Captain Obvious: Week 34

·15 min read

Greetings, and welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate, the most important decision of your gameweek.

Do we really have to talk about Week 33? Normally, I am just as eager to explain how bad a gameweek has gone as much as I am to gloat about a good one, but for reasons that have yet to fully hit me, I really do not want to recap this past gameweek. It stunk, folks.

As per usual, getting the armband right could have soothed so many woes, but this was one of those weeks where I got my transfers wrong, got the armband wrong, and just to twist the knife a bit more, my reality team, in a position to determine their own fate in the quest for a top four finish, blew a chance to pad their advantage in the table by losing a game at home they should have won. It was Murphy’s Law Week for your humble writer.

I say I got my transfers wrong, but I suppose, individually, one went well, and I cannot complain about who I dropped. Leaving my squad were two players who were both not only benched or injured in the previous gameweek, they did not even have a fixture for this past round - Lucas Digne of Aston Villa and Hee-Chan Hwang of Wolves. So, technically, whoever I brought in had to have been an improvement…right? I had my moves planned a couple of weeks earlier and just the right amount of cash saved up in the bank, heading into the double gameweek with two free transfers. I thought I was set up for success.

Part One of my transfer activity went fine. I brought in Newcastle’s Fabian Schär for Digne, and not only did it free up some extra cash, Schar, costing 4.3m, did get a clean sheet in one of the Magpies games and a bonus point to boot. A 9-point round from a budget player replacing an injured player with no scheduled game? I take it back, half of my transfer plans went very well. It’s just that the other half went so, so wrong.

You see, sometimes planning a little too far ahead can really cloud your judgment. A couple of weeks back, Southampton were looking solid, and Che Adams was looking as nailed as can be…only rest from being used so much a threat to his pitch time. So, considering the limited options at forward this season, and looking for a double gameweek player around his price range, I thought he would make a solid addition. Both of Southampton’s fixtures in the double gameweek seemed capable of going their way. But, when the time came to actually pull the trigger on Adams, I had failed to process the immediate form the Saints were in…which is to say - they were in really bad form. Adams did have an assist in Week 29, so he had only had two blanks heading into this round. But the Saints overall were in really bad form, having gone winless in their previous five games heading into Week 33, drawing only once, and having been outscored 15-3 over that stretch.

So, the rest is history. Adams was in my side. I should have known I was in trouble Saturday morning when I saw that his price had dropped the night before. Who would drop a player like Adams on the eve of a double gameweek? First, the weekend team news against Arsenal - no Adams to be found. And, for my personal situation, the worst-case scenario played out. Adams not only doesn’t even give me a cameo appearance, the Saints pulled off a 1-0 upset win, which of course means - the manager is going to have to stick with the same side for the second game of the round. And so it was. Adams was benched for both of the games, coming on to play for one point in the second game.

Combine that with the other major double gameweek weapon I “thought” I had, and you can understand how sour my mood might be at the moment. A few rounds back, I went for James Maddison. It is hard to feel regret in that decision - he got me attacking returns in his first two games as a member of my squad and Leicester have about as many double gameweeks as they do regular gameweeks to close out the season. Seemed good business. Problem is, the week I counted on him to produce the most, the week I decide to give him the armband, he is also benched. Benched for one game and non-productive in the second. A three point return from a double gameweek player and he wore my armband. Four points from Maddison and Adams combined for what was four games combined worth of potential. One point per game return on average. Positively savage.

And, of course, I cannot forget to emphasize, this entire weeklong agonizing round began with bad news immediately, as first thing Saturday, my Spurs lost a heartbreaker. Talk about setting the tone. So here we are, just a few hours removed from the end of Week 33. Let me do my best to turn the page right now and look at the landscape for Week 34 in this edition of Captain Obvious…

Mason Mount

It only became official a short while ago, but this coming gamweek will have one extra fixture, which means two clubs will be playing twice - Chelsea and Manchester United, the two facing next Thursday night. The Blues will host West Ham this weekend to start their double gameweek while the Red Devils will be at The Emirates for the early Saturday kickoff. United will get mentioned further down the line, but based on their form and these two fixtures, Arsenal away and Chelsea at home…I really do not look at Manchester United as a double gameweek club worth worrying too much about. At least, not as much as we typically would in previous seasons when United were a little more reliable.

So that leaves Chelsea as the club to focus on, in my view, if you are looking for a captain that is going to play two games. Now, if you have any experience investing in Chelsea options, then you are probably well aware that there is legit worry when it comes to Thomas Tuchel rotating players in and out of his XI. There are not too many players that can be counted on to start both games of the upcoming double, but naturally, there will be some. Even Edouard Mendy has a bit of risk about him, and starting goalkeepers are never supposed to give fantasy managers any worry.

Usually, defense is an area where you can turn to for some confidence when searching for a nailed-on option, but the closest example Chelsea have is Antonio Rüdiger, who is already a question mark this weekend with a groin injury. Reece James has always been the “sexy” pick when looking for a Chelsea captain, but we have more examples than we can count of getting excited about a James return only to see him not make the XI. To risk backing James or, say, Marcos Alonso, does not seem worth it, when you combine their risk of not starting both games with the notion that clean sheets could be difficult to come by against the likes of West Ham and Manchester United. It is possible, both of those sides have been shut down before, but they are still two clubs that typically score. Their attacks have to be considered better than a dozen of the twenty teams in this league.

So if I am going to make a point to back a Chelsea weapon this week, I am going to dip into their attack and back who has been their most consistent performer, not only in attacking returns, but in pitch time as well, and that is Mason Mount. The immediate form is there - two goals and two assists over his last two games. He has now reached double digits in both goals and assists on the season - ten apiece. I think the chances of at least one return over the next two games is quite high.

Now, there is the issue that he has been subbed off before 70 minutes in two of his last four starts, and I would imagine we will see the same again in the coming round. The worst case is that Mount does not start one of the two games, but the likely scenario is that he plays a combined 150-160 minutes, getting pulled early from one of his starts to prevent him from being overworked. Assuming he hits that 60 minute threshold for both games, that is four points times two right there - eight points from your captain without even touching the ball. There are no guarantees but there is plenty to feel confident about in backing Mount this week.

Mo Salah

Well, I didn’t mention his name in the intro, but after reading how my previous gameweek had turned out, I bet you can guess who I WISH I had captained in Week 33. Mo, you done did it again.

Betting against Salah for captaincy was working wonders for me for several weeks, but whatever positive gains it may have provided up until Week 33 were probably erased by his most recent performance - a 19-pointer against Manchester United, his second-highest single-game return so far this season. Salah was really good, even by Mo Salah standards. I may have gotten some things wrong for my personal team this past week, but I did say that facing United’s defense was in no way, shape or form a problem for me when it came to backing Salah, and that was proven in convincing fashion.

Whether Salah is coming off a blank or a haul, the logic behind whether to back him with the armband or not remains the same at this stage of the season. This is a numbers game. There is only so much ground one can gain when you captain the same player that the majority of managers are. So, even though basic reasoning would lead one to conclude that they have to give the armband to Salah this week, for missing another 19-point haul simply cannot happen again, keep in mind that, because of Salah’s huge week, his captaincy percentage is going to shoot right back up into the stratosphere for this coming round. Yes, backing him this week can take the edge of worry off, knowing there is no “fear of missing out”. However, should Salah have a quiet game this time around, it is going to be like omitting a captain altogether from your side.

Honestly, if Chelsea did not get scheduled their double gameweek, I probably would spend the vast majority of this article talking about Salah. How, on the one hand, he perfectly fits the mold of what you want in a captain but, on the other, backing him every week makes it difficult to make a dent in the ranks the deeper into the season we get.

It just might be the opposition that sways it for me, personally. This is not to suggest that Salah isn’t talented enough to haul against any opponent. Of course, he can. But Everton, playing away from Goodison Park, are so, so bad…I just don’t know if this is a week I can play with fire and bet against Salah in an attempt to rank up. Having just been burned the previous week will certainly play a role in my mind when ultimately making the decision, but even if Salah had a quiet-to-okay Week 33, I think I still would be drawn to him like a magnet simply because of the fixture. Yes, I know derbys are their own breed. Derbys tend to produce some surprising results and, believe me I know, the Premier League itself is a league capable of taking what we know and turning into some sort of Christopher Nolan film, but I just don’t see how the Toffees are going to pick this game as the one where they finally play well away from home. Nah, the Reds should win comfortably here. They have a title they are trying to win and they are confident coming off the battering of Manchester United. Salah is an elite pick.

Honorable Mentions

Cristiano Ronaldo

Right, so as mentioned earlier, Manchester United are the only other club besides Chelsea to be playing twice this week, and, as mentioned earlier, because of getting Arsenal and the Blues as their two opponents, fresh off a thumping at the hands of Liverpool, I am not rushing out into the transfer market to pick up United players simply to try and capitalize off of their extra fixture.

That said, if I had Ronaldo already in my side, or if you have him already in yours, then I think he is someone you at least have to consider. Let’s say you are a Salah owner but you don’t have any Chelsea representation and you are looking for something to bet against Salah with. This would be the scenario that I would consider Ronaldo. Arsenal and Chelsea are two tough opponents, but a player of Ronaldo’s class, given two games in which to return something, is certainly capable, against any opponents. In fact, it may be to his and United’s advantage that they enter this round fresh off the pounding they took from Liverpool. Arsenal and Chelsea may not be pushovers, but they may seem to United like a mid-table opponent compared to what they experienced against the Reds.

Personally, I don’t think I could put my faith into any United option because of their inconsistency combined with these two fixtures. That said, it simply would not be acceptable to rule Ronaldo out entirely in a round where he plays twice and all but one other club play once.

Harry Kane/Heung-Min Son

After getting shut out on their own ground last weekend, it would be pretty easy to predict that the captaincy numbers for both Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son will drop considerably for the coming round, but that just might be a reason to swoop in and take advantage of everyone else’s impatience. Let’s not forget, going into the Brighton game, Spurs attack was as lethal as anyone’s and the damage Kane and Son were combining on, week after week, was substantial. If anyone can tell you from experience to not put too much stock into one result, it is me, a Spurs fan. It is a story that never fails to repeat itself - the moment Spurs look to be in good shape and ready to make their mark on the league, they stumble. As soon as people write Spurs off after their most recent stumble, they go out and beat Manchester City, or something comparable. Frankly, as a fan, they drive me nuts.

This is actually a fixture that gives me some worry as a Spurs supporter. We are catching Brentford at a bad time because they have hit their best form since the opening weeks of the season and we have to go to their ground. But, I am telling you folks, “left” is “right”, “front” is “back”, and “up” is “down” when talking about Tottenham. Now that they are coming off a disappointing showing, I would imagine they will go to Brentford, score a few goals and have us all wondering why we ignored the likes of Kane and Son for captaincy.

If you are not a Spurs supporter, maybe you cannot pick up what I am throwing down here, and that’s fine. There’s a reason the two are second-tier picks this week. I fully admit their stock has taken a hit and they do not look as appealing as they would have had we skipped that Brighton result last weekend. But I think Antonio Conte will have this team ready and confident. Spurs were very fortunate to see Arsenal and United lose in the past few days to keep themselves in fourth place.

Kai Havertz, Bruno Fernandes

I know, I know…kind of an odd couple to pair together for this column, but here is how the two are connected - they both have a double gameweek and they both, in my view, represent the next-best option from their respective clubs for the coming round. So, if you are in a situation where you have Havertz already and not Mount, or you have Fernandes and not Ronaldo, this is to say that, rather than feel you need to go out and get Mount or Ronaldo, especially if it is going to wind up costing you points, you do have some decent weapons in Havertz and Fernandes who are capable of double-digit scores this weeks.

With Havertz, I like the form and fixtures better but worry more about his starting both of Chelsea’s games. If I had to set odds, I think he is better than 50/50 but not by much. For Fernandes, I fully expect him to start both games, but the fixtures, as mentioned already, are much more difficult. Come to think of it, when is the last time both Ronaldo and Fernandes had big hauls in the same gameweek? It seems it is either one or the other. It is the opposite situation that Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son are in.

Right, that about wraps up my thoughts looking around the league this week. In short, your decision will likely come down between Mo Salah or some kind of double gameweek option. Is one Salah better than two of anyone else? That is perhaps the question that best sums up the 2021/2022 season.

Good luck, and may your arrows be green.