The fact that the folks at FantasyBet have decided to dust-off the captaincy article and roll it out for one last job might well be titillating, but it is anything but.
Instead, Fantasy Premier League managers should consider this article an omen; the first illumination in a string of warning beacons that eventually leads to Sunday’s 3 pm kick-offs.
In other words: the captaincy article is only wheeled out on occasions where there is enough deliberation to merit a whole article’s worth of discussion. Gameweek 38 is certainly one of those occasions.
It’s time to bite down on the rag, clench our fists and brace ourselves. Soon it’ll all be over.
Manchester City assets are the safe captaincy picks
If a team’s performance was buoyed by the ferocity of its managers’ touchline gesticulations, Manchester City would surely have run away with the title long before now.
As it stands, however, Pep’s wild gestures have only served to mix the cauldron of anxiety, expectation and fear that bubbles beneath the heated surface of the Etihad. City, for all of their short corners and playing out from the back, look nervy.
It gives the plum-looking trip to Brighton a different hue. There has always been the feeling among observers that the title-race is due a twist; perhaps it will come on the final day – a day that is, after all, notoriously odd.
Add to that the recent form of City’s key men, the once impermeable Sergio Aguero and the PFA Young Player of the Season Raheem Sterling, and the decision becomes even harder.
Aguero is currently 34th for xG in the last 5 matches; a damning sign of City’s inability to create clear cut chances in recent matches. In the last 3 games, Sterling is 25th for xG. Neither are anywhere near the xA charts either.
So what does it all mean? Well, the underlying stats aren’t everything, but anyone who has watched Manchester City in recent weeks has to concede that their trademark fluidity has been replaced by a more military, calculated approach.
Do we really believe that Aguero will play 90 minutes if City establish a 2-0 lead? Is Sterling going to be looking for goal number 3, 4 or 5? Or will he be asked, as all City players have been asked in recent matches, to play into the corner and stay there?
My verdict: don’t remove them, but only give them the armband if you’re already happy with your rank.
Captaining Liverpool assets comes at a risk
Quite conversely to their title-aspiring rivals, Liverpool’s scoring hasn’t dried up as the season draws to a close, with Klopp’s men netting 15 goals in their past five Premier League games. But don’t get too giddy; there are some important caveats to consider ahead of their Gameweek 38 fixture against Wolves.
The first is the small matter of beating Barcelona by 4 goals midweek. Momentous though it was, there appears to be little doubt that the side Klopp fields on Sunday will be a more tired, injury-prone version of its usual all-guns-blazing self.
I fully expect it to be a full strength side (Klopp has, after all, been very public about his reluctance to “overthink” his strongest line-up), but injury-doubts like Robertson, Salah and Firmino might well have their minutes managed if the fate of the game is secured. That could have an impact on the points-potential of the whole team.
The second caveat is that they’re playing Wolves; a side who have earned a reputation for soiling the aspirations of heavy-hitting teams during their return to the Premier League this season.
The scalps that adorn their wall include a draw against City and victory against Spurs, Arsenal, United and Chelsea. To say that this final game is a guaranteed three points for the wannabe champions is to hugely underestimate their opponents’ penchant for turning up when it matters.
Would you be foolish to back Liverpool with your last captaincy? No. But should you be wary? Absolutely.
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A rare case for Southampton players
Rarely is a Premier League side so poor that FPL managers feel confident enough to bring in opposing players purely for the fixture simplicity alone, but as Huddersfield continue to lose game after game, that notion has become a convenient reality.
Ahead of the gameweek to end all gameweeks it’s even easier to throw caution to the wind, so it would be remiss of me not to consider their opponents here.
And so we find ourselves in a position only made possible because of the transformative absurdity of football: it’s time to discuss Southampton captaincy choices.
Southampton are a side rejuvenated, which is hardly news. What might be news, however, is the extent to which they have improved in recent weeks. Take the last eight matches, for example: Southampton are 4th for xG in the league.
In other words, since 1st April, they are a top-four side as far as creating goal scoring opportunities is concerned. Combine that with Huddersfield’s propensity for conceding goals and perhaps, in Southampton, FPL managers have found the most fertile land for ripe captaincy considerations.
Nathan Redmond springs to mind: the diminutive attacking-midfielder is among the top 10 players for xG in recent weeks, and doesn’t fare badly for xA either. His 1-half cameo in Gameweek 37 hints at a full 90 minutes in Gameweek 38, a view shared by Southampton fans.
It’s their last home game of the season: why not field the team that has kept them in the top flight for yet another campaign?
It’s hard to find a flaw with a Southampton captaincy pick this week apart from the blatantly obvious: they’re still Southampton. Even so, looking at their recent performances, that might not be such a bad thing after all.
Other notable captaincy options
A few other names have emerged from the rubble of Gameweek 37 that should be mentioned here. Callum Wilson is one such name. As of the 1st April, the Englishman is top for xG in the league; a reflection of the attacking talent that surrounds him at Bournemouth.
He’s also up there for big chances missed, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for FPL managers: at least he’s getting those chances.
He faces Crystal Palace, a side who, just like the Cherries, have very little to play for as the season concludes. Could we see one of those freakishly high-scoring games that the last gameweek is so lauded for? If we do, you can bet Wilson will be amongst them.
Paul Pogba hasn’t done much over the past few weeks (and by “few weeks” I mean “since March”), but then again, when has Pogba done much? Even when he’s racking up the FPL points, he’s doing so with the lackadaisical majesty of someone who has already decided that he is far better than the minnows that surround him.
Since his early surge in popularity, Pogba’s stock has declined about as quickly as Man United’s top four hopes, but managers looking for a Son replacement are doubtless struggling to overlook the explosive points potential of the Frenchman.
United’s form – and Cardiff’s, incidentally – makes this an unappealing call for me, but maybe Solskjaer’s main man has one last trick up his sleeve this season. Who would want to miss out on that?
If you’re looking to captain a defender…
Finally, let’s go really differential and look at a defender. Aymeric Laporte was the top scorer in two of City’s three double gameweeks this season; a fact that has earned him notoriety among any managers who pay attention to such things.
More recently, he has scored 21 points in his last two matches; if a forward was racking up those points and due to play Brighton next, he’d surely have been discussed in this article prior to now.
The bookies have given City the highest likelihood of keeping a clean sheet. Whilst the bonus points are usually handed out amongst whichever City attackers have scored the most goals, more recently it has been their defenders claiming the accolades.
It gives Laporte a USP this gameweek: if City can keep Glen Murray at bay (which, let’s face it, doesn’t seem like an absurd proposition), he could well finish his season with at least a 9-point haul.
This is not one for the conservative manager, but Laporte poses a strangely dependable option amidst a myriad of doubt this gameweek.
Who to captain in Fantasy Premier League Gameweek 38?
Context is everything.
It all comes down to individual aspirations. Personally, I’m two points away from winning my mini-league, so I will probably err on the side of caution and hope I can make up the deficit on my other differentials.
For me, “caution” means one of Aguero or Sterling, perhaps Salah if his fitness is confirmed. But if that gap was 20 points? I’d probably be looking at Redmond. There is no other player, as far as I can see, that encompasses the blend of fantastic stats, guaranteed play time and incredibly weak opposition.
Ultimately, if you’ve got points to make up, it’s likely you have nothing to lose at this stage. Gameweek 38 presents the perfect time to take a risk – which, for me, is where the fun of FPL is found.
Besides, if it goes awry, at least you’ve only got three months to dwell on it, eh?
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