Captain Obvious: Week 7

Steve Rothgeb
·9 min read

Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate!

Right. Well, according to feedback from social media over last weekend, most of us did not have a very good Week 6, particularly in the armband department. Of all the popular choices to back for that round, only Heung-Min Son delivered the goods. What? You mean to tell me you didn’t captain Karlan Grant? What were you thinking?

Well, the good news is, a bad round does not sting so much when you realize that the vast majority of managers were in the same boat. But congratulations if you were able to navigate your way to a big score this week, it should have resulted in a major climbing of your rank.

The bad news is, due to some technical issues on my end, this week’s column is a day later than usual, and we have a Friday night kickoff, so it will be necessary to present a condensed version of Captain Obvious this time around. Frankly, looking at the fixtures, I see two standout matches to look for one’s captain, so the shortlist is going to be just that...short.

Here’s hoping we see the points flow again this weekend and it all starts with picking a good captain. Let’s look at these top choices heading into Week 7...

Mo Salah (12.3m)

Rostered % - 47.1% (holding steady)

Total points - 50 (6 Gs, 1 A, 4 BPs)

Opponent - West Ham (home)

Last week, I said I could envision Liverpool scoring a minimum of two goals against the Blades and that Salah is more likely than anyone to be involved. Well, they scored two goals, but there was no Salah-bration to be had. The numbers show that it simply was not his day though, rather than a reason to panic about his viability as a captaincy option. He took four shots, precisely what he had been averaging the previous four games, hitting the target once, something he manages to do at least once in every match so far this season. He also provided a pair of key passes, which again is par for the course, so the assist potential is still there as well.

It’s no surprise that Tottenham weapons will be addressed in the armband debate as they play home to Brighton, so how does West Ham look as opponents to Liverpool in comparison? Well, the Hammers have actually been pretty good defensively. Yes, they conceded three goals to Spurs a couple of weeks back, but went into that match having conceded the least amount of big chances to opponents than any other club in the league. They then followed up the Spurs result with a heady 1-1 draw against Manchester City. Any time you can hold the Citizens to a lone goal, even when they are missing some key players, you’ve done well. So I am thinking two goals again here. Well, can I again go with the theory that two goals should see Salah get a piece of the action? Yeah, I can. Salah has a goal in this fixture in each of the last three seasons. And he is not the only one...

Sadio Mané (12m)

Rostered % - 9.7% (rising a bit)

Total points - 39 (4 Gs, 2 As, 4 BPs)

Opponent - West Ham (home)

Mane proved to be a valuable differential last week and I think it’s time to allow him a place among the elite options rather than only giving him an honorable mention. Last week’s return helped close the gap between he and Salah and, should Mane deliver again this weekend and Salah does not, then their point total on the season are going to be quite close. This could lead to a shift of the heavily owned Salah to Mane, giving many a .2m sell-on profit while maintaining Liverpool coverage. Keep in mind, Mane was absent in Week 4, so these two could be even closer already by now. So, if you already have Mane, you should be looking at him with the same lens that Salah owners are as the Reds host West Ham.

Mane has attacking returns in his last four straight appearances and is plenty involved in the Liverpool attack. Salah does get more shot volume but Mane’s percentage of shots hitting the target is a tad higher. (20 shots, 9 on target versus 29 shots, 12 on target - which translates to 45% on target for Mane versus about 40% for Salah). Mane has also scored in this fixture for the past three seasons. He had a goal last season and three seasons ago, with a brace sandwiched in-between. If you want a strong differential play, Mane is your man-e. But it would be great to keep up this trend. Both Salah and Mane have goals in this fixture for three years running. Let’s go for four.

Harry Kane (10.9m)

Rostered % - 41.7% (rising steady)

Total points - 65 (5 Gs, 8 As, 9 BPs)

Opponent - Brighton (home)

Well, he’s done it. We are six games into this season and Harry Kane has already broke his record for most assists in a single campaign, providing his eighth to who else but Heung-Min Son, accounting for the only goal of the match but Tottenham still came away with three points. It helps that I need to keep this week’s column short because there really isn’t much of a case to be made for either of these two as armband candidates. I still give Kane the edge for having penalty kick duties, but how many more times are we going to keep seeing the same “Son goal, Kane assist” link up before we anoint this the feature and not a bug?

This makes thirteen attacking contributions in six games. Kane is averaging more than two attacking returns a game. How can you not look at him as an armband candidate? Which leaves the opposition - Brighton. The Seagulls look pretty easy to read as a defensive unit. When they play the small clubs, they are respectable, if not pretty good. When they play the larger clubs, they tend to cough up goals with ease. Let us look at the splits so far this season:

Against Newcastle, Crystal Palace and West Brom - three matches, 2 goals conceded

Against Chelsea, Man United and Everton - three matches, 10 goals conceded

I don’t think I need to do much to convince you that Spurs are a big club and have scored more goals than any other club to date so far this season. I expect three goals here, and I’d be more surprised if they scored two or less than I would be to see them score four or more. This is an extremely attractive fixture for armband selection.

Heung-Min Son (9.5m)

Rostered % - 57.0% (rising fast)

Total points - 69 (8 Gs, 2 As, 10 BPs)

Opponent - Brighton (away)

We know the sun is as hot as it gets. However, this Son is giving that sun a run for the money. I was saying last week, it is like watching a video game player inserted into a real life scenario and you know how to beat the computer every time. I mean the reaction to head home Kane’s header was next-level. He now has eight goals in the first six games of the season, well on his way to having a career year. It is difficult to resist the potential for another double-digit haul, which he has accomplished in his last four games (minus the Newcastle match where he was subbed at halftime with an injury)

So, Steve, you seem to suggest that backing one of Kane or Son is a slam dunk choice for the armband this week. Is that the case?

Thank you for that excellent question, me. Okay, let me at least give a bit of a flip side to the coin. Kane and Son did hook up once again last weekend and that’s great. However, Burnley did give Spurs fits, going nearly 80 minutes before finally conceding that single goal. Tottenham were certainly expected to score more based on recent performances. However, last night they had a chance to pour it on against Antwerp in Europa League action and instead the whole team blanked in a 1-0 loss. So that is a single goal scored for Spurs in the last two games. Now, to be fair, Kane and Son did not start against the Belgian side, but it was still a pretty strong XI and both did come on as substitutes. So this Brighton game is one to watch to see if Tottenham can return to putting up three goals or more.

Other options - Manchester United are coming off a huge 5-0 win and three of those goals came from Marcus Rashford...as a substitute. The Red Devils are starting to find their feet with the attack and the midfield “dream” trio of Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek and Bruno Fernandes now appears to be a reality. They host an Arsenal side that have injury problems at the back. This could be a sneaky fixture to jump on with a Manchester option, particularly Rashford.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin will look to start a new scoring streak when Everton travel to Newcastle. I would think he has a good chance to do so, but it really comes down to the fitness of James Rodriguez. He is making the Toffee attack click, but he is dealing with a knock that would explain a lack of production last weekend. Raúl Jiménez has found his scoring shoes again with goals in back-to-back games for Wolves, and they have the Friday night kickoff, so if you like to a potentially big score before Saturday even begins, you might consider him. Aston Villa had a dud last weekend so it will be interesting to see how they respond when they host Southampton. Had they done better in Week 6, I probably would have Jack Grealish on the shortlist. But, for now, he gets an honorable mention here. I said again last week, I am avoiding Manchester City as a source for captain because their attack is not healthy and the one goal scored last week only reinforces those feelings. However, if you are a Raheem Sterling owner, I suppose you spent the cash necessary with the thinking he is armband material. Sheffield United are the opposition and as I’ve said a time or two already this season, they are not nearly as tough defensively as they were last season. Finally, Jamie Vardy. Just because he is Jamie Vardy. Not a “great” fixture in my estimation, but Vardy tends to be “fixture-proof”, completely capable of finding the net against any opponent. If you want that secret weapon for the final match of the round on Monday night, then he would be your man.

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.