Who to captain in Fantasy Premier League Gameweek 1

Clarke has picked out four options capable of wearing the captain’s armband for the opening gameweek. We know Salah is the obvious choice, but we’ve highlighted three others who could potentially carry the burden.

Mohamed Salah (£12.5m)

Liverpool vs Norwich

Prior to Salah returning from the African Cup of Nations, the attitude towards the Egyptian’s inclusion in your FPL squad was simple, if uninspiring. Yes, I obviously need him in my Gameweek 1 squad – he scored the most points of any player, yet dropped £0.5m. I just hope his almost non-existent pre-season doesn’t leave him fatigued. I’ll happily join the crowd.

Since watching the Community Shield unfold, the perspective of the situation has switched from “I 100% need Salah in my squad” to “I 100% want Salah in my squad”. He was electric in the second half of the match, hitting the woodwork twice and ending up with more total goal attempts (10) and shots on target (4) than the Man City squad combined (8 & 3).

This map compares the total goal attempts of Man City (on the left) and Mohamed Salah (on the right) in the Community Shield.

Up against a Norwich side plagued by defensive niggles throughout pre-season, and one that conceded an average of 1.24 goals per game last season, it’s easy to see why Salah is the runaway pick in every captaincy poll online. Indeed, he has hit +60% in all of the ones I’ve seen.

Interestingly, Norwich conceded 0.48 fewer goals per game on the road last season. However, this is likely due to their confidence of overturning visiting opponents with their potent attack at Championship level.

However, this will not be something to hang their hat on with the step up to the Premier League and we expect this abnormality to balance out. Liverpool will welcome Norwich to Anfield with complete confidence of scoring multiple goals and Salah’s involvement is almost guaranteed.

The opening Gameweek isn’t the time to turn FPL hipster. Everyone has a clean slate, so don’t put yourself behind the pack before it’s even gained momentum. If you have Salah and don’t captain him at home to Norwich City, you should really ask yourself why you own him in the first place.

Harry Kane (£11.0m)

Tottenham vs Aston Villa

Runner-up in the majority of online captaincy polls with an equally attractive fixture in the opening gameweek is Kane. Having seen his points per 90 minutes average drop from 7.99 in 16/17 to 6.35 in 17/18 and then 5.94 last season, Kane’s price dropped £1.5m in the process.

This spiked his interest, and although a trip to Manchester City in Gameweek 2 is difficult to navigate, he remains the highest owned forward in the game. Injury ridden and lacking match fitness for much of last season, Kane frustrated his managers frequently, but still managed to avoid a blank in 63% of matches he started.

However, a concern which was most evident with Lucas was on the field last season, was Kane’s persistence to drop deep and collect the ball in less advanced areas.

As you can see, he was more withdrawn than in the previous season. This was largely due to Lucas and/or Son running beyond the opposition’s backline to latch onto through balls or else press the defence, as Kane naturally slipped into the ‘number 10’ role.

There’s no guarantee that things will continue in this manner come Gameweek 1. In fact, there’s a good chance Pochettino, aware of Kane’s lack of match fitness, encouraged it. Promisingly, the Spurs striker has looked a lot sharper and lighter on his feet in pre-season.

A long-range effort (vs. Juventus) and a clinical finish (vs. Real Madrid) being the highlights, though his off the ball movement and desire to get in behind the opposition defence were the real highlights through my FPL-tinted glasses.

Kane collected five attacking returns in as many fixtures against newly promoted clubs last season and, although the pain of his back-to-back blanks in plum home fixtures still lingers, I expect him to get off the mark quickly this season and quash any remaining doubts of his August form.

Pierre Aubameyang (£11.0m)

Newcastle vs Arsenal

Personally I think Aubameyang is being overlooked. The hive mind necessity of owning both Salah and Sterling has made the remaining premium assets almost implausible without having multiple £4.5m rotations featured in your starting XI or else a lack of substantial defenders.

We must remember that Aubameyang scored the most points of any forward (205) and the most bonus points of any player (32) last season. He achieved this in just 2722 minutes, with an average of 6.8 points per 90 minutes. Multiply this average by 38 matches and he would have broken the 250 points barrier.

In recent years, Kane and Aguero have been the go-to captains in the premium forward category. I talked about the Englishman earlier so let’s see how he compares to Aubameyang in the last couple of seasons per 90 minutes.

Per 90 Minute Stat KANE AUBA KANE AUBA
YEAR 17/18 17/18 18/19 18/19
Points 6.4 7.4 5.9 6.8
Goals 0.85 0.85 0.63 0.73
Assists 0.06 0.34 0.22 0.23
Bonus 1.10 0.98 0.89 1.06
Mins Per Exp. Goal Inv. 113 106 146 103
Conversion Rate 16.3% 32.3% 16.7% 23.4%

In the last two seasons, Aubameyang came out on top in almost every per 90 minute statistic, as well as comfortably bettering Kane in minutes per expected goal involvement and conversion rate. His ownership has increased by almost 10% in recent weeks, so maybe people are beginning to pick up on this.

He was involved in 47% of Arsenal’s ‘FPL Goals’ last season, takes penalties and faces just three top six fixtures in his opening 16 gameweeks. It’s time he rubbed shoulders with Salah and Kane for weekly captaincy and a fixture to welcome Steve Bruce back to Premier League reality isn’t the worst place to start.

Raheem Sterling (£12.0m)

West Ham vs Man City

Last in my four-man list, but definitely not least is Raheem Sterling. He plays for the most potent attacking side in the league and contributed with 32 combined goals and assists in the Premier League last season.

Man City comfortably ranked first for attempts inside the box (445), shots on target (255), big chances (125) and minutes per chance (5.3). They also had 71 xG from open play, compared to Liverpool’s 54 xG.

Coincidentally, they have a ridiculous record when playing away to West Ham. Since Pep Guardiola was appointed they have scored 17 goals in this fixture. That’s an average of 4.25 goals per game with Sterling grabbing seven assists and a goal in this period.

All things point to Sterling being a great captaincy choice for the opening gameweek.. At the time of writing, Salah is owned by 39.9% and Sterling by 31.6%. Salah is the safe option, and just by having the pair you should keep up with the crowd, even if Sterling outscores him.

Clarke Hutchison

A player analyst who contributed to the foundations upon which daily fantasy content in the UK now sits. Clarke loves stats and spreadsheets and once sat at 34th overall in FPL but bottled it.

BEST FPL FINISH: 385 (17/18)

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