Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate!
Right. Well, it is something to cherish only twice a season, so I am going to spend this introduction providing good news. I played my first half wildcard and I feel quite happy with the initial results. After a perfectly fine opening round, the next three gameweeks spiraled out of control. I took an eight point hit one week and a four point hit in two others. Most of the recklessness had to do with my initial transfer plans of selling Heung-Min Son ahead of GW2. The idea was to start with money in the bank and get a solid Manchester asset in for Son, because ownership on Manchester assets, both City and United, would surely be low considering the Week 1 blank. So I built a team I liked that could afford to leave money in the bank. Bruno Fernandes seemed the best choice at the time to come in and Son was the player in the price range and position to switch out. This was the idea before the season even began. The plan could not have gone worse.
As the story goes, Son went nuts in Week 2. At the same time, Manchester United as a whole looked absolutely terrible in a 1-3 loss to Palace. So the switch backfired immediately and immensely. I got Son back in for Week 3. He returns one point and hobbles off injured. José Mourinho made every indication that Son wasn’t going to be ready for the next weekend, so another transfer spent getting him out. On to Week 4 then, Son is out of my squad and...started, looked fit as a fiddle and put up 18 points. I pretty much lost my mind at that point. I did my best to put the grief aside and not mention it in this column, but that was about as cursed, jinxed, hexed, whatever you want to call it, I’ve felt in all my years of FPL.
Points I earned from Son (Weeks 1 and 3): 3 pts
Points I tossed away selling Son (Weeks 2 and 4): 42 pts
Points I spent either selling him or buying him back: 8 or 12 pts, depending on how one looks at it. Safe to say, I flushed 50 points down the drain.
Any way you slice it, it was a trainwreck. By the end of Week 4 and with an international break looming, I said to myself: “Steve, you deserve a break today...and several days more after that. Open that Wildcard. Enjoy the two-week downtime. It’s the only way you have a shot at erasing this misery.”
So, l did. And I am happy to report - the wildcard is looking good. An 88 point round, and I was not even trying to use the wildcard to hit big in the first week, looking more at the long term with this squad. And that even included a five point Jorginho return and a seven point Romain Saiss return left on the bench. Yes, the bench is looking strong too. With my overall rank plummeting after Week 4 to a number above 2 million, one round has me back to a six-digit number. My luck with Son early in this season will always sting. No matter how well I finish, I will only think of how much better my rank would have been had I not gone through that heartbreak. But, I feel right back in the game now, ready to whittle this rank number down over the coming months.
So I suppose my advice out of all of this would be this: Hey, it’s 2020. If you aren’t happy with how your season has started, activate that wildcard. Have fun with it. You deserve a break today. All that said, this season is still crazy and picking a captain every week is as unpredictable as ever. So, let’s hope for good Fortune as we take a look at the top options in this Week 6 edition of Captain Obvious...
Mo Salah (12.3m)
Rostered % - 47.1% (on verge of price rise)
Total points - 48 (6 Gs, 1 A, 4 BPs)
Opponent - Sheffield United (home)
Last week, I said the most appealing aspect of Salah as a captain is the trust factor and he came through with a goal. However, if you selected him over the likes of Son or Harry Kane as your armband choice, you might feel some remorse. The lack of bonus points stung a bit, as well. Still, he is an every-week, top tier captaincy candidate. There was a point in the derby where I was worried. Mane had scored early and Salah seemed to disappear for a while, but there was a moment early in the second half where he had a chance and missed it, and the slow motion replay gave Salah’s reaction, and it was a giant grin on his face. He was not frustrated, he was having fun. The moment I saw that, I said: “He’s gonna score.” Perhaps a silly coincidence, but eventually, he did!
I share that little insight about seeing the smile on Salah’s face because I think it can tell you more than any statistic can. But here is what is appealing about Liverpool's matchup - the lack of Dean Henderson. John Lundstram was the fantasy darling of the Blades last season but their success was mostly due to Henderson and I knew it was going to be tough for Sheffield United this season without him. Aaron Ramsdale is a major downgrade. No offense, Aaron. But here we are, five games in, and the Blades have yet to register a clean sheet. The loss of Jack O’Connell certainly doesn’t help things either. Last season, the Reds beat the Blades 0-1 and 2-0, with Salah scoring one of the two home goals. I think the Blades cough up two at least and if I can envision Liverpool scoring a minimum of two goals, then I can realistically expect Salah to get a piece of the action.
Harry Kane (10.8m)
Rostered % - 35.6% (rising quickly)
Total points - 60 (5 Gs, 7 As, 9 BPs)
Opponent - Burnley (home)
This is remarkable. My club is the goal-grabbing toast of the town at the moment, as Kane and Son once again put up big points against West Ham. If only Manuel Lanzini didn’t slap me in the face at the end of that game, my weekend would have been perfect. Fair play though, Mr. Lanzini. That goal was filthy. Right, what do you need to know about Harry Kane? He is in top form. And I don’t mean “in-season”, he is in top career form at the moment. I mean, think about it. Nevermind the goals. He has SEVEN assists in the last four games. That is the most he has ever registered in a single season. He has done it in under a month. Sure, defensively, Tottenham need to address some issues. Perhaps they need to take the foot of the gas a bit and tighten up once they establish a cushion. But as far as the attack goes, this is as healthy as it gets for Spurs, and we haven’t even seen what Gareth Bale can contribute yet. Going into that match, Spurs had created the most big chances of any side in the league whilst West Ham conceded the fewest. Something had to come out on top and it was Tottenham showing that their offense is legit.
Will a trip to Burnley cause any problems? Current information would suggest “unlikely”. Yes, the Clarets are coming off a clean sheet, the first of the season, but it was against West Brom. If you were to ask me any time over the past decade what the likeliest scoreline of a Burnley v West Brom matchup would be, I would say, without hesitation, “0-0”. Having James Tarkowski back helps surely, but what doesn’t help is home field advantage. Playing in front of empty stadiums for home games are particularly tough on clubs like the Clarets. That atmosphere has helped them earn many a result over the years at Turf Moor. Meanwhile, Spurs could not be much better on the road. Two games so far outside of north London - eleven goals. And Harry Kane played a part in eight of those eleven goals. Kane was injured for this fixture last season but, for what it’s worth, he scored at Turf Moor two seasons ago and had a hat trick the year before that.
Jack Grealish (7.2m)
Rostered % - 23.6% (rising fast)
Total points - 38 (3 Gs, 3 As, 3 BPs)
Opponent - Leeds (home)
Given the form and the opponents, it is difficult for me to look beyond Liverpool or Tottenham for a captain this week, but if I am looking for an outsider play, then Grealish is ticking all the boxes for me. Wow, is this young man talented. After years of poking fun at a hairstyle that I can only compare to early 1990’s Bud Bundy, it is time to anoint Grealish as the best playmaker England has right now. He is a statistical beast at the moment, putting up numbers that have him near the top in several categories and remember, Villa have played only four games, not five. Yes, the glut of FPL points came from that ridiculous 7-2 thrashing of Liverpool in Week 4, but the underlying stats show that he is setting up goals on a regular basis. With Ollie Watkins and Ross Barkley in the mix now, Grealish has the pieces he needs for the chances he creates to become goals. It also allows Grealish himself more freedom to find the net himself.
If you ever wanted to put the spotlight on your captain, it does not get much better than a Friday night kickoff. Villa will square off with Leeds in what promises to be a compelling matchup. Admittedly, things could go completely wrong for Villa here. Leeds were lost defensively at the start of the season, giving up seven goals in their first two games, but have tightened up since, conceding just two goals over their last three games and one of those opponents included Manchester City. Villa have, of course, been quite sound defensively themselves. So I will concede, the trust factor is not there as much as it is for the other top candidates. But, every week deserves one against-the-grain candidate and, for me, Grealish has earned it.
Heung-Min Son (9.4m)
Rostered % - 50.0% (rising fast)
Total points - 58 (7 Gs, 2 As, 7 BPs)
Opponent - Burnley (away)
Wowzers, has Son’s roster percentage shot up in the past seven days. Writing last week’s column, he was at 30%. Now, having just referenced the current numbers, he is in half of all teams. When you consider the inevitable amount of teams that are abandoned after the first week or two, it could be upwards of a million teams or more, then there are not too many folks going without Son these days. I have to say, it is such a joy to watch a player like this when everything is clicking. It’s like as soon as he gets the ball on the left edge of the box and there’s only one man marking him, he’s bound to shrug that defender off, take the right touch to create the space and hit the target perfectly. It is like watching a video game right now. If you believe in “the zone”, Son is firmly entrenched in it. Seven goals already, he is halfway to his PL career best total for a season.
So, is there anything not to like about Son as an armband option then? At this point, I would say there is very little to concern managers. But here are two things that I think are eventually going to make Son’s numbers come down, more so than Kane’s. For one, Kane being on pens is eventually going to make itself felt. There will be games that hinge on a penalty and unless Son earns an assist for drawing the foul, he is out of those points. I am also concerned, though it is a nice problem to have in reality, about whether Gareth Bale eventually begins to eat into Son's production. Eventually, Matt Doherty and Bale are going to be wrecking havoc down the right flank. Kane is in a position, I feel, to maintain his involvement once Bale is up to speed. I cannot say the same for Son. That said, entering this weekend, Son is still shining bright and will demand armband investment, especially from managers who do not have Kane as an alternative.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (7.7m)
Rostered % - 54.7% (rising slightly)
Total points - 58 (7 Gs, 5 BPs)
Opponent - Southampton (away)
I thought about putting DCL in the “other options” area of this column, but how can I dismiss the only player to have scored a goal in each of the first five weeks? As far as I am concerned, Calvert-Lewin has earned his spot in the conversation and is entitled to it at least until he blanks once. I hope for his sake I have not jinxed him. He was not as involved in the Merseyside Derby as we have seen him in the first four games of the season, but with a fixture like that, it is understandable. What matters is, the limited opportunity he was given, he made the most of it, and that towering header he scored against the Reds adds another feather in his cap of how he can find the net.
The issue here is Southampton. A club who defensively are pretty predictable, in that they look sound against the smaller clubs (one goal conceded against Crystal Palace, West Brom and Burnley combined) but quite vulnerable against the bigger sides (eight goals conceded to Spurs and Chelsea combined). The question is, what are Everton? Or, what is Everton? (I should figure out which phrasing is correct there) My point being though, Everton is kind of a hybrid. They are either the smallest of the big clubs or the biggest of the smallest. But, the way the attack looks with James Rodriguez involved, they are looking bigger than ever. The absence of Richarlison does not help the Toffees but I do not think it weakens DCL’s chances of finding the net for a sixth straight game. So if you are a manager that believes in loyalty and you've been riding the DCL train for weeks, who am I to tell you to get off it now?
Other options - Speaking of “big clubs” I am looking at Manchester United up against Chelsea and Arsenal up against Leicester and, from a fantasy manager’s perspective, I am kind of glad these fixtures are on tap, because they can allow me to feel comfortable to avoid looking for a captain among these sides. Sure, any of a number of star players from these clubs could have a big day, but these fixtures are undeniably more difficult than what Liverpool or Tottenham have in store. These are the kind of games to watch and react to, not predict. Whoever does thrive in these two games will probably garner much attention in next week’s column.
Where is the Manchester City representation, Steve? Where is it? I know, I know. I am playing with fire here, omitting any and all options from what has been for the better part of a decade, the most prolific scoring side in the league. Well, they look pretty gosh darn pedestrian to me right now, so I am skipping them for yet another week. One goal in each of the last two games, including home to Leeds? I know injuries have played a part but we can surely all agree that City are deep with attacking talent. Their “B” team should still be scoring at a better rate than they have so far this season. Again, when you can eliminate a team from your thinking, it makes choosing a captain all the more easier. Until I start seeing City back to their normal selves, it seems best to ignore them.
Ahh, almost forgot. Sadio Mané. It's like I keep forgetting some folks have him instead of Salah. If that happens to be you and you like Liverpool's outlook more than Tottenham's, then no one can fault you for backing Mane.
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.