Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate!
Stop the presses, we have a normal week of buildup between gameweeks for the first time since…I honestly cannot remember. But, that does not mean football is taking a break. Over half of the league was busy this midweek playing in the FA Cup and this coming round features a double gameweek. The following round, GW25, will also have a double gameweek fixture and more inevitable doubles are due to arrive in GW26, resulting from this week’s domestic cup action and subsequent rescheduling. So please remain seated and strapped in, this roller coaster of a season has more twists and turns in store.
Week 23 was a tough one. I thought I was in a very nifty position, having held on to Harry Kane during his injury, placed in my XI just in case for GW23 and he got me a solid eight point return while Tomas Soucek, who is normally in my XI during Kane’s absence, and his red card score, stayed tied to my 1st sub bench spot. A 67 point round, normally solid in a non-double gameweek, but apparently subpar this time around, as my overall rank was slapped with the dreaded red arrow.
It has been a relief to have the normal amount of time between gameweeks to decompress a little bit, and take a gradual, easy approach to game planning for the rounds ahead, but with double gameweeks popping up and fixtures uncertain, I cannot seem to find a way to plan things out past the next round. For now, the plan is to bring in a Burnley defender, which will give me a DGW player as well as put cash in my bank. The freed up funds will then be applied to the next round, where I plan to upgrade a forward to Danny Ings as Leeds and Southampton are the only two sides playing twice, I have Bamford already, and Ings just seems like a nice weapon to have. No one is talking about him yet, but as soon as this deadline passes, they will.
From then on…who knows? I am led to believe that GW26 will have several double gameweek fixtures, but there are also blank gameweeks to navigate still. I have a Wildcard, Triple Captain and the Bench Boost chip in hand, so I am hoping, if used wisely and with a heaping helping a luck, I can navigate my way through this turbulent season to a final rank that I can feel good about. But we are here to talk captains for Week 24, right? So let’s take a look at the candidates, keeping in mind the double gameweek and dive into the Week 24 edition of Captain Obvious…
Bruno Fernandes (11.5m)
Rostered % – 59.4% (rising slow and steady)
Total points – 169 (13 Gs, 11 As, 25 BPs)
Opponent – West Brom (away)
Leave it to me to lead off captaincy debate in a double gameweek with a non-double gameweek player. Don’t worry – he is the only such player to make the shortlist, but Fernandes offers everything that should signal to FPL managers that playing two fixtures does not automatically make one a better candidate. Let’s first get the obvious facts out of the way that everyone should be aware of. We are dealing with the highest-scoring player of the season to date – so a consistent source of points, you’ve got it. He is playing on the road, which, ever since his arrival to Manchester United, is where the higher scores have come from. He is playing West Brom, a side who are very, very not good. In a non-double gameweek round where City are only playing Spurs, I don’t feel as though I would need to even present a column, Fernandes would probably be given the armband by 90% of managers who have him.
So, what else is there to consider? Well, after the number they did on Southampton a couple of rounds back, there is that added element that United are capable of putting up a lopsided number of goals against the Baggies. To be fair, in the reverse fixture, the Red Devils were only able to squeak by, 1-0 at Old Trafford. And yet, it was Fernandes with the lone goal, max bonus, and an eleven point round anyway. Perhaps I am being overly optimistic, but it would seem that United can only improve on their previous performance against the Baggies and if the odds this season of Bruno returning a double-digit score are about 50/50, then you have to bump those odds up even more when facing an opponent like this. The Baggies made several deadline moves to try and inject some life into their side, but the new cast looks to need time to gel based on their showing against Spurs last time out, and I don’t think the cohesion will be there in time to handle Bruno Fernandes, who, incidentally, was used only as a sub in the FA Cup midweek match, so he will be a guarantee in the XI, barring injury leading up to kickoff.
Raheem Sterling (11.6m)
Rostered % – 13.1% (rising steady)
Total points – 113 (6 Gs, 5 As, 10 BPs)
Opponent – Tottenham (home), Everton (away)
Right, so there are four clubs playing twice this round and, with Burnley and Fulham being two of them and some injury concerns for the third side, Everton, it is pretty easy to look at table-leading Manchester City as the clear-cut best place to recruit a double gameweek captain. Between City’s own injury situation and recent form, I see two candidates worthy of making the shortlist and I will start it off with the name that has been commonly referenced in the armband debate over the years in Raheem Sterling. A couple of months back, when City began making their mark on the season and I had a chance to pick up Kevin De Bruyne, I wound up going against the grain and picked up Sterling as a differential. He did not do for me what de Bruyne could have done, and I eventually parted ways with the pricey midfielder when I realized I was the last manager on Earth to not have Bruno Fernandes in my side.
Anyway, as is customary for me, Sterling has started to push his way up the midfielder leaderboard in recent weeks, having returned at least eight points in three of his last four games and four of his last six. There is no question with his pace and finishing skills, he will be a major threat on counter attacks and any sort of open play where he has the ball in any kind of space.
One could argue that Sterling has the highest “ceiling” of any double gameweek option for the coming round but there is one aspect of assigning him the armband that worries me – a surprising/not surprising resting/benching by Pep Guardiola for one of these two games. If I had to bet, I would assume Sterling will start both, because Tottenham and Everton, while having their ups and downs this season, are two quality sides and one would think Pep will want his best weapons, but you never know with the City manager. For example, Sterling had a goal and an assist against West Brom in Week 20, only to not feature at all the following game – so Pep is not afraid to bench a player in form. For me, this is the riskiest pick of the bunch, but when you account for Roster Percentage at the moment, he could also be the most rewarding. He scored in the midweek FA Cup game, but was subbed off early enough to make it seem promising that Sterling should at least get the start against Spurs.
Ilkay Gundogan (6.0m)
Rostered % – 26.7% (rising fast)
Total points – 104 (9 Gs, 1 A, 17 BPs)
Opponent – Tottenham (home), Everton (away)
Why, oh why did I not get on the Gundogan train sooner? What a bargain. I mean, obviously some major events had to transpire in order for this once forgotten about piece of the Man City puzzle, which includes the losses of arguably City’s two best players of the past decade – Sergio Agüero and Kevin De Bruyne, but hey, that’s where we are and, after a couple of months of the Gundogan show, it is far past the time to say that the man is a fantasy beast. After being in and out of the lineup through the first twelve weeks of the season, Gundogan has been a mainstay in the XI since GW13. He has scored 92 fantasy points in the eleven games of this run, or, about an 8.5 point return, every single round. In 8 of those 11 games, he has scored eight or more points, and collected bonus in seven of them. Long story short, he is doing everything de Bruyne was doing, just perhaps trading in a few assists for goals instead, as he has penalty duties under his belt as well.
What makes Gundogan all the more appealing, and after going over the situation with Raheem Sterling, I say this knocking on wood…is that the German international seems essential to Pep’s XI every single league game, much the way de Bruyne is when fit. I think if there is any attacking City player you can trust to start both games of the double, it is this guy. Pep Guardiola named a pretty strong XI against Swansea in the midweek cup tie, and Gundogan got the start there, when perhaps fantasy managers would have preferred him to get a rest, but he was lifted early enough for a sub to suggest that his minutes are being managed with league games in mind. At this stage of the season, his 26.7% rostered figure still sees him as a differential in the captaincy game, though I would expect this weekend, more managers will give him the armband than they ever had before.
Nick Pope (5.5m)
Rostered % – 14.2% (rising slow)
Total points – 102 (7 CS, 17 BPs)
Opponent – Crystal Palace (away), Fulham (home)
This is an armband candidate that has to be mentioned in the shortlist in a rare, extremely rare spotlight on a goalkeeper in Captain Obvious. Personally, I could not bring myself to captain a keeper, double gameweek or not, because if the move were to fail, I just could not withstand the punishment I would inflict on myself for going that direction. However, much like genres of music that I personally do not prefer, I can still have a appreciation for it and I can understand some of the logic behind backing Pope.
First of all, if you do not have one of the City options already mentioned above and you have your heart set on a double gameweek player, then I would say Pope is the most attractive option in those circumstances. It is all about his propensity to collect saves, which in turn, assists in accruing bonus points and then taking into consideration the attacks of the two opponents the Clarets have. For starters – Palace. An Eagles side without Zaha, in my view, is one of the weakest attacks in the league, so a clean sheet there seems a reasonable hope. Then, you have a home game against Fulham. Another attractive fixture for Pope. Fuzzy’s logic would say that one clean sheet among these two fixtures is pretty much a lock, which would then mean any further returns ( a second clean sheet, bonus points) would be icing on the cake. The ceiling I think is low here compared to the other top choices (barring a penalty save, of course) but I would argue that Pope has the highest floor. I will be shocked if he does not return a minimum of eight points in this round.
Other options – Right, so let’s address Everton first. Considering City is one of their two double gameweek opponents, it really feels like a single gameweek for the Toffees, but you never know, and considering the other match is a home game with Fulham, that might be all one would need to find paydirt with the armband. The issue for me is, the two players I would likely look to first in a double gameweek for Everton, are Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Lucas Digne, and both are currently injury flagged, with Calvert-Lewin’s chances of being available looking particularly grim as of this writing. And when you have the club’s best finisher and best crosser out of the mix, it drags down the entire attack as a whole. So its a bit of a problem if, say, both miss out on the tasty Fulham fixture only to return in time for the City fixture. Roll with any Toffees you have, it is a double gameweek, but understand the risk involved in captaining one of them.
Liverpool are in disarray right now. I know Salah scored last weekend, I know he deserves at least a shout in any week where he is fit and expected to start. But between the club form and a tough fixture, away to Leicester, this seems a rare week where you can discount Liverpool assets entirely. Same goes for Spurs, who play City in their only match. True, Tottenham did a number on Pep’s side earlier in the season, and Harry Kane is back and firing, but with double gameweek options out there and up against the stingiest defense in the league these days, this seems another rare but welcome opportunity to ignore some popular names like Kane and Heung-Min Son.
Some may be asking, hey Fuzzy, I don’t have Pope but I have a Burnley defender. Is that sufficient enough to consider that player for the armband. I would say “not quite”. While I do feel confident the Clarets can get a clean sheet from one of their two games, what makes Pope so appealing are the save points which then leads to bonus points. Any defensive player is “capable” of an attacking return to justify the armband selection, but Burnley’s defenders are not particularly known for attacking returns. In fact, Burnley’s attackers aren’t particularly known for attacking returns, either. And with that savage burn, enjoy your double gameweek.
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.