Welcome back for another week of FPL captaincy debate. Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it. At this point, everyone should have had their dinner, taken their place on the couch, loosened the belt a notch or two and fallen into a tryptophan-induced nap. Now that you have woken up, you have time to ponder who to give the armband to for Week 14. Or, you are already raiding the fridge for a cold turkey sandwich and another slice of pumpkin pie. I cannot blame you for either decision, but you still have Friday to read this over and prepare yourself for the best stretch of the FPL season, the festive period. Fixtures will be coming fast and furious starting this weekend and stretching into the new year, 2020. The 21st century is already 1/5th over? Madness.
Right, I am a little bummed that Thanksgiving dinner is not easy to come by in my part of the world, but I still feel a tryptophan buzz from having nailed the right captain choice for the second week in a row, each time being Jamie Vardy. When a player is in that kind of form and helping you move up the rankings swiftly, you almost have to stick with him for the sake of loyalty, if nothing else. But, I am putting the cart before the fox, so to speak. Intros are going to have to be kept short and potato-pie-sweet with three rounds to discuss by next weekend, so let us go ahead and dive into the Week 14 edition of Captain Obvious...
Jamie Vardy (9.7m)
Ownership % - 42% (last week, 36.4%)
Season points - 104 (12 Gs, 4 As, 19 BPs)
Opponent - Everton (home)
It is getting to the point where I should just leave it at - "Vardy. What else do you need to know?" The Leicester striker is a hot as can be, becoming the first player to eclipse 100 FPL points on the season with another goal/assist combo and max bonus against Brighton last weekend. He has nine goals and three assists in his last seven games, and is averaging two bonus points a week in that stretch. Simply on fire. This is not to say that he is guaranteed to return again this weekend, no one is. But there is very little to argue against captaining him given this kind of form. And it's not like he is nicking a goal with little involvement, say like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang managed to do in the early weeks of the season for Arsenal. In fact, Vardy had a season-high six shot attempts last weekend, with four hitting the target, which equals a season-high. Add in his penalty duties, lack of midweek commitments and playing 90 minutes week in, week out - it is everything one could realistically ask for in a captaincy option.
To further make the case, Vardy is playing at home this weekend. He is also playing an Everton side that is coming off a home loss to Norwich of all clubs. The Canaries entered that match on a major goal drought, having scored just two goals in their previous seven games combined, and yet they put two past the Toffees. Everything points to a Leicester win, which means they score, which means Vardy has a high chance of involvement and another good shot at bonus points.
Ownership % - 40.2% (last week, 36.7%)
Season points - 92 (8 Gs, 4 As, 13 BPs)
Opponent - Brighton (home)
Well, it took a while for it to happen, but Mane has matched teammate Mo Salah in price after being priced originally .5m less than the Egyptian international. He leads Salah by 20 points on the season now, in what is becoming perhaps his most consistent season from a fantasy perspective. He delivered again last weekend for those who captained him, scoring in his third consecutive league game. Mane did have Champions League duty during the midweek, and played the full 90 minutes, but the winger is rarely ever short on energy. There might be a fixture somewhere during the festive period where he gets a rest, but that's likely not going to happen as soon as this weekend. Mane is doing more scoring than assisting, but assists are certainly possible, as he has had at least two key passes in five straight games.
The Reds have not kept a clean sheet in six straight league games and Alisson has been back from injury for five of those contests, so, other than the absence of Joel Matip, there's not much to excuse the Reds defensive mediocrity by their standards. However, this is actually good news for captaining attacking players. Clean sheets tend to get defenders to dip into the bonus points, so if the current trend continues, Mane stands to offer bonus points with any kind of attacking contribution. Liverpool host Brighton this weekend, who probably won't have much momentum having just been defeated by Leicester and now tasked to get a result at Anfield, which is no easy feat for the best of clubs. For what it's worth, Mane blanked against the Seagulls in both fixtures last season. Mane and Vardy are clearly a cut above the rest of the options this week, so I am making the shortlist extra short this week. If you do not own one of these two players, then you should be spending a transfer on one of them this week and definitely looking at them for the armband.
Who's been left off the shortlist and why...
Raheem Sterling (12m)
Ownership % - 35.0% (last week, 37.9%)
Season points - 69 (7 Gs, 1 A, 7 BPs)
Opponent - Newcastle (away)
It feels like I am including Sterling in the column out of obligation more than anything else, because he is likely to still see his share of armband investment and, with Sergio Agüero out with injury, Sterling may be looked at as City's clear-cut number one goal threat in the interim. Recent form would suggest that that is not at all the case, or you could simply look at it as though he is due. City still have more goals to their name than any other club, but Sterling has had little to do with it in recent weeks. He has scored just once and had one assist spread over the last six rounds. He did grab the max bonus in the game he scored, but that marked just the third game this season in which he collected any bonus.
Last week, Sterling not only was left off the score sheet, he was left off the stat sheet entirely. Clearly his worst showing of the season against Chelsea, not only did he fail to have a shot on target, he did not so much as even attempt a shot at all. To go along with that, he didn't produce a single key pass either. That's two straight games without a key pass after registering at least one in every game going back to Week 1. And, the one goal he has in his last five is also the only shot on target he has had in his last five. Put simply, you would only be giving an armband based on the club's scoring record and/or a hunch that Sterling is due. But, looking at the stats, Pep Guardiola may be thinking Sterling is due a rest more than anything else. I am not saying that happens this weekend for sure, but with three league games between now and next weekend, unless Sterling wakes up, it is very possible he gets a benching during this upcoming stretch.
Harry Kane (10.8m)
Ownership % - 17.5%
Season points - 63 (7 Gs, 1 A, 9 BPs)
Opponent - Bournemouth (home)
I said last week that I would hold reservation on including Kane in the captaincy debate in the Mourinho era until I saw how the club looked. To be fair to those that gave him the armband last week, he did offer a return - a goal and a bonus point, thought the latter contribution was cancelled out by a yellow card. Perhaps he is just warming up for a productive run of form though under Mourinho, as he produced a second-half brace in Champions League play in midweek. What might be most important for Kane's success and armband potential is the rebirth of Dele Alli. Alli clearly made the biggest immediate leap in involvement and threat in the Mourinho era and his skill set should see a spike in goals for Spurs, as he hooks up with Kane and vice-versa.
While the Olympiacos tie midweek was the official home debut of the Mourinho era, this weekend's match against Bournemouth is the home league debut and the atmosphere should be electric, following wins in each of their first two games under the new boss, albeit both results involved conceding multiple goals to the opponent, making each win a challenge. Mourinho is likely, more than anything, to push his players to focus from start to finish against the Cherries and, if last season's fixture is any indication, Spurs could put on a dominant display. They crushed the Bournemouth 5-0 at home in the last meeting in north London, with Kane finding the net once.
Mo Salah (12.2m)
Ownership % - 23.1%
Season points - 72 (6 Gs, 3 As, 8 BPs)
Opponent - Brighton (home)
I am a Mo Salah believer. I have had several opportunities to flip him for Mane over the last several weeks and came very close on a couple of occasions. So, maybe I will be eating crow by season's end but, when all is said and done come May of 2020, I do believe Salah will catch up to, if not pass, Mane on total FPL points. Now, that depends on fitness and another injury may see me finally give up on the superstar, but he looks to be over his most recent ankle issue, playing midweek in the Champions League, going the full 90 minutes, and coming away healthy. I think if you own him and not Mane, he is worth armband consideration, though again, I would consider Vardy first and, if you don't have Vardy then you need to make that a priority.
The reason Salah is a tier below Mane for captaincy is not just that Mane has been fit and firing better, because I do believe both are viable and close to equal options when fit. It is more about worrying that Salah will not play a full shift against the Seagulls. Jurgen Klopp will surely want Salah fit for the heavy schedule ahead and, with the Merseyside derby coming up in the middle of next week, this looks like a situation where the Reds get ahead comfortably by the hour mark and Salah could get a break to get him ready for the derby and preserve him for the festive period. This fixture was tight last season, with Liverpool winning 1-0, but that goal did belong to Salah.
Kevin De Bruyne (10.2m)
Ownership % - 40.3% (last week, 39.9%)
Season points - 83 (3 Gs, 10 As, 10 BPs)
Opponent - Newcastle (away)
Last week, I noted how that it was true that de Bruyne had seen a severe decline in attacking returns and that people were starting to sell him off. While the poor run of form certainly lowered confidence in making him an FPL captain, to sell him and leave him out of your squad entirely was madness. Thank you, KdB, for driving that point home last weekend by scoring a goal. The Belgian started the midweek Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk but, as has regularly been the case in the competition, was subbed off and didn't play the full 90, a pattern that seems to indicate Pep Guardiola is doing everything he can to have de Bruyne available for as many league games as possible. In my view, he is the most trustworthy player in their attack this season in terms of consistent playing time and production. The Riyad Mahrez's and Gabriel Jesus' of the roster will have their huge returns here and there, but there is so much volatility with City players, you can make a case to own them, as they will produce over the course of the season, but as captaincy options, they just aren't safe and, with the busy schedule ahead, that seems to be the case even more. That said, again, KdB would be my top City armband option right now and for the foreseeable future. Goals will be scored, points will be had, but I think de Bruyne is your best bet to provide something in any given fixture.
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.