Captain Obvious: Week 14

·10 min read

Greetings, and welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate, the most important decision of your gameweek.

As I am sure you can understand, with only about 48 hours between the end of the last round and the deadline for the next, and as we enter the busiest stretch of the season, some of the editions of Captain Obvious will be pared down to a more concise version, as will be the case with this gameweek’s column.

For now, it is not such a terrible loss. There are two reasons I am happy to present a shortened version of the armband discussion. For one, we are still in the middle of an era in which one player has dominated the captaincy debate, Mo Salah, and there are only so many unique lines of reasoning I can present before I am simply repeating myself like the proverbial broken record. The other reason being, I came off a very disappointing round where I began just outside the top 100k and finished barely inside the top 200k.

I am never afraid to discuss decisions that go terribly wrong for my squad and though I still stand behind the logic of the transfers I made, it wound up costing me several points as Jamie Vardy was a player that was moved out. It is easy to ask in hindsight “how do you take out a striker who has Watford next on the schedule?” But without getting into too much detail (okay maybe a little detail), I had always planned a move to bring in another premium defender and at Vardy’s price point, I felt he was the player to ship out and I could find another promising striker for less money, using said money to get that premium defender who I felt was essential to have.

You see, a few weeks back, I had Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joao Cancelo, but not a Chelsea wingback. Reece James had come off another huge game, while Cancelo had his second straight return of two points or less. At the time, the plan was to replace Cancelo with James, as I had one free transfer and James cost less. The plan was to then roll the transfer the next gameweek and then make a double move to get Cancelo back in. I figured with the Manchester derby and Leicester the two opponents for Cancelo, I could dodge a disaster by not having Cancelo for just two games. Instead, he puts up back to back double figures, and that made my plan to bring him back in set in stone - seller's remorse and all.

Naturally, I remove the one player who would have earned me a green arrow by himself (Vardy) and a defender who had done nothing but take up space on my bench, Brandon Williams, who proceeded to put up a 7-point return to Cancelo’s single point. I decided to go for a differential at forward and had just enough money to get him, so I took a chance on Gabriel Jesus, who blanked. My transfer caused me to throw away 16 additional points as Harry Kane’s postponement and Phil Foden’s absence would have guaranteed Williams’ seven-pointer included in my round score.

With Thanksgiving recently passed, I can at least be thankful that I only have two days to stew about my misFortune in Week 13 as the next deadline is just hours away, so let’s cleanse the palate and take a look at the landscape with the Week 14 edition of Captain Obvious…

The Case for Mo Salah

The case continues to be a simple one. Yes, it is true that Salah has not put up huge hauls in the past month. With one goal in his last four games, his biggest return has been eight points during this stretch. However, he has managed an assist in the other three games and has now had an attacking return of some kind in every single game this season, with the exception of Week 2 against Burnley.

This is why he has collected a whopping 131 points on the season while only two other players in the league have scored as many as 80 (Alexander-Arnold and Cancelo). Sure, you want to guess right and hit the lottery by going with someone like Diogo Jota or Jamie Vardy this past weekend. But, that leads to the other reason why I feel like it makes sense to roll with Salah…

Reason being, the rate at which he is getting the armband, particularly among those doing the best this season, managers in the top 10k, is so vastly overwhelming, that the risk of betting against him seems to be more trouble than it is worth.

In my last column, I had mentioned the “holy trinity” of defenders that could be argued as challengers for the armband, for those who simply want to bet on someone besides Salah. All three candidates had plenty of form and hopes of a strong return heading into last weekend, but in the end, you had a one-in-three chance of guessing right on Alexander-Arnold. Had you gone with James or Cancelo, which had just as much merit as the Liverpool defender, you would have had a very unfortunate outcome, tossing away seven additional points to your side had you gone with Salah instead.

Even with Alexander-Arnold, it was a situation where two great Liverpool players are obviously facing the same matchup, so what is promising for Alexander-Arnold is equally promising for Salah, and again, considering the massive collective backing of Salah, the risk of getting it wrong does not seem worth it.

But On the Other Hand…

I will say this about Alexander-Arnold going forward. If the opponent looks like a strong candidate for a clean sheet, then I think you can afford the risk of backing Alexander-Arnold with the armband over Salah if that is what you would rather do. If a clean sheet chance is strong, then the odds of Alexander-Arnold dipping into bonus points are strong. So that combination of points would cancel out a single Salah goal. Then, you are potentially playing with house money and looking at a bigger Alexander-Arnold haul should he add an attacking return to that clean sheet.

Typically, I would not bank on a clean sheet in a Merseyside derby, the nature of the fixture is typically a bit too unpredictable in that regard. However, Everton are really in a bind offensively, missing their star striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, while dealing with the recent return from injuries for the likes of Demarai Gray and Abdoulaye Doucouré. In my view, the odds of a clean sheet here are decent, not fantastic, but decent. So, I would not fault a manager itching to go against the grain and take a chance on Alexander-Arnold.

The one thing that is great about backing either Liverpool option is that, while many other clubs will be looking to rest a key player or two with the heavier schedule (Jamie Vardy has been hinted at by Brenday Rodgers as being someone who may not start this gameweek), you simply do not have to worry about that when it comes to the Reds because, no matter what else is going on with their season, the expectation is always there to field the strongest side you can in the Merseyside derby. To see this game as the one where Jurgen Klopp gave a rest to either Salah or Alexander-Arnold would be a complete shock.

The Guy Who’s Currently the Second-Most Captained Player Heading Into the Deadline

Right. I am going to mention one more candidate at length, and it is based more on the polling right now around the community more than my own personal opinion and that is giving the armband to Harry Kane. As of this writing, he looks to be the second-most popular choice behind Salah, with about 10% of managers looking to back the Tottenham striker.

Now, I will admit, there are a couple of very appealing factors at play involving Kane and they both have to do with the postponed match against Burnley in Week 13. For one, he is another player, like the Liverpool duo, who is all but guaranteed to start in a gamweek where we will certainly see some popular nailed-on players getting a rest. Kane and his teammates had their rest already, simply by having the weekend off. So there will be an entire XI of fresh legs going up against a Brentford side who will be playing after only a few days off.

Remember with Brentford, things have been trending in the wrong direction defensively every since their first-choice keeper David Raya suffered a long-term injury. That said, the Bees stepped up and kept Everton out this past weekend. Again though, the Toffees could only field a shell of their best side, as Richarlison was also out of the mix, so it may not be the best game to make the assumption that Brentford are back in great shape defensively.

Also keep in mind that the Bees, like most small promoted clubs, do not have a deep squad. They will likely have to field as many regulars as they can, so it will be a lopsided matchup when it comes to stamina. Yes, Tottenham have much to prove when it comes to getting goals on the board, but I have a feeling they could run away with this game in the final half-hour if they haven’t established a lead already.

That said, I simply do not have the bravery to back Kane, or Son for that matter, until Spurs prove they can score goals. I do believe it is only a matter of time that they can get to the point where Kane and Son are collecting attacking returns with regularity. I just don’t feel the need to try and be the smartest guy in the room and guess when that first game they turn on the switch will be. If I intend to make a leap of faith like that, I will wait a few days more when Spurs host Norwich. If there is one opponent I might lean on to be the medicine to get Tottenham’s attack going, it will be the Canaries.

Finally...

We have to mention Chelsea. They have a great fixture, playing a Watford side that continues to cough up goals (while scoring their fair share as well), so the appeal of giving the armband to one of their wingbacks, Reece James or Marcos Alonso is strong. Despite James being the far more productive player in recent weeks, whereas Alonso has only recently been recalled to the XI, it is Alonso who I feel is the safer captaincy choice. We know Thomas Tuchel is quite happy to move defenders in and out of his lineup, so the risk for James, who has made five straight starts, is slightly there with César Azpilicueta potentially stepping into the role. The odds for Alonso are much slimmer that he would be excluded because he has only made the one start and with Ben Chilwell out of the picture for now, Alonso is the only natural fit for the position. The versatile Azpilicueta could potentially fill in for Alonso, but I would imagine Alonso is safe for at least this game to start.

That’s about all I have for Week 13. Good luck to all, and may your arrows be green.

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