Captain Obvious: Week 5

Steve Rothgeb

Welcome back from the first international break of the season. The good news - it appears all of the top captaincy options have returned to play for their respective clubs free of any injury. Week 4 played out much like I expected, where I suggested that the big hauls would come from Manchester City. Sergio Agüero was the king of the round, and his 16 points catapulted him to the highest-scoring player in the game. Kevin De Bruyne, who is not getting the trust of most owners for the armband, notched his first goal of the season on his way to a healthy 13 points. However, the third valid option, Raheem Sterling, blanked, and he happened to be the most-captained player of the round. All three of these City giants had plenty of reason to have confidence in them, but you can see how, even if every other decision you make is right, the armband can make or break your round.

This week, I have cut the shortlist of options to five names, down from six the previous two weeks. It should come as no surprise that 60% of the names on the shortlist come from the same club, in what should be a goalfest at Carrow Road this weekend. Right then, I hope you have enjoyed your break but it is time to get back to business so let's take a look at the candidates in this Week 5 edition of Captain Obvious.


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Sergio Agüero (12.1m)

Ownership % - 25.3% (last week, 19.3%)

Season points - 40 (6 Gs, 1 A, 6 BPs)

Opponent - Norwich (away)

Check out that rise in ownership percentage. The mantra of "Always Captain Aguero" lives on, and if you own him, it is virtually impossible to look at it any other away. Everything was aligned for a big round against Brighton. An injured Gabriel Jesus meant Kun was not only a lock to start, but in great shape to play a full shift, which he did for the second consecutive round. He looks to be a solid pick once again for Week 5, as, unlike most of the armband options this week, he got a full rest during the international break, playing no part for Argentina. Jesus may be back in the squad this week, but he is no threat to start and will probably be reduced to a cameo appearance at best. Aguero's shot totals have increased every week since Opening Day. Just a single shot in Week 1, followed by three, then four, then five last week against the Seagulls.

When it comes to history versus opponent, forgive me for throwing the stats, or lack thereof, out the window. What matter is quite simple. Manchester City have scored more goals than any club in the league so far this season and have done so for the previous two seasons. Norwich, meanwhile, have the worst defensive record in the league, not to mention injury problems at the back. 

Raheem Sterling (12.3m)

Ownership % - 46.3 % (last week, 46.7%)

Season points - 34 (5 Gs, 34 BPs)

Opponent - Norwich (away)

Those who captained Sterling last week may feel the need to look for a different option after the winger came up empty-handed against Brighton. It was a frustrating dud of a performance, in which Sterling failed to even register a single shot and supplied just one key pass. However, if you have been following England's exploits during international play, Sterling's Week 4 blank is a distant memory. In a 5-3 win over Kosovo, Sterling was the central figure for the Three Lions, scoring a goal and adding a hat trick's worth of assists. Sterling also scored earlier in the break against Bulgaria. He was subbed off in that game but is worth at least mentioning that Sterling did play the full 90 against Kosovo. Also, keep in mind that City's Champions League campaign kicks off next week on a Wednesday night. I have full confidence that Sterling will start against the Canaries, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him play less than the full 90 minutes, to give him a breather in a game City should dominate.



Mo Salah (12.5m)

Ownership % -  42.9% (last week, 40.4%)

Season points - 30 (3 Gs, 2 As, 5 BPs)

Opponent - Newcastle (home)

Salah produced an attacking return against Burnley, albeit just a single assist, but his underlying stats showed that he was highly involved. Don't tell Sadio Mané, who was unhappy Salah didn't look his way on a late attack, that the Egyptian international was quite generous with the ball against the Clarets, supplying a season-high four key passes in the win. His goal attempts saw little drop off from the previous week in which he bagged a brace. Both weeks saw him hit the target twice, but he simply couldn't get it past a solid keeper in Nick Pope. It is a short sample size, but so far Salah has played twice at home, and twice away. He has three goals and an assist at Anfield while only getting the one assist so far at Turf Moor. So, 75% of Salah's production has come at home, and that is where he will be this weekend. Indeed, the Reds have dominated at home going back to the start of last season.

Salah's record against the Magpies should help build his case for the armband. In the Anfield fixture last season, he ordered up a combo meal, grabbing a goal and an assist. Even the trip up north to St. James' Park didn't curtail Salah's production, as he scored in front of the Newcastle fans. Two seasons ago, Salah had a goal at Anfield against the Magpies, so he has found the net in three straight matchups with this side. Newcastle's defense has been respectable the past two rounds, conceding just a single goal in that span which included a 0-1 win at Tottenham. Steve Bruce will likely try to approach this matchup much the way he did against Spurs. It is unlikely to result in a shock win at Anfield, but it may help limit the damage of the Liverpool attack.


Kevin De Bruyne (9.8m)

Ownership % - 34.1% (last week, 38%)

Season points - 36 (1 G, 5 As, 6 BPs)

Opponent - Norwich (away)

De Bruyne has not been among the leaders in "most captained" player on a weekly basis, but you can likely see now why I think he deserves a spot on the shortlist pretty much every round. I have been banging the drum that, while he may not have the explosive potential of a 15, 20, or more point gameweek, he may be the most trustworthy player in the game to provide a return of some sort. Well, in Week 4, he found the net for the first time this season while keeping his "at least one assist a week" streak going. Now he stands just a single point behind Sterling on the season. His international exploits further underline his sizzling form. In a 0-4 win over Scotland, KdB played a part in every goal, scoring one and assisting the other three. He did go the full 90 in that one, but did get a shorter shift in the first game of the break against San Merino.

Again, no reason to look at history versus opponent when it comes to City options against Norwich. We are talking about the best attack in the league against the worst defense. I would say that if you are an owner of KdB and Sterling and you captained Sterling last round and do not want to feel burned for a second round straight, KdB deserves your consideration. I would think the over/under on goals scored for City in this match is three, and it would be an anomaly for the Belgian international to not get some piece of that action.


Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (11m)

Ownership % - 22.2% (last week, 23.5%)

Season points - 26 (3 Gs, 1 A, 3 BPs)

Opponent - Watford (away)

Aubameyang is my differential captain pick of the week. Why can't FPL managers show him any love? He has had attacking returns in every match, culminating in his best round yet in the draw with Tottenham in which he walked away with the maximum bonus points. He took a healthy four shots in the North London derby, while supplying a key pass as well. He also has had a full rest during the international break with Gabon not playing. What is very attractive about PEA is his scoring record against non-top six sides during his Arsenal career. In 38 such matches, equivalent to a full season, he has 31 goals. That is certainly a statistic that cannot be ignored and a sample size large enough to give it plenty of credibility. And yet, with form, rest and track record all on his side, this is the second straight week his ownership has dropped.

That said, Watford was fairly good at keeping Aubameyang in check last season, allowing him to score just once over two fixtures. But, if you take into account the one match he played against the Hornets the season before that, in March of 2018, he had a goal and an assist. Watford are under new management, same as the old management, or at least if you go back three managers ago on the Hornet managerial carousel as Quique Sánchez Flores returns to direct the club. That does provide somewhat of an X-factor, in that clubs have a tendency to perform well in the first match with a new boss in charge. Still, that track record is up against Aubameyang's record against non-bottom six sides.


Who's been left off the shortlist and why...


Sadio Mané (11.5m)

Ownership % - 19% (last week, 18.6%)

Season points - 25 (2 Gs, 1 A, 3 BPs)

Opponent - Newcastle (home)

With both Salah and Mane having a full rest during the international break, the pair could explode at Anfield against Newcastle in the early Saturday kickoff this weekend. Even though Mane scored a goal in Week 4 and has a solid fixture on tap, I just feel there is a more of a trust factors with those featured in the shortlist and, at this point of the season, I cannot imagine there is an FPL manager left without at least one of those players on that list. But, if you want an interesting stat that may lend some credibility to his omission from the elite picks this season, check out what Liverpool did against Newcastle last season - the Reds scored at total of seven goals over the two fixtures and Mane played the full 90 minutes in each game. His attacking returns for those two games? No goals, no assists. Take from that what you will, but perhaps Newcastle has the Senegalese international's number. That said, he is still mentioned in this week's column because I recognize the potential is still there. The same cannot be said for the likes of Teemu Pukki or Marcus Rashford, who are nowhere to be found this week.


Harry Kane (11m)

Ownership % - 23.9% (last week, 27.6%)

Season points - 23 (3 Gs, 3 BPs)

Opponent - Crystal Palace (home)

Yet another striker who has seen his ownership drop despite finding the net in his last match. But, such is the volatility of players who are as expensive as he is. Even though Kane scored a hat trick over the international break, it cannot be ignored that the Tottenham attack is struggling to find their identity at the moment. His one goal against the Gunners is the only goal the entire club has scored in their last two games and that is the kind of poor attacking form that should see managers look for other captaincy options. That said, the transfer window has finally closed, Christian Eriksen looks set to play his customary role going forward and Dele Alli is getting back to full fitness. So, I won't be surprised to see Spurs turn their attack around this weekend against the Eagles, but the trust factor simply isn't there yet for armband consideration.


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.

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