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Weekly Picks

Captain Obvious: Week 2

by Steve Rothgeb
Updated On: August 14, 2019, 7:16 am ET

Well, that was not too shabby of an opening captaincy column, was it? All around the FPL community, points were a-flowing in Week 1, as the three captains I nominated for potential selection all delivered, those being Mo Salah, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. The result was a very good week for many, with scores reaching the 80's and 90's on a regular basis, and a few savvy managers were able to bust through the century plateau. Sure, Sterling armband-backers enjoyed the best of things, but what is more important in weeks like Week 1, where so many premium options came good, is to just be sure to not completely fail at the captaincy pick. As long as you stuck to the list of last week's nominees, you should be sitting rather pretty right now and not having a pesky itch to play your wildcard.

As suggested in the opening column in this series, expect some tweaks to be made as I attempt to present all the relevant info you need. This week, I've added some obvious bits - opponent, whether home or away in the mini-stats, along with ownership percentage change from last week to the current week, and season point totals which include a breakdown of total goals, assists and bonus points. Expect another stat, points per start, to come into play next week. We simply need a couple of games under our belt before that bit is needed. Forgive the inconsistency in the "last week ownership %" department. I did not log the percentage of ownership for those I left off the short list last week, but will keep track of all the major players going forward.

So let's go ahead and look at the familiar faces dominating the short list of this week's top captaincy options...

 

 

Mo Salah (12.5m)

Ownership % -  45.2% (last week, 41.0%)

Season points - 12 (1 G, 1 A, 2 BPs)

Opponent - Southampton (away)

As expected, the Reds had little trouble putting goals on the board in their Anfield opener against Norwich. Salah was arguably not "peak Mo", but still managed to show his consistency. He took two shots and converted one into a goal. He also provided three key passes, one turning into an assist on the Virgil Van Dijk goal. 

Salah certainly has enjoyed success against his opponent this weekend, Southampton. Last season, he scored a goal in both matchups against the Saints, and the year before he did even better, bagging a brace at Anfield and supplying a goal and an assist in the away game. The Saints defense may help make the case for Salah this week. They got exposed by Burnley in the opening round, conceding three to a Clarets side who scored that many only once last season in league play, and they are operating with a near-identical attack as last season.

Alisson's injury may not have a direct impact on Salah but there is no argument the shot-stopper's arrival last season was the catalyst that saw their defensive record shoot to tops in the league. If we see an uptick in conceded goals for Liverpool while Adrián deputizes, it could provide an atmosphere much like two seasons ago, when Salah was going crazy virtually every week on his way to Player of the Year honors. A lack of clean sheets would only add to his chances of hogging bonus points as well, provided the Reds win as expected.

 

SVOD: Raheem Sterling's top goals from 2018-19 PL season

Raheem Sterling (12.1m)

Ownership % - 37.0 % (last week, 32.1%)

Season points - 20 (3 Gs, 3 BPs)

Opponent - Tottenham (home)

Surely one of the more intriguing early season matchups, Manchester City play their home opener against Tottenham in Week 2. Sterling is getting attention for the armband this weekend and, coming off the heels of a Week One hat trick, he is impossible to ignore. There is reason to pause with going for last week's top scorer though. Tottenham are not an easy matchup, at least, if looking back at last season. City did win both league fixtures, but both games were 1-0 affairs. It was the defense that ruled both games when these sides matched up in league play. Also consider that Spurs have the distinction of knocking the Citizens out of the Champions League last season. One leg of that contest saw yet another 1-0 scoreline but the second leg saw some memorable goals and Sterling was a factor, scoring twice in front of the home crowd. So, if looking for a recent head-to-head result against Spurs that had goals, the 4-3 CL result at The Etihad makes the prospects for Sterling look somewhat better.

Sterling had twice as many shots against West Ham than Salah did against Norwich (4 to 2) and he hit the target on all four attempts. No key passes to speak of however, a bit concerning for a player that has averaged just over 15 assists the last three seasons. It could be argued that Tottenham' defense is no better than the previous campaign. They did not make any additions to their defensive line, only selling Kieran Trippier away. Kyle Walker-Peters has a short sample size to work with, but he, along with the rest of Tottenham's defense, settled in after a rocky start against Aston Villa. Though the Villans were the better side in the first half and led for the majority of the match, Spurs still only allowed four attempts from inside the 16-yard box.

 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (11m)

Ownership % - 27.7%

Season points - 6 (1 G, 0 BPs)

Opponent - Burnley (home)

Early polling around the FPL community has Aubameyang ranked only behind Salah for best choice to captain this week. He opened his account for the season against Newcastle last weekend, scoring the lone goal of the game. He registered four shots against the Magpies, two hitting the target and his goal was a nice run and finish in front of the keeper. While he did not match his fellow potential captain options in points last week, he is part of the elite 200-point club from a season ago. The matchup looks better on paper for him and Arsenal as a whole than it does for City and Tottenham players going against one another and they have the home crowd at The Emirates while Mo Salah takes to the road.

However, there are several things to consider when it comes to the "trust" factor. Arsenal's attacking display in Week 1 was nowhere near the explosiveness of City, Liverpool and, to some extent, Spurs. They managed only the one goal against a Newcastle side many have pegged for relegation this season. There was little contribution for PEA outside the goal, though to be fair, that's what made the difference in the outcome. But it should be noted Aubameyang did not register any bonus points, despite the match-winner, and was without a key pass to highlight his assist potential. It is also tough to gauge after one short substitution appearance by newcomer Nicolas Pepe, what the winger's presence will do for Aubameyang. It should boost the Gunners attack as a whole but we have to see how he integrates with his fellow attacking teammates. Pepe has a nose for goal, as is indicated by his impressive 22 tallies in Ligue One last season, but will his goal contribution add to what Arsenal have or will his influence see more of a sharing of the spoils.

The Gabonese international does have one very strong stat to support his case for the armband though - his previous matchups with Burnley. Last season, Aubameyang bagged a brace in both the home and away fixture, the only league opponent he was able to accomplish that feat against. In fact, when he arrived the previous winter and faced the Clarets just once, he bagged yet another brace while chipping in an assist. Burnley are looking to improve on their defensive record from last season with Nick Pope returning after a campaign lost to injury and have started the season positively with a clean sheet in their opening game.

 

Sergio Agüero (12m)

Ownership % - 17.5%

Season points - 5 (1 G, 0 BPs)

Opponent - Tottenham (home)

Even when he doesn't start, he comes good. Aguero, as expected, started the West Ham match from the bench and then came on to score from the penalty spot in a 21-minute appearance. His reason for inclusion in the captaincy talk is a simple one, a healthy Aguero always deserves consideration. Now that he has had a cameo to get him prepared for the rigors of the season, I expect his name on the team sheet this weekend in a crucial matchup. Given that Sterling had two goals to his name already, took many a penalty kick in preseason and was on a hat trick when City won the penalty chance late against West Ham, there is no doubt it is Aguero's gig when he is on the pitch after stepping up for the spot kick over Sterling in the opening weekend.

As pointed out when making the case for Sterling, this is going to be one of the tougher matchups of the season for City. Tottenham fans, if asked how Aguero has fared against Spurs over the years, will likely feel the hurt of many a goal against them in the striker's PL career. However, there has been a severe drop-off in that department over the last three seasons leading up til now. Aguero has just one attacking return, an assist, in the five games against Spurs in league play over that time, with one fixture missed due to injury. The Argentine talisman would provide an early differential as a captain choice, but given how many were pleased with their choices from last week, it will be interesting how many Aguero owners back him for the armband. It would also not be surprised that, in his first start, he played a short shift. You have to consider the possibility he may only go around 70 minutes, give or take.

 

Harry Kane (11m)

Ownership % - 30.2% (last week, 28.9%)

Season points - 6 (1 G, 0 BPs)

Opponent - Manchester City (away)

Kane has hit the ground running, opening the season with a brace, though he left both goals late against Aston Villa. The England striker is hoping to return to the healthy form of two and three seasons ago, in which he scored 29 times both terms. Certainly, those kind of numbers are why you consider Kane for the armband every week when fit, but this is going to be a difficult challenge for Tottenham, playing a City side who conceded just 23 times all of last season. Kane played in just one of those two league fixtures, and blanked in a 1-0 loss. He also started the first leg of the CL tie with the Citizens, coming up empty in a 58-minute shift before a ligament injury saw him miss the second leg and, indeed, the rest of the season.

The only reason Kane even makes the list for me is Christian Eriksen. The Danish maestro was left out of Tottenham's XI on Matchday 1, and Spurs struggled to find their feet in attack without him. Then, his introduction changed the game and Kane would benefit most with his two-goal effort. I would think that, despite concerns over his future at Spurs, Eriksen will be a starter this weekend given the significance of the matchup. It all comes down to what kind of match we are in for, a tight defensive one, as has been the case in the previous two league matchups, or a goal-happy one, as was the case in their 4-3 game at The Etihad in the Champions League.

 

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

Marcus Rashford - Rashford spent much of the summer sitting in my FPL squad, before I finally shaved funds from my forward line and went with Martial in my midfield instead. His opening weekend brace against the Blues deserves recognition here, and he is on the watchlist as an armband option down the road. An encouraging sign of his captaincy potential was that he took and converted a penalty chance, which he won. However, reports post-match indicate that Rashford is not the only penalty taker in United's side. There is apparently going to be a committee approach, though if Rashford takes the next one, especially if he doesn't win the spot kick himself, we have to consider him the main man. Even if he is not nailed on for penalty duties, he is ever-so close to breaking into the captaincy short list. A home fixture or a fixture against a team projected to finish bottom half of the table probably would see his inclusion above this week, but playing a Wolves side in their home opener, who were giant killers last season, getting many a positive result against the best clubs in the league, I think it's a week too soon to captain Rashford with confidence. That said, if Week 2 ends with him outscoring the City/Tottenham options, it would not come as a shock and the United forward would graduate to the short list.

Sadio Mané - Mane is the Liverpool version of Aguero, except he did not score in his cameo appearance last weekend. The run-out, like Aguero's should indicate that the Senegalese international is in line to return to the XI against the Saints. Mane is a streaky player and the trust factor needs to be established before we can look at him as a captaincy option. He could easily make the leap to the short list in a week or two.

 

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.

 

Steve Rothgeb
Steve Rothgeb is a contributor for Rotoworld.com and WorldSoccerTalk.com, a self-proclaimed fantasy sports oracle, and Tottenham Hotspur fanatic. He can be found on Twitter @FuzzyWarbles.