Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate!
Well, this is going to be difficult introduction to navigate. One the one hand, many of you will be reading this the morning of Thanksgiving, so here is wishing you a happy holiday, albeit, like most things in 2020, an unorthodox one. I will be spending my holiday enjoying perhaps my second-favorite pastime, watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 and their annual Turkey Day marathon. Yes, I am a huge fan of terrible films. Hit me up on Twitter for any recommendations and I will have plenty to offer you back. Tis the season of giving thanks, after all.
So, there is the other hand, which cannot be ignored, sad as it is. This morning, the first news that hit me before my required cup of coffee was the passing of Diego Maradona. If you are 43 years old or thereabouts, which is my age, this might have been the first real sports legend you were exposed to. Memories of the 1982 World Cup at the age of five was my indoctrination into both the sport of football and the love of competition in general. “Maradona” was a name that spread around like wildfire and, looking back in context so many years later, it is quite incredible how much buzz he generated in a country which, at the time, was not very invested in the sport. By 1986, he had cemented his legendary status with another brilliant World Cup performance, scoring five goals that summer. Yes, including “that goal”. Aged nine by that time, sports had officially taken over my life. I had a hero in every sport. Wayne Gretzky in the NHL, Lawrence Taylor in the NFL, Magic Johnson in the NBA, Cal Ripken in MLB and Diego Maradona. I was only a kid then, but I suppose it wasn’t until I did some reflecting today that I realize, these were all kids then, too. Rest in peace, Diego.
Right, so attempting a successful segue here is all but impossible, so let me transition to the one topic I am extremely comfortable with - moaning about a bad captaincy choice in the previous gameweek. Of the four top-tier players I nominated in Week 9, three had returns, one did not. Guess which one I chose? Yes, in a week where I felt the armband had a decent spread of options, I was in the mood to go for a lesser-backed player in Jack Grealish. I did make clear in my breakdown of him last week that he was a boom or bust selection, with so much of his production coming from two of the eight previous Aston Villa matches. Well, it was bust. Still though, despite hanging onto Mo Salah, not transferring Bruno Fernandes in, picking the worst possible player to captain AND only getting minutes from 10 men last weekend, my overall rank dropped from 650k to 800k. I can cope with that. Mainly because I was expecting a down week, holding my transfer, holding onto Salah and not boarding the BrunoMobile. Instead, I have targeted this week for a big climb in the ranks. Salah is ready to roll and will be more effective now that his ownership has gone down, and I have brought in Jamie Vardy with just enough funds. Spoiler alert: I plan to captain him at home to Fulham.
Callum Wilson had to make way, I wanted to keep the rest of my attacking players intact, so putting some cash aside and trimming the fat off the bench allowed me to enter this weekend with an XI of: Martinez; Chilwell, Cresswell, J Lewis; J Rodriguez, Grealish, Son, Salah; Calvert-Lewin, Vardy, Kane. That lineup had better deliver the goods, or I will need the holiday turkey to put me into a tryptophan coma until Week 11 starts. Optimism, Steve, optimism...let’s look at the top choices for the Week 10 edition of Captain Obvious...
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (7.9m)
Rostered % - 59.8% (rising steady)
Total points - 57 (10 Gs, 1 A, 10 BPs)
Opponent - Leeds (home)
Boy did I hit the nail on the head regarding Calvert-Lewin last week. Two main points were made - one, his armband worth takes a major boost with the return of Richarlison, which took all of 42 seconds to prove itself last weekend and two, he has not been picking up as much in bonus points as others among the leaders in goals, so it would seem to take two attacking returns to get that bonus. Well, he delivered in that department as well, picking up bonus for only the second time since Week 2. Everton’s preferred front six, along with a fit and available Lucas Digne, make for a pretty dependable attacking side. Take one of those pieces out of the equation however, and they show some cracks in the armor. Well, they enter this weekend fully fit in the attacking department, so I am ready to see DCL add to his league-leading ten goals.
Now nearing 60% in the rostered percentage department, no player is in more FPL teams than DCL at this point. When you consider the rate of actual “live” teams, it has to be closer to 80% or more, so we are at the point where if you REALLY want to enjoy DCL’s production, then you pretty much have to captain him. Otherwise, we are all celebrating the same thing which, by definition, means we have nothing to actually celebrate. So, is this a good matchup to try and double his points? If you were asking me this at the same stage last week, I would have said, “absolutely”. Leeds had lost their way defending recently, giving up three or four goals in each of their previous three games. However, the defense was heroic last weekend, responsible for earning a tough point in a 0-0 with Arsenal. I will split the difference here and surmise that Everton will find the net twice, and DCL’s chances of being involved in at least one of them is about 90%. This is “Fuzzy” math, to be fair. But I stand by it.
Mo Salah (12.2m)
Rostered % - 27.7% (rising fast)
Total points - 67 (8 Gs, 1 As, 7 BPs)
Opponent - Brighton (away)
Welcome back from isolation, Mr. Salah. Perhaps other players who might be considered for the armband would get a demotion following a coronavirus layoff, but not my man Mo. He has already gotten some competitive minutes in with Champions League play in midweek and should hit the ground running when the Reds travel to Brighton this weekend. Now, the CL result was a bit of a shock - Liverpool lost at home, by two goals to Atalanta. The attack was not sharp, thought to be fair, it was not their strongest side. This weekend will be interesting to watch and see if Jurgen Klopp squeezes Diogo Jota into the side, while still maintaining Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino. It would require Salah to shift to center forward and Firmino dropping behind “in the hole”, but this looks a good fixture to give this attack-heavy look a chance.
Brighton are in trouble this weekend. Watching them last weekend, Tariq Lamptey is everything to that club right now, on both sides of the ball, and his absence will certainly be felt. The Seagulls were already an average to below-average defense with him but all that action on the right for Brighton, both attacking and defending is gone this weekend, so I am optimistic about Liverpool taking out their midweek frustrations here and putting up three or more on Brighton. This fixture was last played in July and you could say Salah did ok - how does two goals and an assist sound? Also, I should have mentioned this by now, Salah is SO due for an assist. No one has set up for assists without being rewarded as much as he has so far this season. I am calling it now. One assist for sure for the Egyptian international with another return of some sort at a better-than-50/50 chance.
Jamie Vardy (10.2m)
Rostered % - 25.7% (rising fast)
Total points - 61 (8 Gs, 2 As, 10 BPs)
Opponent - Fulham (home)
If I was chillin’ in a lighthouse with Willem Dafoe right now, he would probably be asking me, “Why’d you spill your beans?” about Vardy already in the introduction this week. Well, what can I say? I wear my heart on my sleeve and to tell you the truth Willem, no, I am not fond of ye lobster. (Thank you, the 2% of the reading audience to understand these references) If you have been following my column this season, it took about a total of one week to establish what has been a pretty dependable strategy - captain against Fulham. It certainly worked for those who backed Dominic Calvert-Lewin last weekend. And on paper, this matchup is even more lopsided, with Fulham having to hit the road and Leicester having a better season than the Toffees thus far. This is one of those matchups that I saw coming weeks ago and made plans for, so you are darn tootin’, I am spilling the beans. Vardy is my captain. There, I said it. This is not a customary proclamation I am making. This column is meant to be presented without bias, but for crying out loud, after bombing with Grealish last weekend, I cannot resist the urge to prematurely flaunt a “Vardy Party”. The only issue here is, the Foxes still have a Europa League contest to get out of the way, so be sure to check on Vardy’s status following their match against Braga.
Detractors may say, “Hey Steve, did you see Leicester last weekend? Leicester were held goalless and Vardy wasn’t much of a threat.” To that I say - “Excellent”. This is precisely the scenario I wanted. I did not anticipate a return for Vardy against Liverpool and a quiet blank does wonders when you are trying to maximize a player’s potential. Imagine if Vardy had done well last weekend, and had the momentum see his roster percentage skyrocket during the week and a heavy armband backing. This is perfect. He is still seeing plenty of buyers this week, but I am ready to see Vardy explode here, and enjoy what should be a lower-than-oughta-be captaincy percentage. He will get his chances surely and Vardy is so clearly the top attacking option at Leicester. I feel more confident backing him than, say, a Manchester City asset, which feels more like a guessing game.
Kevin De Bruyne (11.6m)
Rostered % - 17.9% (rising steady)
Total points - 39 (1 G, 3 As, 3 BPs)
Opponent - Burnley (home)
Including de Bruyne in the top tier this week almost feels like an obligation more than anything else. I mean, at home to a Burnley side that just squeaked their way out of the relegation zone for the time being last weekend, and Manchester City having a full strength attacking side for the first time I believe all season, one pretty much has to nominate a Citizen for the armband. Going with further logic- with production from this side coming from any direction in a given week, it seems the most prudent to back the Belgian playmaker to return at least something. City’s fixtures are taking a very friendly turn starting this weekend. By the time this run ends, they may have blown up the league so much, we could be talking about two or three captaincy options from this side. So, if you want a differential before the bandwagon fills up, this would seem the week to roll the dice.
That said, I am not a fan. De Bruyne is due a big haul, I will not deny that. Sergio Agüero could explode, Raheem Sterling might go bananas, Gabriel Jesus could take the headlines. Maybe this stems from being personally bitten by taking a roll of the dice on Grealish last weekend, but this seems a week to be more conservative, considering there are some very strong options who have form and are playing weak defenses to choose from. Perhaps allowing City a game or two to establish their usually-reliable attack again is the best move. But here’s a tidbit that might make up your mind on KDB - City outscored the Clarets in their two fixtures last season by nine goals to one. De Bruyne played in both of those games. Of those nine goals, he did not score or assist a single one. What’s up with that?
Other options - One of the least enjoyable aspects of last weekend was Twitter’s reaction to Bruno Fernandes’ penalty goal, which gave him a solid fantasy day and positive outcome for those who captained him. I get it. If you have him, the points are deserved. If you don’t have him, they are not. Fun argument. Anyway, given Fernandes’ fantastic road numbers, Bruno has to get a mention here. I am just not as bullish as others. I mean, the reason why I did not bring him in last weekend was that I am not confident in United’s attack in general, week in and week out, and considering they could only get one goal from a spot kick against the likes of West Brom, my take feels justified. Still, if you have him, he will get plenty of backing this week, I am sure. I cannot fault someone for a little loyalty.
Of course, the big match that everyone will be tuning into is Chelsea v Tottenham, with the top of the table on the line and a litmus test for both sides’ chances of a title run this season. Harry Kane, for me, is still a solid captain pick, but I will need to take him down a peg this week in a matchup I simply cannot predict, whether it will be tight or full of goals or who, if anyone, will win. It will be a nervy “reality”experience for me, surely. Of course, Heung-Min Son has the potential to rise up again, and Chlesea have some solid weapons as well, but Kane, I feel, is the only option in this match that deserves 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.