Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate!
Well, last week the column went on hiatus, as Tottenham’s sole advantage of a double gameweek made the armband choice quite obvious and, even though Harry Kane would go on to miss the second of his two games, were you to have selected either him or Heung-Min Son, you would have doubled 12 points regardless, so it was one of those rare rounds where the armband virtually had no impact on whether you experienced a good or bad week overall.
And yet, somehow, this is nowhere near the biggest news to come out of North London during GW32. Spurs have sacked José Mourinho. It’s over. He’s gone. Ladies and gentlemen, your humble writer is ecstatic. The Mourinho era was a painful one and, the worst part about it, I felt that way the day they brought him in. Judging by the reaction I’ve seen across social media, there seems to be a collective “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” reaction. Fantastic. Ready to move forward.
One other note, a bit off-topic - regarding social media, can we acknowledge that this week was a rare but welcome sight of effective influence through social media, i.e., the announcement and then immediate collapse of the proposed “Super League”. It is an encouraging example in modern times that the collective voice of the people holds power. The richest folks out there are always looking for a chance to grow their wealth, but we live in an era now where they realize that their financial success is dependent on the people. Try doing what the people want, billionaire class. You’d be amazed at how you can do the right thing and still remain incredibly rich. Of course, this league should never have been on the table to begin with. Should we have been more vocal about our displeasure of VAR since its inception? I guess I will save that debate another day...
Right, so we had one of those slow burn gameweeks that only just ended hours ago, which means your humble writer has to do a quick turnaround with this gameweek starting less than 24 hours after the last one ended. So bear with me please if you find this week’s column a bit more simplified than usual. With four clubs on a blank, including the likes of Manchester City and Spurs, let’s take a look at the best armband options in this Week 33 edition of Captain Obvious.
Jamie Vardy (10.2m)
Rostered % - 21.0% (rising fast)
Total points - 161 (13 Gs, 13 As, 20 BPs)
Opponent - Crystal Palace (home)
Jamie Vardy may not have even gone to sleep yet since scoring a goal and adding an assist in last night’s 3-0 win over West Brom. He had gone seven matches without a goal, as a teammate of his has been picking up the scoring slack in recent weeks (more on that dude in a bit). But last night, Leicester showed that there’s room for more than one striker to deliver FPL points. Vardy really is the face of the Foxes - his career arc is the perfect companion to the growth of Leicester, a club that has risen to greater heights in the past decade than any other club on the planet that I can think of.
So this weekend, well, Monday night to be exact, the Foxes look to build off a dominant win by hosting Crystal Palace and this, to me, looks like a very lucrative investment. You have a Leicester side in solid form. The season is winding down and their chances of locking in a Champions League spot may be just around the corner. Collecting three points against the Eagles would improve the odds of a top four finish immensely. Meanwhile, Palace is one of those sides at this stage of the season you love to bet against for fantasy purposes. Mired in mid-table, they are virtually safe from relegation and have no real chance of earning a spot in European competition, so you have that dreaded “what do we have left to play for” mentality that can sometimes turn the likes of Palace into pushovers. It is not a guarantee, but there is an historic precedent that says there would be no surprise if the Eagles are mentally already on the beach. No match last week to point to, but Palace were spanked 1-4 by Chelsea in their last league game and I can picture a similar scoreline here. He is not the only Fox to be in the spotlight this week, but he the one with a track record that gives managers a trust factor that the alternative may not.
Bruno Fernandes (11.6m)
Rostered % - 57.1% (falling slowly)
Total points - 218 (16 Gs, 13 As, 32 BPs)
Opponent - Leeds (away)
Early polling has Fernandes as a top 5 choice among managers for the armband this week, so with his extremely-high rostered percentage, he has to be included on the short list as the Red Devils hit the road to take on Leeds this Sunday. However, among those on the shortlist this week, Fernandes is bottom-tier in the form department. The Red Devils dispatched Burnley in GW32 rather easily, putting three goals on the board. I do not have the stat in front of me but I cannot imagine United have had many games in the Fernandes era where they scored three goals or more and Fernandes was not involved in at least one of them. He managed a healthy amount of shots (4) with two hitting the target, but what is of major concern is that he did not register a single key pass - only the second game all season in which he has failed to contribute even one. Typically, he averages in the neighborhood of four per game. So these are the concerns surrounding the United playmaker.
So, are there any positives? Surely, he must make this shortlist this week for some reason beside the likelihood of a considerable amount of armband backing. Well, I suppose it is encouraging for United’s attack that their opponent has kept only one clean sheet in their last seven games. But to Leeds’ credit, that clean sheet was well earned in a 0-0 grind with Chelsea, so it’s not like they picked up an “easy” cleanie against Sheffield United. (sorry to pick on the Blades) Meanwhile, while Fernandes may not be at his typical top form, United as a whole are rolling, with five wins on the trot that include road victories against Spurs and in the Manchester derby.
What is going on for United right now is unquestionably healthy. Fernandes put much of the club’s success solely on his back for much of the campaign, but other teammates are finally starting to pitch in consistently. Mason Greenwood is en fuego. Edison Cavani is enjoying his best run of form in his short PL career. For me, if this were a tougher fixture, I may bump Fernandes down to the “other options” section, but my gut is saying the Red Devils are going to put up a crooked number on Palace and I simply cannot imagine another multi-goal output from United without any contribution from Fernandes.
Mo Salah (12.6m)
Rostered % - 33.5% (rising steady)
Total points - 190 (19 Gs, 4 As, 16 BPs)
Opponent - Newcastle (home)
Taking a risk last round to captain anyone besides Harry Kane or Heung-Min Son was ill-advised for those that attempted it, but particularly painful for those that back the oft-captained Salah, who turned out to not make the XI for Liverpool’s draw with Leeds. He twisted the knife further by coming on for a late appearance to lock in a one-point cameo and lock out the vice-captain emergency plan for those that captained Mo. Well, with the rise of Diogo Jota recently, we have already seen Sadio Mané and Salah take turns starting life on the bench, and some level of rotation could be in place here for the remainder of the season, with three guys splitting the minutes of two positions. If the current pattern holds true, than it is Jota due to take a bench spot in this matchup with Newcastle. I cannot guarantee that will be the case but I can offer the closest thing to a guarantee that Salah will not be benched for consecutive matches. So if the one thing holding you back is his benching and one-point contribution from the last round - it should not be of any concern. Barring a fitness issue in the buildup to their clash with the Magpies, Salah will surely start.
After a funk that seemed to take up the entire middle third of the season, the Reds appear poised to finish the season on a strong note, as they have collected ten points in their last four games. Even with the benefit of playing at home however, their opponents could make things a little tricky for Liverpool. Newcastle are firmly embedded in the relegation battle, and they have been getting some impressive results of late as Steve Bruce looks to guide the club to a safe finish. Really, one more win should do the trick, and if the club sees it that way, they may not have that extra gear they would need to get a positive result against Manchester United. I think the Reds win this one by a two-goal margin and from the attacking contingent, Salah remains the most trusted name for armband consideration.
Kelechi Iheanacho (6.1m)
Rostered % - 18.6% (rising fast)
Total points - 76 (9 Gs, 0 As, 12 BPs)
Opponent - Leeds United (home)
Do not approach this man in person. He is so hot right now, standing just a few yards away might cause some first-degree burns. As impressive a job Jesse Lingard has done since his arrival at West Ham, the player who may win the title for “largest leap into relevance” is Iheanacho. Very much a fringe player for the vast majority of the season, something clicked once he was given a run in the side beginning back in GW26. Since then, Iheanacho has been volcanic, scoring eight goals in Leicester’s last six games. Only the match against table-leading Manchester City was Iheanacho kept down. Otherwise, the other three games in Leicester’s last four has seen the goal machine fire off a minimum of six shots. Volume leads to production and, as alluded to earlier, last night’s result showed that both he and Vardy can share the fantasy spoils.
You simply cannot say disparaging words about a player in this kind of form. But I also do not want to anoint him as a can’t-miss armband option. Yes, based on the last six games, he is as strong a candidate as any. But perhaps it is my own conservative approach driving me to advise others to consider some factors. Personally, I like to depend on players with a longer track-record of consistency for captaincy. Players like Lingard and Iheanacho, I feel satisfied just getting the points they are handing out right now. It takes a lot to make it to elite status and both of these players are going to have to carry at least most of this current form into next season before I personally start to trust it. Also consider, while Vardy has a perfect balance of attacking contributions - 13 goals, 13 assists - Iheanacho has been exclusively goal dependent all season long, nary an assist to be had. We also can say with confidence that Vardy has the edge over Iheanacho in the penalty-taking department.
Other options -Yes, so while last weekend’s column took a break, if you recall my previous one from two weeks ago, I brought a familiar name back into the fold in the form of Trent Alexander-Arnold. Returns in four games running, TA-A is averaging 10 points a game over the past month. We know this kid has the goods to be a fantasy stud. For many of us at the start of the season, we felt obligated to reserve a space for him in our squads, despite his expensive price tag. Well, take your memory back to that time when Alexander-Arnold was a “must have” because he is quickly returning back to that same status. Certainly, if you are looking for a differential play that could bust but could also boom big time, this is certainly the candidate for you.
I don’t care who West Ham are playing, whether they are home or away, or anything else - the aforementioned Lingard is simply too hot to keep out of the captaincy debate. I may have reservations regarding trust and long-term track record, but I cannot argue riding this current lightning. Ok, I took a peek - the Hammers will be hosting Chelsea. Hmm, not a fixture that gets one excited, and I do not have the chutzpah to gamble on Lingard in this spot, but all the man does week after week is prove me wrong, so for anyone enjoying putting the armand on him, I cannot possibly question the move.
And that pretty much covers the most relevant names I see out there this week. Again, we have four clubs not playing, so they are left out of consideration, and then there are a few fixtures where I see more clean sheets than goals going around. This includes the likes of Sheffield United v Brighton, Wolves v Burnley and even Villa against West Brom. If you want to captain a player for their clean sheet potential alone, I would not advise it, but I am not going to deny - there are bound to be defenders among these fixtures that will wind up outscoring some of the names I have nominated today.
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.