Captain Obvious: Week 38

Steve Rothgeb
Rotoworld



Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate. In fact, for this season, the final round of armband talk. The 2019/2020 season is coming to a close this weekend and, forgive if this expression is overused, but how could it not apply here - what a long, strange trip this has been. It is hard to believe, as a Spurs fan, where this season has gone, compared to how things ended in the previous campaign. You know, the one where they made the Champions League final? Yeah, it has been a series of missteps and backfiring moves since then, most notably in my view, the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino. Personally, I am still pounding sand that I spent my winnings in a fantasy league from last season on a Tanguy Ndombele shirt. 

Nevermind how my Spurs have done this season, to think where the world is now compared to where it was last August...the 2019/2020 campaign has been nothing short of a blur. The 2019 side of the season - pretty customary. Liverpool were beginning their title run, ripping through opponents every weekend. We had Pukki parties. John Lundstram was the official “Lord of FPL”. Then the calendar flipped to 2020...and the Pukki party was over. Yes, this has been an historic chapter written for the annals of FPL history, for reasons no one would want, but historic all the same. So let me give some encouraging words to all managers out there. No matter where your overall rank winds up, this will be a season we will never forget. And there are no losers for this campaign. If your overall rank winds up being far lower than you had anticipated, chalk it up to an aberration of a season. Things did not play out as we normally expect and there is a legit reason to have lost that FPL mojo. Conversely, if you are having a banger of a season, good on you. No one will say you didn’t earn it. You did great during some crazy times and hopefully that success will give you reason to smile and celebrate when opportunities to have such moments are a bit more rare to come by these days.

Right, so this is it. Picking the final captain of the season. It all comes down to this, the final decision you will make and that choice could be the difference in winning your mini-league or hitting your target overall rank. Before we dive into who are, in my view, the top candidates for the last armband, let me give you some advice that will make everything else that follows take a back seat. Sunday would be a good day to be on Twitter. On this final day, with all matches kicking off simultaneously, we have had in the past, some XIs of clubs leak before the FPL deadline shuts. Sometimes it’s a half hour in advance, sometimes it’s a few minutes and sometimes it is only a few seconds. But here is the strategy all managers should implement this week...

First, if you haven’t used your free transfer(s) yet, wait. On Sunday, say half an hour before team news, so, 90 minutes before kickoff or so, log onto Twitter. Search for early leaked XI’s. Have two FPL pages open in your browser. One page is your “planned” page. Whether it's the squad you have already finalized or, if you have yet to make your last transfer, the page should be open to the “transfers” section with that player you want chosen and all that needs to be done is hit “Confirm”. Meanwhile, in a second window, have your contingency plan. What if the player you wanted to bring in and/or captain is omitted from the XI, and you find this out with a minute to go before the deadline? Well, in this second window, set up the transfer you’d want to make in case the one you planned on is no longer in play. Or, if your team is set, have this second page with the armband on your #2 choice, ready to confirm. Basically, set yourself up with as many pages and different options as you want, just make it so that all is required is one click of the button. Because that split second could make the difference. I am not saying this will even have a 50% chance of coming into play for you, and some gameweeks, you will see a leaked XI. But, traditionally, this final round does provide more leaks than usual, so it is definitely something to treat seriously.

We all want to get our last captain right. Inevitably, some of us will be unlucky and your selection returns a blank. But, what you really want to avoid, if it can be avoided, is the situation where you captained a player that did not even start. That is going to make the next few hours quite painful. Who wants to end the season in pain if they don’t have to? Not me. It happens enough already when I have no say in the matter.

Right. Without further ado, let’s dive into the FPL landscape for Week 38 and look at the candidates for your final captain of 2019/2020...

 

Raheem Sterling (11.9m)

Rostered % - 22.4%

Points since restart - 70

Opponent - Norwich City (home)

So you want to captain a City player? That should be the name of a reality gameshow. Then again, does the world really need one more reality gameshow? Yes, this is the fixture we have all been thinking about. The league’s most lethal attack playing at home against a last place team with the worst defensive record with nothing left to play for and riddled with injuries. I will go ahead and spill the beans for you, among the most enthusiastic and engaged managers in the FPL community, Sterling is the most popular option heading into the final weekend.

There has been some worry in midweek when news surfaced that Sterling was on holiday in France. Has he already been given this match off? No. Toss that news away. Pep Guardiola gave his players a couple of days off. Sterling will be in the plans, at least, as much as any City attacking player is in this manager’s hands. That is to say, there are no guarantees. But, with a two-week break from competitive play coming after this game, I expect a strong side to be named and Sterling has been their main man lately, grabbing double-digit fantasy hauls in four of his last six games. 

 

Gabriel Jesus (9.9m)

Rostered % - 8.1%

Points since restart - 41

Opponent - Norwich City (home)

Jesus looks to be the differential pick among the City options. If you want to roll the dice on a boom or bust play, this is it. His rostered percentage is crazy low, and one would assume the majority of those that have him will not give him the armband, handing it to a more popular City option they have instead. Forty-one points since the restart has not set the world on fire and he enters this last game coming off a blank, so there is very little buzz behind him. Before the recent blank though, Jesus scored 30 points over his previous three games, so it is not like he is in some prolonged funk.

Jesus can also say what no other City option on this list cannot - he got an attacking return against the Canaries in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. Remember when Norwich beat city, 3-2? Yeah. That happened. Goals from Sergio Agüero and Rodri, assists from Bernardo Silva and...that’s right, Jesus.

 

Kevin De Bruyne (10.6m)

Rostered % - 48.9%

Points since restart - 54

Opponent - Norwich City (home)

To me, De Bruyne represents a fair compromise if you cannot decide between the popular pick in Sterling and the under-the-radar option of Jesus. It has been a while since De Bruyne has come up with a big return (of course, “a while” is relative since the restart) and, in my mind, a player of his caliber and attributes, he is the sort that is “due” to deliver. I wonder if he knows he is tied with Mo Salah for the FPL points crown entering the final matchday. Certainly someone in his inner circle has let him know. He also has motivation to match Thierry Henry’s assist record of 20. The Belgian has eclipsed that number in FPL terms, but a real-life stat and potential record should surely be on his mind.

I would say, if the goal you set for yourself in terms of a final overall rank is realistically unobtainable, if your rank is a 6-digit number and there’s no chance to make it a 5-digit number, De Bruyne is the sensible pick to me. He is also a differential for those in the upper ranks. Basically, the higher your rank, especially among the top 500k or so, the more Sterling is sensible while De Bruyne is a differential and the lower down your rank goes, the more De Bruyne becomes a shield play and Sterling a sword play.

 

 

David Silva (7.5m)

Rostered % - 8.3%

Points since restart - 46

Opponent - Norwich City (home)

One more City option to consider. I am personally not keen on the idea, but many other managers are and if you have a feeling in your gut to captain the veteran playmaker, I don’t blame you. Like Jesus, his rostered percentage alone guarantees a huge jump in the ranks if he returns a big score. The appeal for Silva in the community is that this is his final league game for the club, and this is a chance for him to go out with a bang. The whole thing sets up for a great story, befitting a Hollywood script...and I think that’s why I am not as bullish as everyone else. It has been my experience that, more often than not, the Hollywood ending that makes all the sense in the world on paper rarely plays out that way. Magical moments in sport tend to be spontaneous. Whenever sports try to manufacture a moment, well it has been hit and miss at best. 

That said, I have no issue with someone going with Silva. He is bound to start. He has form. He provides a differential. The fixture is great. I just have a fear in the back of my mind that there is a chance, however small, that Silva could get a symbolic sub off on 21 minutes, his shirt number. That’s a Hollywood ending we have seen before in reality. Let me just say though, are any of us going to be really surprised that any of the four City players I think are armband worthy are all outscored by Riayd Mahrez? Here is hoping, with all sincerity, that all of these options get at least a piece of the action on Sunday and we can all have a reason to smile.

 

Mo Salah (12.5m)

Rostered % - 33.0%

Points since restart - 46

Opponent - Newcastle (away)

It is kind of strange to think this way, but with the many legitimate options for the final weekend and considering everyone’s individual situations, Salah, who has always been among the most backed captaincy candidates every single week for a few seasons now, seems a bit of a wildcard to me. On the one hand, this is a fixture where he and the Reds could really do damage. Newcastle did manage a clean sheet against Brighton in their most recent match, but the Seagulls have only scored three goals over their last seven matches while the Magpies have coughed up plenty of goals since the restart, including five to Manchester City. Backing Salah comes down to two factors for me - 1) he presents a larger differential than he usually does and 2) is he feeling audacious enough to try and make up a four goal deficit and catch up to Jamie Vardy to earn a share of a third consecutive Golden Boot.

 

Harry Kane (10.9m)

Rostered % - 13.1%

Points since restart - 46

Opponent - Crystal Palace (away)

If you own Kane already, you have probably been in a very good mood for a week or so, and are seriously considering backing him for captaincy. I mean, how can you argue against it? He has scored a brace in back to back games and we have seen several years of a track record that shows, once Kane finds his scoring touch, he is as bankable a goal scorer as anyone in the league. It is just a matter of the fantasy community catching up with his shift in form in time to take advantage. Well, there is only one week left. There is no time to get on the Kane train except right now. Opponents, Crystal Palace, have completely lost the plot defensively, conceding at least two goals to every opponent over their last five league games. It has not been the best season for Kane or Spurs, but there is an opportunity to finish the season on a high and secure a Europa League spot, so as difficult as it has been for me this year to say, I think Spurs are in good shape to win convincingly here. If that’s the case, it’s hard to believe Kane will not be involved and he always has brace or better potential when he is in this kind of form playing a fixture like this.

 

The Leicester v Manchester United fixture - this is a match I look very much forward to watching and, of course, with the talent on hand between these two sides, a player or two could get a haul worthy of the armband. But, as a general philosophy, I tend to avoid matchups like this to search for my captain. Between what is sure to be a tight affair with so much on the line and making it very difficult to predict, along with so many decent options to consider instead anyway, as listed above, this would seem the game to avoid a captain nominee. Yes, Jamie Vardy is in line to win a Golden Boot. Yes, Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes and even to a degree Mason Greenwood, have been playing well enough since the restart to be in the armband conversation. But, come on folks, there are more sensible options out there. Bottom line, this is your game, you are the manager, this is the final decision. Enjoy it. If you want to captain Greenwood because your heart is screaming for it, then go for it. This has been a crazy season. Let’s end it on a positive note. Good luck to all. It is impossible for everyone to enjoy their captains with an equal amount of happiness, and hey, I want to work my way up the ranks a bit more too, but in all sincerity, I hope whoever you decide on starts and gets you a return of some sort. No blanks allowed for any of us! That is the least we deserve!

 

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 final arrow be green.

 

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