matches. Hard to not have faith in him this week.
Craig Dawson - The Baggies defense struggled in their previous games, but those were on the road. At The Hawthorns, I have much more belief, especially when the opponent is last place Villa.
Christian Fuchs - A quiet two-pointer last week, but hauls of 12, 6 and 8 in the previous three contests. The Leicester defense is hot right now, and he is doing the most damage from their back line.
Alberto Moreno - Liverpool desperately need a positive result and I think they get one at Carrow Road. Since the attack is not in great form, I am banking on their clean sheet chances, though Moreno will offer attacking potential as well.
Hector Bellerin - I fully expect Arsenal to dispatch Chelsea at the Emirates. Whether they keep it clean, rack up the goals or both, I want Bellerin as my Gunner representation.
Ryan Bertrand - It may prove difficult for Southampton to get a positive result at Old Trafford, but as long as Bertrand is playing out of position in their midfield, I cannot ignore him as a prospect.
Glen Johnson - The Potters just blanked Arsenal last week at home. Perhaps they cannot repeat the feat away to the Foxes, but GJ offers enough potential from both ends to make him a viable option.
Eric Dier - An assist last week, playing in central midfield and going up against a Palace side that cannot find goals is enough reason for me to back Dier.
Chris Smailing - The only United defender you can trust to start week in, week out, Smalling pretty much is a lock to make the rankings when the Red Devils play at home.
Nathan Ake - Recent performance and lack of pitch time gives little to hype Ake, but I think Watford will use a home date with the Magpies to bounce back from their recent struggles and Ake offers that extra attacking potential.
Kevin de Bruyne - The City attack is back and though there are plenty of players who are not nailed on, KdB had a rest recently followed by a solid performance. Up against a West Ham defense that just got mugged by Newcastle.
Mesut Ozil - Ozil has just been declared fit for the Chelsea match. Though he has had a few quiet games recently, that rest may be what the doctor ordered in getting him back on the score sheet.
Christian Eriksen - Will Spurs embarrass Wayne Hennessey the way City did last weekend? Perhaps not, but the Dane is in his best form of the season and looks good to get some kind of return at Selhurst Park.
David Silva - It is great to see the diminutive Spaniard back in form. After being left out of the XI the previous week, he notched a goal and assist in the win over Palace. Could be in line for similar production here.
Ross Barkley - Yes, opponents Swansea are coming off a solid clean sheet, but I don't see them repeating it at Goodison Park. It has been quiet for Barkley lately but looking at his ups and downs this season, he seems due to go back up right about now.
Dimitri Payet - Much to my chagrin, Payet was kept quiet last week. I am not about to write him off though, even against Manchester City. He has too many ways to score, assist or both.
Roberto Firmino - I am not fully trusting the Reds attack right now, but Firmino looks locked in as Klopp's line leader and it seems like a goal needs to come from somewhere in a clash with Norwich.
Andre Ayew - Like Firmino, Ayew is playing up top and is always a threat when getting service. Everton's defense is improving with the return of Phil Jagielka but I still think they are prone to a talent like Ayew.
Alexis Sanchez - I wouldn't go out and invest in his lofty price tag this week because you may only be getting an hour at most from him on his injury return, but that is still enough time to do damage, and when he is fit, he cannot be left out of the ranks.
Adam Johnson - AJ is hitting peak form right now, contributing four assists over Sunderland's past three matches.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - I don't have a ton of faith that both Ayew and Siggy can score in Swansea's match, but if Ayew doesn't, then Gylfi will.
Riyad Mahrez - I ranked Mahrez low on the rankings last week and will do so again for the same reason. His form is off, but he has shown too much quality this season to dismiss him entirely.
Sadio Mane - Call it a hunch, but it makes sense to me that Mane will have something to prove playing the club that are courting him the hardest.
Juan Mata - Another pure hunch, but I am willing to bet Mata gets re-inserted into van Gaal's XI after being used as a sub the previous two gameweeks. Otherwise, there will be a rift between player and manager. Mata will have something to prove.
Sergio Aguero - Ranked him #1 last week, even though the form guide suggested he was not performing like a #1 option. All he did was bag a brace and add an assist. He will be top dog among strikers until further notice.
Wayne Rooney - Aguero and Rooney ranked in the top two? It's like we've gone into a time machine! Four goals in his past three and feeling the rush of another PL record broken, you have to give the man credit when he is in this kind of form.
Harry Kane - He got a goal, he got an assist and he is going against a Palace side reeling from a 4-0 loss. He should produce something here.
Odion Ighalo - Yes he has endured a recent dry spell, but I have enough faith to rank him somewhat high for one more week. If he cannot find paydirt at home to Newcastle, then it is officially time to panic.
Romelu Lukaku - Everton scored three times last weekend and Lukaku had nothing to do with it? It seems impossible. Consider it an abberation and expect the Belgian to get back to his scoring ways at home to the Swans.
Benik Afobe - I ranked him for the first time last week and he grabbed his first top flight goal. He is dealing with injury from that match but all signs point to him being ready for Sunderland, who are capable of granting him his first brace.
Olivier Giroud - Blanked last week, but so did the rest of the Gunners. He will get his fair share of chances against Chelsea and I think he puts one past Courtois.
Troy Deeney - I have to believe the Ighalo/Deeney link up returns in a home date with Newcastle. I have to.
Salomon Rondon - The fixture is promising enough, home to Villa, though to be fair the Villa defense has been improving. What puts me over is how Rondon scored in the Baggies FA Cup replay over the weekend. He can be a real handful.
Bojan - It would be so much nicer if Bojan could play more than his customary 65 minutes or so, but he is still dangerous and worthy of consideration as a budget 3rd forward option.
Jermaine Defoe - Kept quiet when facing his former club last week, but five goals in two games before that and a home game against Bournemouth is enough to keep me interested.
Steven Naismith - Freshly acquired by Norwich City, I have a hunch the versatile Naismith will slot straight into the Canary XI. He has shown a pretty solid goal rate when he was given the chance at Everton and I feel he's got that extra spark in him to come up big for his new club.
So there you have it. The best of the best to consider for Week 23. Check in throughout Friday here at Rotoworld for the latest injury information and other news pertinent to your decision-making, such as the latest transfer deals and rumors.
Good luck fellow managers, may your arrows be green.