Returning to analyse the best FPL captain options for Gameweek 18, Clarke shares his top 5 candidates for the armband in a very open week.
With crunch matches between Man City and Leicester, Tottenham and Chelsea and, of course, Liverpool’s blank gameweek, it’s a week where a differential pick could come to fruition or else sticking with a player from the aforementioned clubs could be a shrewd decision.
Kevin De Bruyne
Man City vs Leicester
Quite frankly, Kevin De Bruyne is the best player in the Premier League and has been for some time now. The cautious approach to captaining him in previous seasons as he consistently chipped in with 6-9 point returns, but failed to pile into multiple returns is behind us.
Only Jamie Vardy has more double-figure returns (6) than the Belgian midfielder (5) this season… and the fact De Bruyne is classified as a midfielder is an added bonus. He has scored six goals this season and played his part in seven clean sheets. Not taking into account bonus points, this banks him a total of 37 points. The equivalent for a forward is just 24 points.
De Bruyne is a big game player, he’s proved it time and time again. Leicester will undoubtedly be more conservative in this fixture, though an open game is still to be expected. Man City’s chief creator will be over most of the set pieces, will kick start the majority of counter attacks and although Leicester won’t offer him as much space as Arsenal did, he’ll certainly be hovering around on the edge of the box.
Man City vs Leicester
If De Bruyne is Man City’s most important offensive player, then there’s no argument that Raheem Sterling is the second. Unlike his teammate, Sterling played in midweek, though this can actually be seen as a positive.
Pep Guardiola deployed him at centre-forward and he saved his managers blushes as Man City bounced back from an early second half scare from Oxford United. Sterling scored on the 50th and 70th minute to put the game to bed, before being subbed off in preparation for Gameweek 18.
Man City face one of the best defences in the league, however their statistics continue to show that the Etihad is one of the toughest trips in world football. Despite already dropping seven points at home this season, they still comfortably top the charts for total attempted assists (132) and expected goals (21.17), despite trailing Liverpool in the table and playing a game less than the title favourites.
We are yet to see where Sterling will play, as he was switching flanks throughout his previous fixture versus Arsenal. I worry for his FPL productivity if he’s planted out on the left flank for 90 minutes. Ricardo Pereira has been the best right back in the league in my opinion and his athleticism is a rare obstacle for Sterling.
Watford vs Man United
On paper, Man United’s trip to Watford is the obvious fixture to target this week. They are the firm favourites in this one and with four wins in their last five in all competitions, including their impressive victory against their Manchester rivals in their last away fixture, the confidence is high.
Talking about confidence, Rashford is filled to the brim with it. He won the Man of the Match award with just 62 minutes of action on the field with a goal and an assist on Wednesday evening.
He now has 19 goal involvements (14 goals & five assists) in 1846 minutes in all competitions, which translates as an involvement every 97 minutes. For comparison, De Bruyne has has an involvement every 101 minutes this season.
Watford vs Man United
If you’re confident of Man United keeping things rolling, Anthony Martial is a solid alternative to Rashford. Although his form isn’t on the same level at the moment, his classification as a midfielder puts him neck and neck with Rashford for captaincy this weekend.
He is looking comfortable at CF and has spearheaded the attack in all of United’s 180 minutes in their last two fixtures. The pressure from Greenwood, who has an uncanny resemblance to Van Persie’s style of play, is only a positive in my opinion. Martial often falls silent during games, but with the youngster waiting on the sidelines, it will surely spur him on.
Watching Watford’s opening 30 minutes against Liverpool in Gameweek 17, it’s clear to see that they have already taken steps and have improved defensively under Nigel Pearson. The fact they host United might actually play against his style though. Planted at the bottom of the table, their fans are restless and will be expecting their side to ‘have a go’, but that could end in tears.
Tottenham vs Chelsea
Frank Lampard has hit a barren patch in his short managerial career. Chelsea have lost four of their last five Premier League matches and have a minus three goal difference in their last two fixtures against two bottom half of the table dwellers in Everton and Bournemouth.
In a complete reversal, Tottenham have won four of their last five in England’s top flight scoring seven times in their last two fixtures against the typically solid backlines of Burnley and Wolves.
Picking between Kane, Alli and Son is the dilemma, but personally I would go with the latter. Alli has turned provider in the last two gameweek, trading his xG (0.16) for xA (1.24), whereas Son also has more than double the xG (0.70) from open play as Kane (0.30) in this period.
Despite being classified as a midfielder, he has also found himself inside the opposition box and had attempts in there more frequently than his teammates. Per 90 minutes this season, Son has averaged 7 touches and 2.04 shots inside the opposition box. Alli averages 3.13 touches and 1.23 shots, whereas Kane averages 4.77 touches and 1.76 shots.