Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate!
Right. How do I maintain a positive, chipper mood presenting this week’s column after making one of the worst decisions of my FPL career - transferring out a player before a game in which he scores four goals? I suppose the answer is to come right out and admit my mistake and resulting deep regret right from the get-go. That will help me move on, surely. (It still hurts. The pain will never go away)
Yes, Heung-Min Son has to take player of the week award honors after a four-goal explosion against Southampton. Of course, a performance like that will get one noticed in a captaincy discussion. It also result in a rage transfer back in of the player ahead of GW3 on my part. That’s right folks, only two rounds of transfer movement have occurred, and I have spent a transfer in one round taking Son out and another transfer in this round bringing him back in. Have I mentioned the pain yet? I did the math. It’s about a 30 point mistake.
So what else went down around the league last weekend? Salah captainers were let down as it was Sadio Mané’s turn to grab points. Both Manchester sides made their season debuts and boy, could the results have been more opposite? City look poised for another title run after making things look easy in a fixture most would consider tough - away to Wolves. Meanwhile, United took a face plant right out of the starting gate, losing and losing convincingly at home to Crystal Palace. Well, if we only have to worry about one Manchester side’s attacking options for our fantasy teams, at least that makes life a little easier. That is the silver lining I am going with anyway.
Everton are looking like a side we need to start considering as threatening enough in attack to consider armband candidates after dropping five goals on the Baggies. Perhaps not trusted enough for a captaincy nod, but we also must acknowledge that Leeds United and Brighton’s attacks look very promising and the source of those budget picks you need to fill out your fantasy squads.
Right, that was as chipper as I could be considering the nightmare fantasy scenario that was Week 2. Trust me, I am ready to wipe the board clean and come back swinging, so let’s not waste time and take a look at the Week 3 edition of Captain Obvious...
Mo Salah (12.1m)
Rostered% - 37.6% (holding steady)
Opponent - Arsenal (home)
With form and fixtures changing the landscape between Week 1 and now, Salah is the only player that makes this week’s shortlist that was on last week’s, making him the only candidate to feature in all three weeks to start the season. Well, he is coming off a blank, so what is so appealing about him?
For one, it’s Mo Salah at home. Unless he’s mired in a prolonged drought or simply looks “off”, like he’s been playing with a knock, then a home game versus any opponent makes Salah a legit armband choice.
Second, there may be a different player is who is most captained overall this week, but Salah will surely be among the top three. There is some safety in numbers if he blanks.
Third, speaking of blanks, despite his inability to produce an attacking return against Chelsea, his numbers show he hadn’t disappeared. In fact, he had five key passes against the Blues, one more than he had in Week 1. Yes, his shots were down, but from an unsustainable nine to a still-healthy four.
Finally, and this seems the enticing piece to the puzzle for me: history with this fixture. It’s everything you would want it to be. Home versus Arsenal the previous three seasons had scorelines of 3-1, 5-1 and 4-0. In ALL THREE games, Salah had two attacking returns. A brace last season and a goal/assist combo the two seasons prior. For those with extra superstitious beliefs, two of those games were played in the exact same round - Week 3. I have to say, this looks a real trend to me. I know Arsenal are looking to level up under the guidance of Mikel Arteta, but this will be Arsenal’s first true test of the season, after a couple of soft fixtures against Fulham and West Ham.
Kevin De Bruyne (11.6m)
Rostered% - 39.0% (rising fast)
Opponent - Leicester (home)
I really did do De Bruyne a misservice by keeping him out of the shortlist and among the honorable mentions. He went right back to work as a fantasy beast and one of the very best week-to-week captaincy choices on offer, after starting the season off with a bang, netting a goal, dishing out an assist, and of course, grabbing the maximum bonus. Starting a new season on the road to Wolves combined with what I saw as being sensible alternatives kept KDB out of the top choices, and I regret that thought process. Just under a half million managers ignored my reasoning, fourth-most captained player of Week 2 and were rewarded handsomely and deservedly. He showed his class as a scorer and provider. Six key passes against Wolves...only three players in the league have more in the first two games. Four shots taken and all hit the target. He’s quite good, isn’t he?
So now City have, in my mind, a better fixture. Sure Leicester could be considered, at least, on par with Wolves in terms of formidable opponent, but Leicester got hit with some news in the last 24 hours that I think really should weigh in on the appeal of De Bruyne or other City assets for that matter, and that is the injury to Wilfried Ndidi. Ndidi is the foundation which Leicester operates around. Yes, the first two weeks he was used as a center back instead of his customary midfield anchor role, but at either level, he is the guy in the middle ready to dispossess you. With Jonny Evans still serving suspension and Ndidi now out of the picture as a makeshift replacement, Leicester’s back line enters this match with some serious questions. At full strength, the Foxes wouldn’t embarrass themselves giving up a couple of goals at the Etihad, but this situation could see a pretty lopsided result. This is not to say that the Ndidi situation “makes” the case for De Bruyne, but it certainly doesn’t hurt his outlook.
Heung-Min Son (12m)
Rostered% - 31.6% (rising fast)
Opponent - Newcastle United (home)
When you score four goals in the previous week...you kinda get automatically rewarded with a top spot in the captaincy discussion. Yes Son, the player that gave me so much reality joy and fantasy pain last week, certainly deserves to be in the mix with a home game against Newcastle and, considering the heavy investment in the transfer market for him this week, pushing his rostered % to near one out of three managers, he will surely be among the most captained players in Week 3. He made the most of his shots. He took four and they all went in. Son has a way of scoring effortlessly when he is feeling good and that was how things looked last weekend against the Saints.
So with the form as red-hot can be for a one-game performance, and the tantalizing visions of Son and Harry Kane linking up repeatedly lingering in the mind of the fantasy manager, how does the fixture look? In the eyes of many, it would appear a very favorable matchup for Son, playing at home against a Newcastle side who did not appear sharp at all in their 0-3 defeat at the hands of Brighton. So, nothing to worry about here, right? All systems go? Well, not exactly. You see, I am a Spurs fan and I am well aware of one very annoying fact - Tottenham have had a history of underperforming against the Magpies. Whether you go back several seasons when Spurs were neck and neck with Leicester for the title race, only to lose at home to a Newcastle side that was already relegated, or as recently as last season when this exact fixture was played in the exact same week, and Newcastle took the game on the road, 0-1. Let’s also keep in mind that Tottenham found a weakness in Southampton’s strategy and exploited it in the second half. That first Son goal wasn’t until the last moments of the first half. Before that, Spurs hadn’t so much as attempted a shot. Should Newcastle know what “not” to do, it is difficult to see Tottenham’s attack scoring so freely. Still, I think Son does deserve a spot among the elite choices, but there is a bit of concern hidden below the surface of what looks an obviously solid candidate.
Timo Werner (9.5m)
Rostered% - 35.9% (more transfers out than in this week)
Opponent - West Brom (away)
This is, admittedly, the wild card of the shortlist. Over 100,000 managers have brought Werner in this week, some perhaps on a wildcard (many are playing theirs in these early weeks) but most who have brought him in are probably looking at the match against West Brom as a lucrative opportunity. Yet, let’s take in this sobering fact: over 300,000 managers have transferred Chelsea’s new striker out ahead of a date with the Baggies. Will Werner wind up being the highest scoring captaincy option this week? Obviously, that is an unknown. But chances are, he is going to return something in this fixture and it is a bit of madness to me to be selling him off. I could see a straight swap for Gabriel Jesus being enticing, as Jesus has the same price tag at the moment, City have hit the ground running, and so forth, but it is amazing how certain players and, for that matter, clubs are ignored so quickly after one disappointing game. And here’s the thing - the game wasn’t exactly a shocking result. They lost to the defending champs. It happens. Liverpool are quite good.
No, if anything, I think the goalless result against the Reds just gives Frank Lampard’s side motivation to score and pour it on against West Brom. The Baggies are one of those clubs that is going to be stung by the lack of physical fan support in their home games. There really is no advantage for West Brom playing at home, as was the case in their home-opening 0-3 loss to Leicester. I am expecting a similar result here. Chelsea are coming off a 6-0 thumping of Barnsley in Carabao Cup action midweek, a game in which several thought-to-be second-team players got the start, Werner sat out the entire match with Tammy Abraham starting and Olivier Giroud coming on later. That tells me Lampard is preserving Werner for the West Brom game and with so much of Chelsea’s potential success hinging on Werner becoming a prolific goal-scorer, this fixture has all the looks to me of a “coming out party”. So, Werner will definitely be captained less than the other top picks this week based on his minimal fantasy output in the first two league games, which makes him the differential play for those who like that sort of thing.
Other options - Before last weekend, I think we all can admit, if we were looking ahead to Week 3 and saw Manchester United playing Brighton on the road, we would have said “there’s surely an armband candidate there”. But then, Week 2 happened. We saw a terrible performance from United and we saw Brighton look fantastic, even racking up a clean sheet. (my pick as the surprise team of the season by the way) Now, the landscape has changed just like that. No, I cannot in good faith consider any United options. I will acknowledge, any of their big names could have a big day...that’s kind of how sports work, especially the Premier League, but there is nothing from last weekend’s showing that should offer any confidence to fantasy managers.
Right, surely there are options to consider from City beyond just Kevin De Bruyne. Probably the two options to earn mention here are Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling. Sterling was not too involved in last week’s win while Jesus had a healthy amount of shots and scored a goal, so based on that alone, I would feel a bit more confident in Jesus if I had both in my squad. However, Sterling’s reputation is certainly more established and we have become accustomed to his erratic output. He’s either very quiet or very, very loud. If you think it’s his turn to get loud, you have a potentially lethal weapon if you double his points.
Harry Kane just came off a game with four attacking returns...what are you doing omitting him from the shortlist, Steve? Well, he’s close, I will give you that. Frankly, if you have Kane and don’t have Son, and believe in Tottenham doing well this weekend, it’s a fine alternative to the South Korean international. But let’s not fool ourselves here - last weekend’s fantasy output was a strange one indeed. Four assists for a player who had two FPL assists in the entirety of last season. Last week was a statistical anomaly for Kane.
Well, what about players who have gotten off to a hot start like Wilfried Zaha and Dominic Calvert-Lewin? It just so happens those two will square off this weekend in what promises to be an intriguing fantasy matchup between Palace and Everton. Do they deserve a mention for their early success? Certainly. Have they ascended to the the very elite of armband options? In my opinion, no. For Zaha, probably never for me. Something about giving the armband to an attacking Eagle sounds crazy to me. Everton, on the other hand, I can see over time this season warming up to the idea of captaining one of their assets. Likely DCL or James Rodriguez, but not quite yet.
And finally, of course Sadio Mané has the track record of putting up explosive games frequently enough to always linger in the armband debate. He just isn’t quite up with Salah for me though in terms of trust. But if you have him and not Salah, he certainly should look appealing to you.
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.