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Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate!
Welcome back, as well, from the first international break of 2021. Strap in folks, because we have hit Week 30 and it is time for the home stretch.
How did you spend your break? Did you use it as an opportunity to decompress from a long run of seemingly non-stop fixtures, shutting your Twitter down for spell? Did you still get a bit of a fix, following along with the activity of international play? Or, are you locked in FPL mode, not missing a beat, using this extra time between rounds to meticulously plan out your run-in?
There are no wrong answers to any of these questions, I feel all three of these approaches to the break are certainly understandable. However, one line can be drawn straight through all options...the break is over, it is time to get down to business.
We are getting to the stage of the season where I am wondering if I let the window of opportunity of playing my 2nd half Wildcard and Bench Boost at the right moment pass me by already. So, while I wallow in my usual state of doubt, I can at least breathe a little easy, preparing for Week 30, a nice, simple, ten-match schedule, where captaincy choices do not have to be clouded by the allure and sometimes trap of double gameweeks. This is FPL’s bread and butter and it’s where I tend to fall into fewer traps. Note, I am not suggesting I avoid them altogether...that’ll be the day...but the act of shooting myself in the foot seems to occur less frequently in a standard round and, hot take, I like my feet. I’d prefer to keep them intact.
I see a few potentially lucrative fixtures on this weekend’s slate and those are the matches where I see armband candidates. So let’s take a look at who those folks are in this Week 30 edition of Captan Obvious...
Harry Kane (11.6m)
Rostered % - 46.0% (rising steady)
Total points - 191 (17 Gs, 13 As, 32 BPs)
Opponent - Newcastle United (away)
Blank GW29 was all about “To Kane or Not to Kane”. Somehow, I managed to do both. You see, I am one of those insane Tottenham supporters who went out to grab Gareth Bale and gave him the armband, out of pure nostalgia (ok, and the hopes he would provide a great differential and offer priceless bragging rights on social media). So what happens? Bale doesn’t even make an appearance, turning my vice-captain Kane into the head honcho. Sure, I could have brought Jesse Lingard in and still be doing cartwheels about captaining him but Lingard is this year’s version of the player I stubbornly refuse to buy into until it’s too late. There’s one every year. I am not going to beat myself up that it happens to be Lingard this time around.
Right, I digress. In a season where we have many of the highest-priced players under-performing (Aubameyang), hitting a bad run of form (Salah) or simply not finding time on the pitch (Aguero), Kane seems to be the last of a dying breed. Perhaps we are entering a new era of FPL where points are spread out more and clear-cut captains become more difficult to define. Kane may be the last man standing of the FPL captain giants as we enter this final stretch of the schedule. While his future beyond this season may be up in the air, there is no indication that Sir Harold is phoning it in at Spurs. He clearly has a place in his heart for this club that is currently veering off course. I realize I began this paragraph by saying I was digressing and I feel I have ended it the same way. Let’s try one more shot...
Kane is, of course, an excellent captaincy choice, particularly if you are looking for the safety of backing the most-captained player, which I would imagine Kane to be this weekend. Spurs are on the road to Newcastle, and the Magpies have been struggling, and recently having lost Issac Hayden as one of their midfield anchors only makes attacking them all the more tantalizing. Week 29 was a nightmare for them. Facing Brighton as both sides fight to stay above the relegation zone, and not having won in their previous five, this was a chance for Newcastle to reach deep within themselves and find a victory. Instead, the Seagulls crushed them, 3-0. About the only positive for them right now is the potential return of Callum Wilson, but 1) that should not have any bearing on what Kane will do and 2) it has been a long layoff for the striker, so expecting Newcastle’s attack to suddenly spring to life, thereby cutting into Tottenham’s time on the ball, might be asking a lot.
Will Heung-Min Son be back to help Kane out? Will Gareth Bale return to the XI? I think it is a “probably” on both counts, but even if one or both do not materialize, the industrial Kane is going to find a way to get involved in setting up or putting away a goal chance or two.
Bruno Fernandes (11.5m)
Rostered % - 57.0% (rising steady)
Total points - 209 (16 Gs, 12 As, 32 BPs)
Opponent - Brighton (home)
While Kane appears to be the front-runner for “most-captained player” in Week 30, Fernandes will probably finish the runner-up. While his stats in the past month or so have seen a bit of a dip, we are talking about a dip in a level of form no one can expect to maintain. And even with that dip, he is still far and away the top-scoring player in the league. So with that distinction, his health, and a home game against a lower-tier opponent in Brighton, sometimes you only need simple facts like that to build a legit case for the armband. Another thing I see as a positive is that United have been doing pretty well despite a scaling back of production from Fernandes. A “one-man show” isn’t a bad thing at all in FPL, in fact, it’s great (Charlie Adam at Blackpool, anyone?), but with the talent at Old Trafford, United naturally needed some of these other guys to start picking up some slack. Don’t let that trick you into thinking Fernandes has lost his mojo.
I think there are two main reasons Fernandes is not getting the attention I think he deserves for GW30. One, he has one attacking return in his last four, so folks tend to write players off that quickly and second, you then tack on a two-week break and it only assists in Fernandes escaping the minds of many a manager heading into this round. I will not say 100% that I plan to captain Fernandes. That is not my objective with this column. But I will say that Fernandes represents a lot of what I look for in a captain - a quality player that folks may be beginning to ignore, which I see as an opportunity to profit from.
Rostered % - 48.3%, 16.4% respectively (both rising steady)
Total points - Bamford - 156 (14 Gs, 9 As, 19 BPs), Raphinha - 107 (6 Gs, 6 As, 10 BPs)
Opponent - Sheffield United (home)
I know, I know, I am riding the fence here, but in the end, I felt this call was so close, and with both playing on the same team, it made sense to mention Bamford and Raphinha together. Bamford has been a steady source of returns for practically the entire season while Raphinha has been one of the more consistent wide attacking players in the entire league since we entered the second half of the season. In fact, I believe I mentioned in my captaincy nomination of him last round, that Raphinha was stuffing categories with stats a a rate better than either of the legendary Liverpool winger duo of Mo Salah and Sadio Mané.
There are cases to make for both of these options, so if you own one and not the other, I would not sweat it too much. Bamford’s bottom line stats show that he has clearly had a more productive campaign than Raphinha, but bear in mind the striker has played 2400 minutes this season whereas Raphinha is in the 1800’s in that regard. When you have 33% more pitch time, you are bound to have better year-long counting stats. However, Bamford’s return rate is still outperforming Raphinha’s. 156 total points versus 107. That’s about 50% more production in that extra 33% of time for Bamford. He is also on pens. So, a longer track record of more consistent production with pens in hand is enough for me to lean Bamford out of these two. However, Raphinha has one very important advantage over Bamford that, at this stage of the season, could be considered as crucial as any stat on the pitch - a comparatively very low rostered percentage. If you back Raphinha, and he outperforms Bamford, it will have a more positive effect on your round rank.
Chelsea Clean Sheet Chasers
Opponent - West Brom (home)
Ok, this is a bit unorthodox, a departure from my usual shortlist presentation, but this seemed the best way to do it. In a nutshell, the Blues have kept four straight clean sheets and eight in their last ten. They are as dependable a souce for returns as any player in any attacking position right now and, playing at home to a side that has scored fewer goals in the league than anyone, with the exception of Sheffield United, the clean sheet love in the FPL community is well-documented headed into this weekend. Some managers have decided to double up on Blues at the back, and some are even tripling up. So if the trust in a clean sheet is that strong, then to me, that is a captaincy option.
Now, here’s the rub - if I had to pick one player that has the potential to score biggest from Chelsea’s defense, it would be Marcos Alonso. The problem is, based on recent team sheet patterns, there is simply no guarantee that Alonso starts. With Ben Chilwell also in the mix, the two have been splitting minutes too often for me to sign off on either. Basically, the fullback/wingback areas are where I see potential danger, so Reece James is also out of my thinking, If I had to rank the players in order, using a combination of trust that they will start and production beyond that of a clean sheet, that rank would be as follows:
Cesar Azpilicueta - in the Tuchel era, Azpil has returned to being the steady presence we’ve come to expect for the past several years, also leads all in this list in bonus points
Edouard Mendy - giving a keeper the armband is a rare suggestion for me, but if he can manage a save point, it could help him dip into bonus territory as well
Antonio Rüdiger - of the remaining center backs, he has been the most steady presence, starting 11 of the last twelve league games
Andreas Christensen - has started seven of the last eight but came off before 60 minutes in one of those games and is, I feel, the biggest threat to give way to Kurt Zouma should Zouma find his way into the XI
Other options - Right, may as well stay with Chelsea. Are any of their attacking players worth considering? Playing the worst defense in the league, there has to be, right? Well, guaranteed starts at many of the positions are non-existent right now but one man is playing at a level where he is earning a Fast Pass to the weekly XI, and that is Mason Mount. It’s a little outside the box, but I feel he deserves a shout this week against the Baggies.
Manchester City traveling to Leicester is a tough one that I think we should stay clear of for captaincy ideas and just cross our fingers with the players we have from those sides to give us something. Honestly, if I had to pick one player out of the bunch, it would be Jamie Vardy. He is a rise-to-the-occasion kind of player and this is a rise-to-the-occasion scenario. He has a history of scoring in tough fixtures. Kevin De Bruyne would be my City rep if forced to choose, namely because he is Kevin De Bruyne, a player who is as good as anyone at creating or finishing chances.
Last week, I mentioned Stuart Dallas as a second-tier option and I feel it is appropriate to do so again, with Leeds hosting the league’s worst attack in Sheffield United. Another chance to earn points from either or both sides of the ball. That always appeals to me.
Look, some folks are going to have Mo Salah captained. There is little in terms of recent history to support such a move, and a trip to Arsenal for this floundering Liverpool side is no walk in the park. But, I won’t argue with you. Liverpool are certainly not playing like title-winners these days, but you cannot convince me that Salah has hit a wall. Knowing what he is capable of, and knowing what Arsenal are capable of (which is getting the chance to catch an out-of-form Reds side, knowing they would climb to within a point of Liverpool with a win, only to fall flat on their faces), I would not be surprised in the least to see Salah and the Reds suddenly look good. But time are tough right now for Jurgen Klopp’s team. I’m not sure I will have the confidence to even vice-captain Salah this week.
Finally, I simply cannot ignore him. I may not buy the record, but I cannot ignore the Billboard Charts - Jesse Lingard is hot stuff, and a trip to Wolves doesn't give me any pause. It is a pretty neutral fixture in terms of difficulty in my opinion and, when you are in Lingard’s form, “neutral” becomes “favorable”.
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.