Sunday, October 24 2021

Greetings, and welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate, the most important decision of your gameweek.

Right, one player is going to be featured prominently in this week’s column, I have a feeling you know who it is, so can we attempt to save that discussion for after the introduction? That would be fantastic.

Let us instead talk about the real headline of the season’s first international break. Spurs are top of the league and Arsenal are bottom. I mean, that is the major talking point since Week 3, right?

In all seriousness, though it isn’t really serious at all, we are in store for a very exciting weekend of football and I cannot think of a better example of how exciting things are getting than the armband potential across the FPL landscape. We had only two rational options in the opening weekend and, to be fair, there were no complaints, as both Mo Salah and Bruno Fernandes delivered. Then, as new players have arrived while others have established red-hot form, we finally start to add a bit of variety. And yet, one player seems to dominate every discussion these days, including the armband. I wonder if I should mention him yet…

Okay, fine. You win. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Cat is out of the bag.

We have no time to waste, then. Several players to discuss, including that one, so let’s dive into the Week 4 edition of Captain Obvious…

Cristiano Ronaldo – 12.5m (roster % – 17.7%)

Opponent – Newcastle United (home)

I wanted to start with this option because, in a Captain Obvious first, I really don’t even know what I can say. I want to tackle Ronaldo objectively like I do every other player, but the passion around the FPL community regarding the return of CR7 is simply too much to combat. In other words, if you are on the Ronaldo train, i.e., you spent points or played your wildcard to bring him in, because the idea of having one round without him is too difficult to handle, then it would only be natural for you to want to give him the armband. Who am I to stop you?

I would not dare suggest any downside for Ronaldo’s first game back in the PL. Doing so would only set me up for endless ridicule should Ronaldo produce a mega-haul of points, which I completely understand is possible, if not, probable. Like with all candidates, I am still able to find a few talking points to at least provide a manager with more than one perspective. However, given the circumstances at play here, there seems to be no point. This is a major event. All eyes will be on Old Trafford on Saturday. What better way to hype up the occasion more than to give CR7 the armband?

Just to be clear, if you have Ronaldo in your side, I am not saying he has to be your captain. If you have another player featured in this column on your roster and you wish to captain him instead, you have my full support. But, I have to address a collective when I present these options and the vast majority of that collective are 100% behind Ronaldo. All I will say is, for those going with another option – you have yourself quite the differential this weekend. At least, among the hardcore FPL enthusiasts.

Bruno Fernandes – 12m (roster % – 47.2, last week – 57.7)

Opponent – Newcastle (home)

Meet the man who stands to lose the most because of Ronaldo’s arrival, at least, in terms of FPL production. That is the standard thinking among the pundits, as much of Fernandes’ appeal both as a captaincy choice and as an FPL option in general, are tied to all of his set piece work. Ronaldo is thought to be usurping the free kicks and penalty kicks we come to expect from Fernandes. It is admittedly conjecture until we see both Ronaldo and Fernandes on the pitch at the same time, and a spot kick opportunity comes up, who will be behind the ball. Fernandes has not exactly done anything to be taken off pens. Twenty-one conversions out of 22 attempts is quite literally as close to perfection as one can get. But, some would say that Ronaldo, as a footballer, is as close to perfection as one can get as well, so there is that.

You may have noticed the massive dip in Fernandes’ roster percentage compared to where it stood heading into Week 3, and I will give you zero guesses as to why that has occurred. Okay, I will supply one tidbit – it has nothing to do with the fact that he blanked in Week 3. All joking partially aside, even if we take United’s new addition out of the equation, folks tend to get a little nervous when a typically reliable, and expensive, player like Fernandes blanks in consecutive games. The truth is, after basking in the glow of opening day, where Fernandes grabs a hat trick, Paul Pogba dishes four assists, and the United attack was firing on all cylinders, it is a bit alarming that they managed just a single goal against Southampton and again in Week 3 against Wolves who, to be fair, could have come away with a positive result were it not for some bad luck.

Let’s try to get down to brass tax here…is Fernandes worth 12m in FPL now that Ronaldo is in the picture. It is a very valid question and the rational answer would be “no”. However, does that mean he can no longer put up points? Of course not. Let’s say, hypothetically, Fernandes was the second-highest scorer on his own team behind Ronaldo and was appropriately re-valued at 10m to reflect his FPL potential. That would be akin to Heung-Min Son versus Harry Kane. Is Heung-Min Son armband material? Yes. Given a good fixture, decent form…absolutely. Fernandes is still going to be the architect for many a goal this season and, with a home game against Newcastle, I don’t care if there is a front three of Ronaldo, Pele and Maradona – if United are going to put multiple goals on the board, Fernandes is as likely to be involved as anyone. Perhaps he is more prone to assisting than scoring goals going forward, but he is still going to rack up points over the season. If Liverpool can afford to have Mane and Salah, Spurs can support Kane and Son, then it is conceivable that United could have two armband-worthy players on a weekly basis, too. Driving the point home one final time – including Fernandes on the shortlist is not an affront to Ronaldo’s armband potential and vice versa.

Romelu Lukaku – 11.5m (roster % – 20.8%)

Opponent – Aston Villa (home)

Moving on from Manchester United now…fantastic. Other people exist! It’s incredible! And I have to tell you, I am loving Lukaku this weekend as an armband choice, provided that the injury flag he is currently carrying is cleared up before the deadline. Full disclosure, he is not in my side, nor will he be come the deadline, so I declare my love without bias. I am just looking at a few simple factors and they all shine a positive light on the Belgian as an armband choice.

For starters, this will be the debut (well, re-debut) at Stamford Bridge for Lukaku, after having made his first two starts on the road. No doubt, the atmosphere there, with as strong as Chelsea have looked out of the gates and Lukaku now present, should be electric Blue. Second, and this is key, Villa will be without Emi Martínez in goal due to Covid protocols from international duty. So, Villa will be turning to Jed Steer. It feels like I’ve been looking at Steer in the FPL game for a decade now and…that’s because I have. Steer was around in the 11/12 season and, in the decade since, has made one PL start. This will make two. To call “Martinez to Steer” a downgrade would be the understatement of the year. This will also be just the second game on the road for Villa – they conceded three times at Watford in the opening weekend.

But what I like most about Lukaku is how he went from being the big summer splash signing to virtually forgotten simply because some other guy (whose name I will attempt to not mention for the remainder of the column, but don’t hold me to it) showed up a couple of weeks later. I am actually somewhat surprised to see more than 1 out of 5 managers have Lukaku. He is in more teams than the other guy at the moment, though it could flip by the deadline.

Michail Antonio – 7.9m (roster % – 38.1)

Opponent – Southampton (away)

Is there any better example of how that “other guy” is taking the entire spotlight in the FPL community than how Antonio as a captaincy option is somewhat being dismissed? I mean, what more does he have to do? Three games – EIGHT goal involvements. Eight. Four goals, four assists, three games. No need to dive any deeper than that. So, it must be the fixture that has managers feeling apprehensive. Wait…it’s Southampton. Am I missing something? The Saints are not that good, right? Yes, they earned a 1-1 draw with Manchester United in Week 2, but they still have averaged two goals conceded through the first three weeks. West Ham, meanwhile, are level with Manchester City on goals with ten, and again, Antonio has played a part in eight of them. If you expect the Saints to meet their average of two goals conceded, which is fair given the form of the attack they are facing, and Antonio is anywhere near as involved as he has been, then logic would conclude he is a very strong candidate for attacking returns.

Mo Salah – 12.5m (roster % – 53.3)

Opponent – Leeds (away)

And then there was good ol’ Mo. Two double-digit returns in the first three games, including most recently against a very tough opponent in Chelsea. If you want a comfortable pick this week, one where even if the player blanks, you cannot beat yourself up too much about it, than Salah fits the bill. Liverpool should not find it too difficult to find the net against Leeds. The Peacocks shipped five to United in Week 1. They have gotten increasingly better, you could say, conceding two to Everton, and then a lone goal to Burnley. But their defensive record seems to mirror the strength of opponent. Which would tell me, two goals for Liverpool looks like a base line with the chance for more. As long as a fixture has that sort of look about it, one where Pool can score two goals or more, then a fit Salah is never a bad pick.

And again, should Salah blank and “that other guy” comes up with a bigger haul, I can promise you, as insignificant as it may seem to say, it will hurt less to fail with Salah. I would expect Salah to still grab the honor for “most captained” across the league this week, simply because of the roster percentage compared to “that other guy”, so if your boat sinks, you will at least go down with a lot of company.

Honorable Mentions –

Leicester and Manchester City are two very good clubs, but neither seem to have a bankable, consistent captaincy option among them, so the fact that they playing each other this weekend is a bit of a blessing because we can afford to look past those clubs for an armband. The only thing I am looking for here is whether Kevin De Bruyne is any closer to a return.

Harry Kane – What better way to prove how competitive the armband debate is these days than to see the reigning Golden Boot winner, who is fit and playing a decent fixture, away to Crystal Palace, among the honorable mentions? Well, that is where we are at right now. For those that have Kane, he is not a terrible armband option. His track record has immeasurably more weight than the fact that he blanked in his first proper start of the season. What may be more of concern is Tottenham’s attack in general. They have a recipe they are using and the results have been delicious, but one goal per game is not the sort of attack one usually wants to find a captain from. Add in an injury scare for Heung-Min Son and it gives one pause about what the ceiling is for Spurs in terms of goals scored. Kane is likely getting overlooked when the final captaincy stats come out, so you shouldn’t feel too much sting if he produces and you don’t have him captained.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin – There seems to be a wide range of speculation regarding DCL’s toe injury. On the one hand, he has apparently been playing with the injury up until now, and you would hardly have know given he has found the net in all three of Everton’s games. And yet, the more recent the news on his toe, the more unsure things look heading into the weekend. With so many other options to look at, despite a nice matchup against the Clarets, this seems a week to only make mention of him.

And there you have it. I knew we would see the “captain template” get shattered soon enough. We have arrived. Good luck with your selection this week, and may your arrows be green.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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