Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate. We have had short turnarounds before and I have had to streamline this column in an effort to get this time-sensitive topic out to the reading public, but for Week 37 in 2020, be prepared for the Cliff’s Notes version of Captain Obvious.
The previous round was full of traps and disappointments. I warned of the idea of giving Raheem Sterling the armband, but do not fret, I have no intention of patting myself on the back. Why? Well, I also had Kevin De Bruyne in the conversation and he never even saw the pitch. But, at least for those that went with the Belgian, they were able to hopefully get a nice return from their vice-captain. Just to indicate how insane the armband game was in Week 36, among those ranked in the top ten in the entire world entering the round, seven different captains were anointed. Three from Manchester City - Gabriel Jesus, Sterling and even Phil Foden was given a nod. And yet, no one in the top 10 thought it best to back David Silva, the player with the biggest round score across the entire league. Are we witnessing the final days of Pep Guardiola in charge? From an FPL perspective, I sort of hope so.
Right, so there is no time to waste. This week, it is a very streamlined edition of Captain Obvious. I am going to provide the top names being talked about provide a brief thought or two on each candidate...
Bruno Fernandes (9.1m)
Opponent - West Ham (home)
“Only” providing returns of five and six points over the last two rounds, some folks may be ready to get off the Brunomobile and give another player the armband, hoping for a double-digit haul. Do what your gut tells you but no player has been more involved in any attack than Manchester United’s brilliant winter signing. After blanking in his debut, he has blanked just once in the following eleven appearances.
Raheem Sterling (11.9m)
Opponent - Watford (away)
Do I have the nerve? You bet I do. When it comes to City, I am most confident in handing one of their options the captaincy following a round in which they did not start. However, be warned. There is a game to play, an FA Cup semifinal, before the Watford game in the middle of next week. If Sterling starts the cup match, well, we are back to square one of trying to dodge Pep roulette. I still feel he is fit and in form enough to be starting more than once every other game, so I think those wanting to captain him for Watford are relatively safe. But I gave you a warning before the last deadline. Just assume that warning is permanently in place as long as Pep is around.
Anthony Martial (8.5m)
Opponent - West Ham (home)
Martial got a shout in the “honorable mention” section and I even gave him the cover photo for the Week 36 edition of this column. He was begging me to give him top tier status folks. I will continue the train of thought I was on before his nice haul against Crystal Palace. Then, I said I was “almost” close to trusting him for a captaincy role. Now, one more game in the books, I have crossed over the boundary. He is a legit armband option. Bruno Fernandes has the higher floor I believe, you have a better chance with him of not blanking, but I think those hoping for a big haul and gamble with a pick a little less safe, all while riding the recent form of Manchester United, then Martial is your man.
Kevin De Bruyne (10.7m)
Opponent - Watford (away)
When I saw that of the seven captains chosen among the top 10 ranked managers in the world, and none of them had backed De Bruyne, I knew I had made a mistake. I missed something in the buildup to the Bournemouth game. Folks were sensing a rest when I did not see it coming. My fault on that one. But, you know where this is going, don’t you? Of course I am keeping KDB in the armband mix. Not only was he not given the start in Week 36, he was handed a full rest. This is the most important piece of the City attack and is the most dependable starter. He has to start against the Hornets. If I am wrong, I can tell you now I will be personally devastated because I am counting on him in these last two league games. As mentioned with Sterling, there is an FA Cup match to be played ahead of the showdown with the Hornets, but having been given a full rest, I think KDB' chances of starting are high, though with five substitutions allowed, he might be preserved somewhat and only given 60-70 minutes. That still leaves him among the elite choices in my view.
Danny Ings (7.6m)
Opponent - Bournemouth (away)
This appears to be the favorite “maverick” pick of the week around the FPL community and I can see the rationale. First, let me confess, I had no idea the man had crept his way to where he is now one point shy of a tie for the second-highest scoring forward on the season. On the SEASON! To those wise and patient enough to have rostered him at his starting price tag of 6m, stick him in their their XI’s as their FWD3, and just sat back and let him do the work over the course of the season, that is a job well done. To give context, Wesley and Glenn Murray were 6m to start the season. Now, Ings is only three goals off the Golden Boot and playing a Bournemouth side that typically cough up goals. When Ings had hit patches of form earlier this season, the knock on him was his endurance levels and we saw a few games where he was given a surprise benching. Ralph Hasenhuttal has allayed fears of Ings’ fitness this week though, saying the striker is in tip-top shape. It is definitely a fun pick to go with. You will either be banging your head, asking “why did I do this?” or you will be the envy of all around you.
Some big names left out: I cannot stress enough - we are at the stage of the season where you have to trust your gut. Some of you Jamie Vardy owners out there may be thinking, "Hey, this is the leader for the Golden Boot. Shouldn't he at least be in the conversation?" And you are right. He does deserve it. When you are the top goal scorer in the league at this stage of the season, and in pretty good form, that is enough to qualify you for sure. However, a trip to Spurs does not appeal to me. They have been doing well defensively of late, conceding just two goals in their last four contests. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be a sneaky play. Another star player who was rested midweek, you would think he is bound to be back in the XI in a pretty attractive fixture with Aston Villa. Only one problem for me - Arsenal just beat Liverpool. And they came from behind in doing so. When you get a result like that against an opponent like that, the tendency is to name an unchanged side in the next match. I do worry Aubameyang has a risk of not starting. Finally, the dynamic duo from Liverpool: Sadio Mané and Mo Salah. Now that the points record is out of reach, the title firmly in grasp and Chelsea coming for a visit, hungry to lock down a top-4 finish, these options fall to the second tier for me. You can never dismiss a healthy Salah or Mane entirely, in virtually any fixture, but I would imagine the bulk of those with a (C) next to either of these names this weekend will teams not being actively managed. They will be lower on the list than usual for captaincy among managers in the top 10k though, I can assure you, so they do provide a rare differential in this round.
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.