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Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate!
And then, there were five.
That’s right folk, we are officially in the home stretch now, with only five rounds remaining. For those kicking fantasy butt this season, these weeks will be anxiety-ridden. Not that I am having a season to brag about myself, but I have in the past, and I have not forgotten that vertigo-inducing feeling of wanting to climb that little bit higher in the ranks to close out the season but also desperate to hang on to where you are, and not go on a cold streak to take a currently successful year into a mediocre one. For you folks, I wish you the best of luck.
For everyone else, myself included - this is actually a therapeutic stage of the season. Barring something bizarre, the best I can hope for is a top 100k finish. It would take a perfect use of my Bench Boost and nailing every captain for five weeks to even have a chance I would think. Seeing as that being a pleasant surprise that I would brag about to my grave were it to happen, I can simply drop that notion and go through the necessary stages of coping with a sub-par season. I will probably save some examples of when I knew the season was going to end in a disappointing rank for an end-of-season column, but let’s just say I have already had time to cope.
Speaking of dealing with reality, after an initial week of basking in the no-Mourinho era, this past week was another twist of the season’s knife for your humble writer as Spurs were one game from adding a rare trophy to their shelf (I know, I know...it’s “only the EFL Cup”) only to lose 1-0 on a late goal. City is one of those top sides that Spurs had actually had success with under Mourinho and of course I haven’t forgotten Tottenham’s Champions League magic trick to squeak past the Citizens and make it to the CL Final. So, I had optimism that Ryan Mason and a recent positive result would spark some magic. It was not to be.
Right, so we have another Friday night kickoff, which means time is limited, so instead of dwelling on the disappointments of the past, let us transition straight into the potential glory of the future with this Week 34 edition of Captain Obvious.
Jamie Vardy (10.2m)
Rostered % - 21.0% (rising fast)
Total points - 163 (13 Gs, 13 As, 20 BPs)
Opponent - Southampton (away)
Calm down, calm down...we will get to Kelechi Iheanacho soon enough. (Does it sound like a bitter man who made space to bring Vardy in on their wildcard a few weeks ago as a differential, when he could have saved millions, gotten more points and upgraded other areas if I went Iheanacho instead?...I thought it might) While there is no way to escape the fact that the rise of Iheanacho has seen Vardy’s production take a bit of a dip, he is still a Top 5 scoring outfielder in the FPL game for entirety of the season. With two of the four players above him squaring off face to face in a tough one to call (Bruno Fernandes’ Man United vs Mo Salah’s Liverpool), and Leicester’s overall form and fixture, Vardy still deserves his elite status on the captaincy short-list.
In fact, let me go ahead and spill the beans about Week 34 - you are looking at four names from two clubs. In my mind, it is impossible to imagine an actively-managed FPL side not including at least one of these four names. These four will be the ones most-captained this week, particularly in the 0-250k rank area, so it will come down to which matchup looks to have more goals in it, and which player you have from that side. There is your captain. If you have two (Vardy and Iheanacho, or Kane and Son), then you have two ways to go - let the stats decide for you or go with your gut…
If stats are your angle and you favor Leicester, you may want to spend your transfer this week to bring in the affordable Iheanacho if you do no thave him already, because he is clearly the hotter of the pair. Vardy was pretty quiet last weekend, not executing a single key pass to potentially add to his baker’s dozen of assists and managed just one shot on target. Still, this is Jamie Vardy. He has established himself worthy of armband consideration in the past (most players priced at 10m or more are thought to be captaincy-worthy by that price tag threshold alone), and we know he loves the flair for the dramatic. This Friday night kickoff is why I do not have much time to take a deeper dive, but you know Vardy knows he will be in the primetime spotlight. I will emphasize one last time though - the stats say Iheanacho is a better bet going into the weekend. That’s not to say that both can’t get it done. Is your gut saying it’s time for a primetime Vardy party? The hour is drawing near to decide.
Heung-Min Son (9.5m)
Rostered % - 46.6% (rising steady)
Total points - 199 (15 Gs, 12 As, 25 BPs)
Opponent - Sheffield United (home)
Much like Vardy may be viewed when compared to Iheanacho this week, I feel the same could be applied to the Son vs Kane decision. Here is a case where I personally DO have both players in my side and have to make a choice were I to back a Tottenham player. The atmosphere feels ripe for goals. Once again, there is a natural high and motivation in the side with Ryan Mason in charge to see out the season and I think the club will want to take out the frustration of losing a close cup final on the hapless, relegation-bound Blades of Sheffield United. Make no mistake, this time of season can be tricky, where shock results come out of each club’s situation and mental state, so I do not want to make it sound like it’s a stone-cold lock that Spurs will slice Sheffield United apart, but the Blades are really, really bad. This is the fixture that every club circles on their calendar and all but one has walked away with 3 points. The Blades, in their 15 games away from home, have fourteen losses and one draw - a 1-1 with Brighton. I cannot see how they suddenly get a result in North London this weekend.
So, what does Son have that Harry Kane does not? Well, if you happen to only have Son, then don’t let this question bother you. Both players are certainly capable of putting up a double-digit haul, so I would not perform major surgery and take hits to work Kane in your side just so you can captain him over Son. Son has a very small sample length of better form. Last time out, Tottenham were able to beat the Saints, with Kane missing due to injury while Son scored the match-winner. Son is also the better player of the two if you want to gamble on a more “potentially effective” captain. Kane is certainly going to get a larger percentage of the armband around the league. Those who rather go shield over sword probably want to back him, but if you have a lot of ground to cover with time running out, I like the idea of backing Son.
Harry Kane (11.8m)
Rostered % - 46.1% (rising steady)
Total points - 218 (21 Gs, 13 As, 37 BPs)
Opponent - Sheffield United (home)
Right, now we get to the two big fish this weekend, and perhaps the biggest decision every manager will make - do you take the established history of Harry Kane in the easiest fixture there is on paper, or do you take the inarguably hotter player in Iheanacho, who is still on only half the number of FPL teams that Kane is?
So, what is concerning and what is promising about Sir Harold? Well, probably the biggest concern to the casual player is his fitness. If paying attention to the Premier League only, you may not have realized that Kane has already returned to competitive action, returning for that EFL Cup Final loss to Manchester City last weekend. The result was not ideal, the attack could not find a way through, but Kane was there and should be ready to go for the Blades. Were there some concerns over lingering injury issues, I could see some concern in giving him the armband, for fear of a rest in a matchup that Spurs should still be winning convincingly behind him. But there are two factors that tosses that concern out the window - one, Tottenham still have work to do finish in a European competition place for next season, so there is plenty to play for as a club. Also, Kane is gunning for another Golden Boot, and he currently holds a one-goal edge over Mo Salah, so there is some personal motivation for him as the Blades could provide the perfect opposition to help Kane pad his current Golden Boot lead.
Kelechi Iheanacho (6.2m)
Rostered % - 23.7% (rising fast)
Total points - 76 (10 Gs, 1 A, 15 BPs)
Opponent - Southampton (away)
Well, consider me impressed. Last week, I did my best to try and find something to bring Iheanacho down to Earth, to show that he is indeed human. The one example I had was that he was too goal-dependent, not having registered a single assist on the season while his teammate Vardy was an example of a more well-rounded and therefore trustworthy captaincy option, as he had an equal spread of 13 goals and 13 assists…
Naturally, Iheanacho goes and collects his first assist of the season last weekend, along with yet ANOTHER goal, max bonus points and the highest round score of the week with the exception of Chris Wood and his hat trick for Burnley. The perfect captain is now complete. All that remains to be seen if this is one of those career-high runs of form or are we witnessing a player taking his game to the next level, and will remain an elite player for years to come. Time will tell, as it always does, but it would be great timing for the Foxes, as Vardy is nearing the twilight of his career and here comes Iheanacho, looking primed to take the baton and run with it for the next half-decade or so.
Before last weekend, Iheanacho had taken a whopping fourteen shots combined in his previous two league contests, while taking only two against Palace. Good news is - one of those two went in the net. Better news is - he was busy playing provider, setting a personal best on the season with four key passes, one that led to his aforementioned first assist of the season.
The form he is in right now, you do not worry about the opposition unless their defense is among the top elite, which Southampton’s is not. If anything, you begin to salivate over the potential lucrative returns in a match that Leicester will bring it all while the Saints may not give near as much effort. We have already begun to see the effects of clubs who have already decided to hit the beach early with little left to play for last weekend, when Wolves were positively embarrassed by Burnley in a 0-4 spanking. Let us not forget as well in the past couple of season, while Southampton have had their runs of respectable form, they have also had some absolute stinkers, giving up half a dozen goals or more on a few occasions in the Ralph Hasenhuttl era. Will Iheanacho obtain elite, captaincy-level status for the long term? Let’s see how things pick up next season. But for now, there is every rational reason to give him the armband this weekend.
Other options - Even though, barring a late surge of historic proportions, this has been a disappointing season for your humble writer, if there is one strategy that I feel proud of committing to, its to ignore Manchester City options for the most part. Trying to dance around the rotation there simply does not justify the cost of their players for me, with the exception of Ilkay Gundogan’s run of form midseason. That said, a healthy Kevin De Bruyne is the City player that always deserves at least a mention, and he has a good shot at returning something against Palace this weekend.
This is a first - I am tossing a West Brom player onto the honorable mentions list. Hey...it’s a start. But as hot as Iheanacho has been or Jesse Lingard before last weekend, did you know the top player in FPL’s current form guide is Matheus Pereira. I really liked this kid’s game and built a draft league team around him this season. That proved costly as it has taken a while for Pereira to settle in, but he is playing with confidence. Whether or not the Baggies stay up is one thing - Pereira is a PL talent, and will likely make a move over the summer if the Baggies go down. Despite being the top form player at the moment, I still probably would have not named him were it not for the fixture - at home against a Wolves side who put in a defensive nightmare last week. I would expect a change or two to Wolves based on that result, but if the majority of the club are just going through the motions like they did against Burnley, the Baggies may add to their recent “goal explosion”.
Playing at home to Fulham, I feel like Chelsea “should” have at least one name to point to for armband purposes, but the Blues are simply not set up right now to benefit fantasy players. There are too many players being moved in and out of the XI week to week and form seems to jump weekly from one player to the next. Christian Pulisic has the most consistency in terms of production and playing time as of late, but it would be an ultimate example of “outside-the-box” thinking.
Otherwise, I am pretty pleased with the captaincy landscape this week. The less options to choose from, the better, in my mind. So when I see fixtures like MUN v LIV and EVE v AVL, clubs who have their share of elite players, it makes it easy to dismiss the likes of Bruno Fernandes or Mo Salah. Of course, you want them to do something if you have them in your side, and they have the talent to explode at any moment in any game. But MUN v LIV has 0-0 or a late 0-1, 1-0 result looks the likeliest scenario from me. Mo and Bruno can take a week off from the armband debate.
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.