FPL Captain Picks and Tips - Gameweek 1

11:52pm Aug 9 2018

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is the standout captains pick for Gameweek 1, but who else is worth our consideration?

Good day to all Fantasy Premier League managers around the world and welcome back to my FPL Captain Picks and Tips series for Fantasy Football Pundits for the 2018/19 season.

In this recurring feature, I’ll be scrutinising the standout captaincy picks for each FPL gameweek – along with a personal twist to hold me needlessly accountable for my choices.

Why me, you ask? What are my credentials? Firstly, mind your own business. Secondly, I have the charm and warmth of Jose Mourinho when he finds out one his players’ wives is pregnant, and that somehow convinced the FFP management I was again worth trusting with this feature.

First then: the twist. In a naive attempt to be approachable, each week I’m going to share my own captain picks and calculate the points they bring me and the ongoing weekly average, for full transparency.

Don’t worry, it won’t be titled something painfully unfunny like “Jack-pot”. I have more respect for you readers than that. It’s actually going to be called ‘Captain Obvious’, which I at some point thought was amusing.

Before we begin, two notes to new players:

1. You’re under no obligation to select these tips. Captaincy choices should always be subjective – unless you happen to be in any of my mini-leagues, in which case you should set and forget your captain to Aboubakar Kamara, with no questions asked.

2. Wondering why captaincy choice is so important? Consider this: last season’s FPL champion Yusuf Sheikh collected 601 of his 2,512 points from his captain alone – nearly a quarter of his 2017/18 total. Tidy!

Despite having a healthy amount of data to glean from last season’s statistics, as well as pre-season line-ups and formations to analyse, there’s still a hideous amount of unknown variables to consider ahead of Gameweek 1.

Will that youngster or that £4.0m player definitely play? Do you have players who featured in the World Cup semis and returned late to their clubs? These uncertainties and more could likely affect your captain pick.

But the core criteria for selection remains the same: play the odds and captain a player with high ownership, or hit and hope with a more obscure pick. A wild-card, if you will.

Right, let’s get to work and please do not hesitate to hit me up on Twitter (@JWoodfield365) with any feedback or questions you might have. Game on!


Mohamed Salah vs. West Ham (H)

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Pros for captaining: 

1. The highest-ever points scorer in an FPL season last year (303)
2. As certain as can be to a starting 11 position
3. Back to sharpness in pre-season after shoulder injury
4. Most-owned player; a good performance will help owners steal a march on rivals

Cons:

1. Lining up against an unpredictable, big-spending West Ham
2. Doubts over whether his minutes may be managed

Salah’s heroics last season led hacks like me to run out of superlatives for the Liverpool forward. But a disappointing summer for the Egyptian featured a shoulder injury in the Champions League final and a premature (albeit expected) early exit in the World Cup.

Some doubts therefore linger about Salah’s fitness and, moreover, whether he can come to close to replicating his breathtaking form from last season.

Two goals and two assists in pre-season, including impressive performances against Man City and Napoli, however, should cast those fears aside.

It’s not surprising that Salah is in 53% of FPL sides – more than any other player, and he is arguably the safest captain option, particularly in light of Liverpool’s excellent pre-season (7 wins from 9).

But West Ham have awarded new manager Manuel Pellegrini a war chest to bring European football back to the London Stadium, and roughly £100m has been spent.

The Hammers therefore pose an intriguing threat. However, Salah was as fixture-proof as they came last season, and even with a hypothetical Hammers back-line made up of multiple-time Champions League winners it wouldn’t be surprising if Salah still bagged a hat-trick.

Key stat: Salah returned 15 double-figure scores in 36 games last season.

Alexis Sanchez vs. Leicester (H)

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Pros for captaining: 

1. As certain to start as can be
2. Good pre-season form (once he was allowed to play)

Cons:

1. Yet to show his ‘Arsenal form’ under Jose Mourinho

Alexis Sanchez’s summer was reminiscent of the bizarre underdog tale you might see in 2000s trash-drama Dream Team.

Having initially been refusal into the US for Man United’s pre-season tour, Sanchez was left held up for a week at Carrington training ground, only to eventually enter the US and deliver some spectacular performances -including a goal against Real Madrid.

Most incredibly of all, Sanchez even received subsequent praise from Jose Mourinho for being “the only [attacker] who is here”, while Anthony Martial was subsequently condemned for attending the birth of his baby. Try and tell me that’s not lifted from Dream Team.

Sanchez is clearly in his manager’s good books and will start against Leicester, but with less than 9% ownership the Chilean clearly has to work to do to convince the majority of FPL bosses he is worth his £10.5m sum.

He returned just nine goals last season, and often looked out-of-sorts following his mid-season move to United. But having scored 24 goals the season prior, Sanchez has pedigree.

Moreover, with several Leicester players including Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire both doubts for Old Trafford, Sanchez’s appeal only increases further.

Key stat: Highest-scoring player in FPL with 264 points in 2016/17.

Sergio Aguero vs Arsenal (A)

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Pros for captaining:

1. Coming off a brace in the Community Shield
2. Likely set to start ahead of Gabriel Jesus

Cons:

1. Tough opening fixture (on paper)

It’s no surprise that Sergio Aguero’s Community Shield brace against Chelsea led his FPL ownership to spike from 12.8% to 22%.

The FPL community loves an in-form player and with Man City’s dreamy fixtures between Gameweek’s 2-7, an Aguero-led City could feasibly be charging towards a second-straight title by October.

Aguero’s had an up-and-down 12 months – having scored 21 league goals last season and at long last making it into the PFA Team of the Year, he then underwent knee surgery in order to secure a place in Argentina’s World Cup squad.

He was subsequently dropped for key games with Nigeria and France, but still ended up scoring twice in Russia.

Quite why you’d drop Aguero is a mystery to me, but with Gabriel Jesus still regaining fitness following his summer with Brazil, Aguero could cement his status at City’s first name on the team sheet with some stellar early performances.

Arsenal away with a new manager in charge is a tricky fixture, but Aguero bamboozled Chelsea’s defenders last week with minimum fuss; overused cliché notwithstanding – Arsenal’s back four will be more scared of Aguero then he will be of them.

Key stat: Aguero has scored six times in the first match of the season, in just seven appearances.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang vs. Man City (H)

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Pros for captaining:

1. Well rested from summer break
2. Had a tremendous pre-season
3. Ended last season in rich form

Cons:

1. Could start on left-wing if Lacazette starts up front

A mainstay throughout many Twitter draft squads, Aubameyang’s ownership is now just shy of 22%, and his owners will hope he can resume his goal-scoring form with immediacy.

Aubameyang scored 10 and set up four in just 13 games following his move to Arsenal in January.

Having been deployed mostly on the left in pre-season – with Alexandre Lacazette leading the line – it was easy to fear his impact could be limited.

But six goals and three assists (Lacazette has six goals and two assists) show that Auba can deliver even from a wider berth. There’s also an argument to captaining Lacazette, and this segment could easily be about him.

The Frenchman’s ownership is a meagre 4.4%, which may reflect uncertainty about his likelihood to start against Man City, but Lacazette could offer potent captaincy potential in future weeks.

Aubameyang and co. have two torrid open fixtures so from that perspective captaining Auba is risky business, especially against the champions. But there’s no denying the Gabonese’s quality in front of goal. Moreover, chances are he’ll be on penalty duty.

Key stat: Aubameyang is the fastest-ever Arsenal player to reach 10 goals

Harry Kane vs. Newcastle (A)

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Pros for captaining:

1. Fresh off winning the World Cup Golden Boot
2. Scored 30 Premier League goals last season

Cons: 

1. Not 100% certain to play
2. Only returned to training two weeks ago

It isn’t often that captaining a two-time Premier League Golden Boot winner is a risk, but it is with Harry Kane (and not because of the bizarre hoodoo where he can’t score in August).

The Spurs talisman only returned to training this week after his post-World Cup break, and is a doubt to start against Newcastle.

You can be sure that Mauricio Pochettino will be pushing for his star man to line up at St James’ Park, but with Spurs reportedly without up to nine first-teamers for Gameweek 1, it’s understandable to question Kane’s captaincy value not just because he is a risk, but because his team-mates are too.

Being reticent to captain (or even select Kane) based on his fitness is to be expected – but if you’re hesitant to captain Kane on the basis that he has not yet scored in August, then you could be inviting trouble.

Remember #KanEXIT last year? When Kane looked slightly out of sorts in December his ownership dropped off; he then scored consecutive hat-tricks.

Considering Kane is already owned by just under 33%, do you really want to risk losing early ground should Kane break his duck for August?

Key stat: Kane has taken 44 shots in 898 goalless minutes of Premier League football in August.

Captain Obvious

We finally arrive at the twist that caused a furore in the FPL community since its first mention in paragraph one. To entice your expectations even further, here is how this section will look in future editions:

Last week’s captain pick: PENDING
Average captain points: PENDING
Total captain points: PENDING

My Captain Obvious this week: Mo Salah.

Why? With his sky-high ownership and reasonable opening home fixture (West Ham at home), Salah is the safest captaincy bet.

I don’t want to end up chasing too many leaders too early on, and his pre-season form has been good enough to reasonably expect him to pick up where he left off last season.

BEFORE YOU GO… We’ve teamed up with Starting 11 once again this season and will be playing their Daily Fantasy Premier League game, alongside FPL.

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Thank you for reading ‘Fantasy Premier League Tips –FPL Captain Picks and Tips – Gameweek 1’ which was written and produced by @JWoodfield365