Returning to analyse the best FPL captain options for Gameweek 16, Clarke shares his opinion on the most popular pick Jamie Vardy, the case for Salah over Mane and a few differentials worth looking at from Man City and Spurs.
Jamie Vardy £10m
Aston Villa vs Leicester City
I said last week that he’s in the sort of form which saw him score in 11 consecutive games in the 2015/16 season, and he went one step closer to repeating this in midweek with his seventh goal in as many games.
Vardy is now the highest owned (48.2%) player in FPL and his price has rightly soared to 10m to make him only the third player in the game to have seen a 1m price rise throughout the season.
He now faces Aston Villa (a). This is an excellent fixture on paper, though Dean Smith’s men have proved to be a somewhat resolute opponent at Villa Park. They have conceded an average of just a goal per game at home, which ranks them fourth equal in the league for this statistic.
They have only lost one (1-2 vs. Liverpool) of their last six home fixtures, so come into this one with a lot of confidence, especially having fought well with United and Chelsea in the last two gameweeks.
Leicester, on the other hand, have performed similarly at home and away this season. They average 2.3 and 2.4 goals scored at home and away respectively. They are in fantastic form with eight wins on the bounce, scoring at least two goals in all of these fixtures.
The away side will obviously dominate this fixture with an average of 55% of possession this season, but it’s not just about having the ball – they have players like Maddison, Tielemans, Chilwell and Pereria who will constantly create for their talisman.
The only worry I would have as a Vardy captainer is the characteristics of Aston Villa’s backline. The games in which he has blanked in this season were largely due to a mobile centre-back shadowing him all match. Lindelof and Schar showcased this with disciplined performance in Gameweek 5 and 7.
Tyrone Mings, although erratic at times, is excellently suited to this task. He’s quick, he’s mobile, he’s physical, so he can track his fellow countryman’s runs in behind better than most. Vardy has destroyed the likes of David Luiz, Keane, Mina, Duffy, Tomkins in recent weeks, and although he’s still odds on to score, I feel Mings will provide a sterner test.
Mohamed Salah £12.2m
Bournemouth vs Liverpool
In the majority of online captaincy polls, Mane is either first or second choice for the armband in Gameweek 16. This is fairly self explanatory with four goals, three assists and seven bonus points in his last five matches.
The reason I favour Salah in Gameweek 16 has nothing to do with Mane’s form or anything regarding Liverpool’s main man at the moment. It’s the fact Salah was rested and did not even feature on Wednesday evening, while Mane played the full 90 minutes.
Jurgen Klopp rotated heavily in attack with Lallana, Shaqiri and Origi all given the nod. Though interestingly, it was two of this trio who were substituted off on 70 minutes when Liverpool were leading comfortably by four goals to two.
Similar to Pep’s attitude towards Sterling of his player having superhuman levels of recovery, Klopp has always been enthusiastic when discussing Mane’s physical fitness. However, with a total of nine fixtures between the 23rd of November and the 18th of December it’s a lot to expect of anyone.
You would think he’d be taking every opportunity to save his most important players and give the backups minutes when comfortable in a fixture. The fact he left Mane on, and also taking into account their Champions League match versus Salzburg coming up on Tuesday evening, it’s so risky to trust him with captaincy.
All of these factors, opens up the possibility of Mane taking the place of Firmino and Salah in Gameweek 16 and being completely rested. Unless Liverpool are struggling of course. People will look back at this article if he’s included in the starting XI and laugh, but every Mane owner knows this is a valid point, especially when considering captaining him.
There has been an improvement in Bournemouth at home this season, but as discussed last week, their underlying statistics are worrying. They were unable to hold out a 10-man Crystal Palace for 75 minutes in midweek, so who knows how much Liverpool will make them suffer.
A fresh Salah is a scary Salah. Unlike Mane, he will 100% start this fixture, barring any last minute injury or illness. In four meetings, he has never failed to register a return versus Bournemouth with a goal every 57 minutes on average.
Man City Differentials
Sterling or De Bruyne vs Bournemouth
Man United were impressive as hosts of Tottenham in midweek, but travelling to the Etihad is another matter entirely. Their Manchester neighbours have averaged three goals scored per game at home this season, and they haven’t even hit form yet.
Based on away form, Man United are situated at 14th in the table with a negative goal difference… not ideal preparation when facing one of the meanest attacks on the planet.
Sterling played well on Tuesday night, but was substituted early. This is likely due to the risk of him picking up his fifth booking of the season and subsequently missing this important derby fixture. He has met United 13 times in the Premier League and is still searching for his first goal.
The history of this fixture isn’t the best looking for De Bruyne either, even as a big game specialist. The Belgian has one goal and has failed to register an assist in 438 minutes against Man United.
Regardless, both players will be huge threats this weekend. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are leaking a ridiculous amount of goals, often in the latter stages of matches and have failed to keep a clean sheet away from Old Trafford all season.
Kane, Alli or Son vs Burnley
In my opinion, the form and underlying statistics makes Dele Alli the best choice ahead of Gameweek 16. Mourinho’s arrival has had such a positive effect on the unpredictable midfielder, perhaps more so than anyone else at the club.
He has five attacking returns (four goals and an assist) in his last four matches. Alli’s recent statistics are clearly more threatening than Kane’s. He has attempted more shots, particularly from inside the box. He also gets an extra point for every goal and clean sheet, despite his average position being more advanced than his teammate who is classified as a striker.
Kane has the advantage of being more explosive. He can disappear for weeks and then return with a hat-trick. In 2017/18 he did just that. Following back-to-back blanks he scored back-to-back hat-tricks, one of which came versus Burnley. If you feel like a gamble, Kane is a decent choice, though it could be another frustrating viewing if he keeps dropping deep.
Son is a mixture of the two above, he isn’t in the best form, but continues to chip in with returns and is arguably as explosive as Kane. Phil Bardsley managed to hold out Sterling in the previous gameweek, though he looked very shaky at times – Son could punish them down the left flank.