Top 5 Captain Picks and Tips - FPL Gameweek 18
Posted by JackWoodfield
10:42am Dec 20 2018
Manchester City’s Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling look like standout captaincy contenders for Gameweek 18, but can we avoid possible rotation?
Gameweek 17 was a weekend of lessons learnt. Last week’s #4 captaincy pick Eden Hazard should never be written off, and while we may convince ourselves we’re finally grasping Pep Guardiola’s selection formula, no one knows a chuffing thing. RIP MCFCballer.
We also learned that captaining Harry Kane after a midweek game may be ill-advised. As highlighted by David Off, Spurs’ Premier League record following midweek matches is uninspiring, at least in terms of goal-scoring.
Thankfully though, there’s no midweek games this wee….oh yeah.
The Carabao Cup – or the All Out Attack of cups – returns to throw a spanner to the face of our captain considerations for Gameweek 18, with Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Bournemouth all involved.
The quarter-finals have seen a raft of prize FPL assets in action, so this week’s list is just as much in response to team line-ups as it is to our contenders’ credentials.
Leroy Sane vs. Crystal Palace (H)
Pros for captaining:
> Fresh from week’s rest
> Joint-most assists in PL (9)
> City’s swashbuckling home scoring (33)
> 5 goals, 4 assists in last 6 (all comps)
> Pep Guardiola
Left out of Man City’s squad to face Leicester in the cup, Sane will have benefitted from a week off having started each of City’s last seven games in all competitions. And that freshness makes him the top captaincy pick against a Crystal Palace team struggling on the road.
Sane’s points per match (PPM) of 6.1 is the fourth-best among midfielders but, incredibly, his 889 minutes played is significantly less than the three above him on that list: Mohamed Salah, Raheem Sterling and Eden Hazard.
To put Sane’s explosiveness into content, he now has more points (92) than Harry Kane (91), despite playing 558 less minutes.
The German forward has every technical tool in his arsenal. No one has more assists (9); he’s set up four in his last six in all competitions. During that time he’s also scored five.
Moreover, he has provided attacking returns in 66% of the gameweeks he has featured in, and scored an impressive six league goals from 12 shots on target.
So, can Crystal Palace stop the league’s in-form player? Well, while the Eagles may not have won away since GW5, Palace did shut out Man United at Old Trafford, and three clean sheets in five is no mean feat.
However, consider that City’s 33 goals scored at the Etihad is nearly twice as high as Chelsea’s (19), and the answer to the paragraph above is: most likely, no (providing he’s not this week’s victim of Pep roulette).
Raheem Sterling vs. Crystal Palace (H)
Pros for captaining:
> Highest PPM (8.0)
> Second-highest goal involvement (16)
> Pep. Chuffing. Guardiola
Owning Sterling was a heart-ageing experience in GW17. Having been benched for the second league game in three, a hair-tearing 60 minutes soon turned to a fist-pumping, screaming-at-your-car-radio experience as Sterling emerged to grab his ninth league goal of the season.
At this stage, predicting Sterling’s minutes is anyone’s guess. It stands to reason he’ll start at the weekend, having featured as a sub two matches in a row, but honestly who knows.
However, Sterling, like Sane, is in imperious form. Doubling up on both seems the educated move at this point, and after his cameo goal against Everton, he still possesses the highest PPM of 8.0.
Only Hazard (17) has been involved in more league goals than Sterling (16), and the City man has played 90 minutes less than his Chelsea counterpart.
And, as mentioned above, City’s goal-scoring prowess and Palace’s away misfortunes make Sterling the logical captaincy pick if you don’t own Sane.
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Eden Hazard vs. Leicester (H)
Pros for captaining:
> Highest goal involvement (17)
> Rested in Carabao Cup
> Finding form: 33 points in last 4
> Nursing an injury
Hazard’s dazzling 30-minute spell against Brighton had the Seagulls ducking for cover as the Chelsea man reminded us his premium allure.
His first goal in eight and ninth assist of the season meant that ahead of GW18, no one has been involved in more goals this season (17), and 33 of his 116 points – the highest total in FPL so far – have come in the last four weeks.
So, if you don’t own Hazard, do you dare reject him for GW18? The Belgian lost almost one million owners between GWs 9-16, but Mauricio Sarri’s deployment of Hazard as a number nine in the last two weeks has been a masterstroke.
For one thing, playing in a central role means Hazard doesn’t have to carry the burdensome weight of Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata.
Rested in the Carabao Cup, Hazard should reportedly be fit to start against Leicester, and the Blues are formidable at Stamford Bridge. They’re unbeaten and have scored the second-most goals (19), while Hazard’s 18 shots on target is the third-highest among midfielders.
Mohamed Salah vs. Wolves (A)
Embed from Getty Images
Pros for captaining:
> A week’s rest following hectic schedule
> Highest scorer (10)
> Highest xG (10.06), fourth-highest xA (5.30)
> Involved in a goal every 93 mins, on average
> Wolves third-best xGA (15.02)
> Wolves won three-straight
Omitting Salah from the GW17 captains list following his hat-trick in GW16 was a risky move, and while it worked out, I’d look more stupid than Sterling’s Panenka miss to exclude Salah twice in a row.
The Egyptian was due an off-day against Man United – although he did come close to being awarded an incredulous assist – and having started six games in the last three weeks, Salah has had a well-earned break this week.
Not only is Salah still the league’s joint-top scorer (10), he has the highest xG (10.06) and the fourth-highest xGA (5.30). He’s been involved in a goal, on average, every 93 minutes in the league.
Wolves have an excellent defence – their xGA is just 15.02, the third-best in the league, despite conceding 19 goals – and having earned three wins on the bounce the Midlanders will not be blown away.
This could be a low-scoring game, which is certainly a mark in the cons column.
Salah though is in great form, and he’s been involved in either a goal in each of his last three away games. He likely won’t repeat his hat-trick heroics this week, but the unbeaten league leaders can be backed to win, and Salah to be on the score sheet.
Aubameyang vs. Burnley (A)
Pros for captaining:
> Most shots in box (11) in last 4 gameweeks
> Burnley conceded 2 goals per game away, on average
> Still league’s joint-top goalscorer (10)
> Won’t be fresh after League Cup start
One assist in his last two games is not what Aubameyang’s new owners were hoping for following his dismantling of Spurs in GW14. But his stats have remained positive; seven points from two games doesn’t tell the full story.
The Arsenal striker has had the most shots in the box (11) and the most big chances (8) during the last four gameweeks. He also has the second-highest xG of 2.95 during that period.
On paper, captaining Aubameyang against Burnley makes a lot of sense. Arsenal are the joint-second-highest goalscorers (37), the Gunners haven’t lost at home since GW1, and opponents Burnley have conceded an average of two goals per game on the road.
However, the Gunners’ 4-2 victory over Spurs overshadowed a series of otherwise underwhelming recent home performance. Excluding the North London Derby, Arsenal have drawn 1-1 twice and won 1-0 in their last four home games.
Moreover, Aubameyang’s starting berth in the Carabao Cup means fatigue and managed minutes could be pertinent.
Last week’s captain points: 10
Average captain score: 14
Total captain points: 246
This week’s Captain Obvious: Leroy Sane
Sane will have enjoyed his PFA Young Player of the Year gong, for sure, but that won’t compare to the excitement of making his Captain Obvious debut. A week’s rest, City’s rampaging threat and Palace’s away woes make him the standout choice to make it 16 successes out of 18.
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