Welcome back for another week of FPL, and another moment to ponder who to make your captain this week. Last week saw some nice returns from the usual suspects, though Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne owners may be feeling shellshocked after some how combining for only three points against Norwich, who have conceded more goals than any other club in the league through five rounds. This can be a cruel, cruel game sometimes. But, no time left to feel regret. What's done is done. Forever forward, as they say, and let's fight another week. (Can you tell I captained Sterling?)
This week, I have five names to offer. Though, if you happen to own one of these players in particular, I cannot see an easier armband selection this season. It is just a matter of whether you own him or not, and if you don't, you just might need to spend some points this week to get him in. Here I am putting the cart before the horse, though. No more hinting, let us dive into the Week 6 edition of Captain Obvious...
Sergio Agüero (12.1m)
Ownership % - 27.3% (last week, 25.3%)
Season points - 46 (7 Gs, 1 A, 6 BPs)
Opponent - Watford (home)
Let's get down to brass tax here. My goal in presenting this column every week is not to choose a captain for you, or to rank the ones I have included in the shortlist. It is simply to present some of the facts and stats leading up to each player's match for the gameweek. That said, if you are an Aguero owner, I do not think it is possible to ask for a better, safer armband pick than the Argentine this weekend. So, instead of diving into intricate stats, let's look at the bottom line, because in every case, he gets a giant check mark.
Perhaps the biggest concern for Aguero was Manchester City's midweek Champions League involvement. Had he started there and played a long shift, the wonder of whether Gabriel Jesus could start against Watford would have to linger, at least to some degree. But, the Argentine did not start and, indeed, was given a full rest in City's win over Shakhtar Donetsk while Jesus went the distance. Aguero is a lock to start this weekend, barring an injury in warmups. He has the match at home on his side. He has a cupcake opponent on his side. He has consistent form on his side. He has a PL history of being a reliable captain on his side. But, if you insist in knowing how he has fared against the Hornets, how does 7 goals and 2 assists in six PL games against them sound? Oh, and in a FA Cup match - he had a hat trick. The fact is, if Aguero does not produce a solid return this weekend, it would be the most egregious of aberrations. You cannot blame yourself. It would simply be bad luck. Personally, I've decided to spend points to bring him into my side so I can captain him. I hate spending points but this matchup is simply too attractive to ignore. In fact, though I subscrIbe to the strategy of using the Triple Captain chip in a double gameweek, I would blame no one for using it here. I may just give into the idea myself before the deadline.
Raheem Sterling (12.3m)
Ownership % - 44.7 % (last week, 46.3%)
Season points - 39 (5 Gs, 4 BPs)
Opponent - Watford (home)
Sterling is an example of "he's gotta be due" and that may be your rationale in captaining him this weekend. Between the last two PL matches and the CL match midweek, City scored ten goals, Sterling played all 270 minutes...and he did not manage a single return. That is almost impossible to do, one would imagine. It was not due to a shortage of involvement in last weekend's loss to Norwich (that is so weird to type). He took a season high six shots (tied with GW2 against Spurs) and supplied four key passes, matching his season total entering the contest with the Canaries. He also found the net in each of England's games over the international break, so the "drought" only stretches back about 10 days or so since he celebrated a goal. No offense to Bulgaria and Kosovo though, the Premier League is an entirely different animal. The fact is, Sterling could easily score big this weekend based simply on being "due".
However, those who own Sterling and not Aguero do have to have at least some worry about whether or not he starts this weekend. He is the only City attacking player to start all five PL games, and he has played all 90 minutes in each. He also started both games over the break with only one shortened shift, 70 minutes against Bulgaria. He then went the distance against Shakhtar in midweek. One could argue that as "due" Sterling is to collect attacking returns in this fixture, he is equally due a rest against the Hornets. And, even though he managed six shots against Norwich last weekend, in his last two games in which he has blanked which includes Brighton, he has had only one shot hit the target. Personally, I want to put Sterling in the second tier of options and keep him off the shortlist, but early polling has him still attracting considerable interest from non-Aguero owners, so he stays among the elite.
Mo Salah (12.5m)
Ownership % - 42.1% (last week, 42.9%)
Season points - 45 (4 Gs, 2 As, 7 BPs)
Opponent - Chelsea (away)
Folks may see a trip to Stamford Bridge as a reason to ignore Salah this weekend, but we have to recognize that, until the Blues show some signs of improvement, their defense is a mess right now. Only Norwich has conceded more goals in the first five weeks, and that is by a single goal and they've already played Liverpool and Manchester City in that time. Salah is coming off another successful return for those who gave him the armband last week, but it has to be said, he was a peripheral figure for the vast majority of the win over Newcastle, with Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino putting on a show.
Salah's record against Chelsea is not all too impressive, especially when it comes to his exploits at Stamford Bridge. He has already shown to be more productive at home this season, with all four goals and an assist coming at Anfield. He has just the lone assist in two away matches thus far. In last year's trip to the Bridge, Salah blanked and was removed after 66 minutes. The season before that, he blanked as well, picking up a yellow card in a loss for a one point FPL return. It has to be pointed out again though, this current Chelsea defense is not up to par and looking at Salah's track record in this fixture may not carry much weight.
Ownership % - 22.2% (last week, 23.5%)
Season points - 39 (5 Gs, 1 A, 6 BPs)
Opponent - Aston Villa (home)
Last week, I anointed Aubameyang as my differential armband pick of the week, and boy do I wish I had him in my side because he came very, very good. He notched his first brace of the season, grabbed the maximum bonus for the second straight game, on his way to a healthy 13 point return. Because of the boost in recent bonus points, Aubameyang's form is actually getting better, despite being one of only a few remaining players to deliver attacking returns in every match this season. His finishing is on point in the last two, with all three shots on target in that time beating the keeper. This weekend, home to Aston Villa, has all the looks of another return. The Villans defense hasn't been dreadful through five weeks, conceding six goals in that time. But, half of the goals allowed came on Opening Day in an away game against Spurs. Arsenal are expected to present a similar challenge and may expose Aston Villa much the same way Tottenham did.
The loss of Alexandre Lacazette to injury is, of course, not great news for the Gunners, but it may actually be somewhat beneficial for Aubameyang. The Gabonese international now slides into the central striker role, rather than playing out on the wing and the consensus thinking is that Aubameyang prefers that role and tends to thrive in it more. If he gets the service, we may see those quiet one-goal-a-game returns turn into two or three goal explosions against soft opponents. He lined up that way in his Europa League match last night and found the net, though it came very late and he was upstaged by the performances of youth players around him. All this taken into account, despite coming off a brace last weekend, I once again anoint Aubameyang as the differential captain choice of the week.
Sadio Mané (11.6m)
Ownership % - 21.6% (last week, 19%)
Season points - 40 (4 Gs, 1 A, 6 BPs)
Opponent - Chelsea (away)
Remember a couple of weeks back when Mane was visibly upset with teammate Mo Salah for not looking his way on a swift counter-attack? Well, we can understand why. Mane is in red hot form, and when he is in this kind of form, he is truly one of the most entertaining, electric players to watch in this league. He bagged his first brace of the season last weekend, on his way to a whopping 15 point round, much to the delight of managers who gave him the armband. Each of the last three shots on target for Mane in the last two games have beaten the keeper.
His track record with Chelsea is much the same as Mo Salah's. Both scored a goal in the Anfield fixture against the Blues last season, but both came up empty in their trip to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea won 1-0 at the Bridge the season before that, so, of course, both Liverpool Goliaths blanked in that one. But again, it has to be said that the Blues are not defending well right now and until we see them turn things around, it may be an instance to ignore previous performances against them. It is just difficult to imagine Chelsea suddenly figuring out how to tighten up against the likes of Liverpool.
Who's been left off the shortlist and why...
Kevin De Bruyne (9.8m)
Ownership % - 35.7% (last week, 34.1%)
Season points - 37 (1 G, 5 As, 6 BPs)
Opponent - Watford (home)
De Bruyne provided heartbreak for those that gave him the armband last week, as he was kept out of the XI and used as a substitute, ending his opening streak of an attacking return in every game. That is not the sole reason he has been demoted from the shortlist though. There's virtually no way Pep Guardiola is going to bench his midfield maestro for two straight games, especially when the first attempt at resting de Bruyne resulted in the shock loss to Norwich. Even though he only played 33 minutes against the Canaries, he still managed three key passes. His benching certainly hasn't curtailed confidence from fantasy managers, his ownership has actually increased in the week following his 1 point return, a rare accomplishment indeed.
The selling point for de Bruyne is that he has a high floor. When he starts, it is hard to picture him not returning at least one assist, making him safe in weeks that are tricky for other armband candidates. The reason he drops out of the shortlist though is that the options who are in the top tier have ceilings that are just too high to ignore. A double digit return would not shock me, don't get me wrong, but that just highlights how strong the options above are this week.
Harry Kane (11m)
Ownership % - 21.4% (last week, 23.9%)
Season points - 28 (3 Gs, 1 A, 3 BPs)
Opponent - Leicester (away)
Kane's ownership has plummeted over the past couple of weeks, falling from a near 30% total to just now over 20%. It was positive news for Tottenham's attack last weekend, extremely positive in fact, as they struck four times in the opening half against Crystal Palace. What is alarming is that Kane's only involvement in the four goals was a single assist, his first of the season. It seems, at least right now, that Kane is not the focal point of the attack like he had been for so many seasons. In the Palace win, and in fact in three of the past four matches, Kane has taken only one shot and that shot failed to miss the target. That is not only the kind of numbers that should see little confidence in looking at him as an armband option, but calls into question his value as an FPL player in general. Heung-Min Son has been way more involved. He has taken 13 shots over the last three games, with seven hitting the target. Kane does have spot kick duties and his FPL history would indicate that he should not be completely forgotten, but until he gets his mojo back, he cannot be counted on. He may very well drop out of the column completely next week if he doesn't show some signs of improvement against Leicester this weekend.
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.