Gameweek 11 was a nail-biting affair for Liverpool and Man City fans as their sides left it late to sneak the three points. It was also a tense, and overall disappointing, watch for captaincy owners from the top two sides in England.
Other than Mane (12pts), who recorded a quickfire goal and assist with five minutes remaining and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s customary assist along with two bonus points for seven points, the rest of the popular choices blanked.
Raheem Sterling was the biggest let-down. He was trusted with the armband by 53% of voters on Reddit’s captaincy poll and failed to keep even a clean sheet point. To rub salt in the wounds, he picked up a booking too.
In this weeks polls, arguably the two most in-form strikers in the league, Tammy Abraham and Jamie Vardy, are the frontrunners to carry the burden of captaincy. In this article I will highlight the contrasting strengths and weaknesses of each, along with a cheeky differential!
Jamie Vardy £9.4m
Leicester City vs Arsenal
Leicester City’s talisman scored his 10th goal of the season in Gameweek 11. This allowed him to hold off Aguero and Abraham, who also found the net, as the leading scorer in the Premier League.
Vardy’s strongest trait is perhaps his determination and fight to hold onto these sorts of accolades and a home fixture versus Arsenal is the perfect opportunity and motivation to keep things ticking in the early stages of the golden boot race.
Crystal Palace (a) in the previous gameweek was without doubt a less inviting fixture for Vardy owners. He has struggled in the past against low-block defences, and for 88 minutes Palace did a great job of handling the wriggly forward.
However, he did eventually break through and when the rare opportunity came his way he was extremely clinical in converting it. If he can source six points from a match with such limited involvement, a double-figure return in this Arsenal fixture is far from unlikely.
Let’s be real here: Leicester City are the favourites in this fixture. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be. Their manager is more organised and is loved by his fans, their players are performing better as individuals and as part of a team and they also have an obvious game plan in every fixture.
Unai Emery, who even Mustafi is confused about in terms of his tactical plan, will not set up a low-block in an attempt to harness the caged animal-like intensity of Jamie Vardy. The Spaniard will be more aggressive in his approach, which plays into the hands of the speedy striker.
Vardy has a fantastic head-to-head versus Arsenal with eight goals in eight starts, as well as a brace in their last meeting at the King Power. The Gunners have a canon on their chest, but their defence is about as intimidating as a Canon printer that’s just ran out of ink.
They have conceded the third-most attempts from inside the box this season and are equal top for the number of penalties conceded (4). David Luiz and Sokratis look set to continue in the heart of defence, which is enough to initiate a mini heart attack at least a handful of times on Saturday “ebening”!
Tammy Abraham £7.9m
Leicester City vs Arsenal
Unlike Vardy, who is the second-most transferred in player ahead of Gameweek 12 with 291,356 new managers, Abraham has been steadily growing in popularity and value since Gameweek 4.
He started the 2019/20 campaign as a £7.0m striker looked upon by most as excellent value, but only if he managed to cement the status of Chelsea’s number one centre-forward. Well, how he has stepped up to the plate.
Big Tammy, now the highest owned player in the game (49%), has not only grown in value (+0.9m), but has grown as a player in this short period. He has clearly gained huge confidence from his fast start this season and is now leagues ahead of his competition (Batshuayi & Giroud) at CF.
I said the reasons for captaining Vardy or Abraham were contrasting and it’s mainly down to the fixture set before them. Unlike Arsenal, who are haphazard at the back and rarely set up as a unit to counteract the opposition, Palace are the complete opposite, especially when they’re the visitors.
Crystal Palace are a reliable defensive unit. Even without the hugely influential Mamadou Sakho, Cahill and Tomkins are performing well, but with Man City, Arsenal and Leicester being their last three fixtures it’s difficult for them to earn the plaudits they might deserve.
Interestingly, Palace rank 15th in the league for expected goals conceded at home, but 5th for expected goals conceded away. Chelsea, on the other hand, have performed better in front of goal away from home this season with 18 goals on the road and just seven goals at Stamford Bridge.
All in all, this fixture is unpredictable. We can say more confidently that Arsenal will concede multiple times versus Leicester, but looking at the home/away form of Chelsea and Palace, the forecast is of a tightly contested game with maybe a single goal swinging the balance.
Abraham also featured for 90 minutes in a fierce battle with Ajax in midweek, whereas Vardy is well rested for his encounter with Arsenal. Taking this all into account, as well as Vardy playing every single minute of EPL football this season (compared to Abraham completing the full 90 on just one occasion), I would lean towards Vardy this week.
Anthony Martial £7.6m
Man United vs Brighton
My differential pick this week is Anthony Martial. His performance in midweek highlighted what United have been missing in that centre-forward role all season. He held up the play fantastically throughout and took his goal with impressive confidence.
The only problem with the Frenchman, and I feel this is portrayed in his price, is his injury history. When he is fit, Martial’s points per game average is up their with those who make up the premium bracket.
In 2018/19 he played 1613 minutes, averaging 6.8 points per 90 and in the 2017/18 season he played 1572 minutes, averaging 7.1 points per 90. That’s an average of 6.95 points per 90 minutes. In comparison, the three seasons between 2015 and 2018, Kevin De Bruyne racked up 21 goals and 49 assists, but averaged 6.1 points per 90.
There’s no doubt that Martial is very consistent in his returns. This season he has continued to score points at a ratio of a premium, with three goals and an assist in five starts. Now playing as an out-and-out striker, but classified as a midfielder, don’t underestimate the advantage of collecting an additional point for every goal and clean sheet.
Despite concerns around United this season, their home form has been very good with just one loss all season at Old Trafford and having already defeated Chelsea and Leicester and drawn with Liverpool and Arsenal.
With Liverpool and Man City facing each other this week, it’s a rare opportunity to captain a differential and, although Martial is a huge gamble, there isn’t a better week for it. Brighton have lost three of their last four away matches, conceding eight times in the process.