The latest Fantasy Premier League captaincy debate could see a number of big-hitters rewarding their patient owners in Gameweek 13.
After doing battle in one of the dullest local derbies of recent years, Manchester United and Manchester City both have exceptionally appealing fixtures midweek – which is why their best players are competing for the armband.
They face relegation candidates Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion respectively, while Liverpool and Spurs go head-to-head at Anfield.
As the Gameweeks continue to come thick and fast ahead of Christmas, the Captain Sensible article is back once again to help you with the big decisions.
As this uses data from the Fantasy Football Scout Premium Members Area, only those with a valid subscription can access it in full.
Kevin De Bruyne (£11.8m) leads the captain poll for Gameweek 13, pulling in the support of 51.5% ahead of a home meeting with West Bromwich Albion, the Premier League’s worst defence so far (25 goals conceded).
That gives the Belgian a gap of 27 percentage points over Bruno Fernandes (£10.9m) who comes into this midweek round with 24.4% of the vote in the captain poll.
Considering that the Portuguese international is yet to blank in an away match this season and faces the Premier League’s worst side in Sheffield United, we might have expected his share to be somewhat higher.
It appears that Mohamed Salah (£12.3m) has a lot to answer for on that front, pulling in some of Fernandes’ owners for his Gameweek 12 trip to Fulham, where he scored and got a bonus point.
There is less support for the Egyptian this time around though. Only 3.6% are considering captaining the man for a home meeting with Spurs, fronted by a rejuvenated Jose Mourinho, who loves playing conservative football in the big games.
Riyad Mahrez (£8.4m) is considered as the best alternative among Manchester City options but, even then, only 2.8% of the voters are confident enough to put the armband on him. The same goes for Raheem Sterling (£11.4m) who pulled in just 2.6% support.
Timo Werner (£9.4m) currently stands at 2.9% while Jack Grealish (£7.8m), Jamie Vardy (£10.3m), Harry Kane (£10.9m) and Patrick Bamford (£6.2m) complete the top 10.
Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion
It is difficult to ignore one of the most devastating attacks the Premier League has known in recent years when they host the division’s worst defence this season.
Pep Guardiola’s men have now won six and drawn one of their last seven at the Etihad Stadium and have emerged victorious in each of the last 14 home meetings with the Baggies. Welcome omens indeed.
Meanwhile, Slaven Bilic’s side has picked up only one point from six away matches in 2020/21.
All away matches
Based on how West Brom have defended recently, it is hard to see them choosing Gameweek 13 as the time to improve on the road.
As you can see from the table above, only Leeds have given up more shots on target in away matches this season than the Baggies (34).
So the fixture is clearly appealing for this week’s runaway captain poll leader De Bruyne, who has been rested in two of Manchester City’s last four matches in all competitions. That should be reason enough not to worry too much about rotation, especially with a gap of three full days between the Citizens’ Gameweek 13 and 14 fixtures.
While the Belgian blanked in Gameweek 12’s dull Manchester derby, his underlying statistics in recent matches have still been impressive.
Last four Gameweeks
In the last four Gameweeks, no midfielder has created more big chances (six) than De Bruyne. And his goal threat has also been on show too. In the same period, he ranks top among midfielders for attempts on goal. Considering he is also on penalties, could that be all we need to know for the captaincy this week?
Sterling continued his goal drought against Manchester United at the weekend, still yet to score against them in 22 competitive appearances. But could he find more luck against a fragile West Brom defence? After all, the Englishman his historically excelled against lesser opposition.
That said, the doubts concerning Sterling’s game-time are an ongoing concern for his owners, as well as his form.
Not only is Manchester City’s number seven not been converting his chances, but he has also been unable of getting on the end of decent opportunities when they have come along. His first touch, in particular, was poor at Old Trafford, all too often receiving passes from De Bruyne only to fluff his lines with the ball at his feet.
It means that, among all midfielders in 2020/21, Sterling ranks 17th for shots on goal, the likes of Mason Mount (£6.8m) and Tomas Souček (£5.0m) ahead of him in this department.
Right now, Sterling appears to be in the limbo of the “Don’t sell, don’t captain” category this week. De Bruyne offers a higher chance of starting, a greater chance of assists and, thanks to penalties and his recent penchant for shooting, is arguably more likely to score too.
Not only is the Belgian the standout captain among his team-mates, it is difficult to find too many options from other clubs with strong credentials for the Gameweek 13 captaincy.
Sheffield United v Manchester United
However, if we’re going to find the best challenger to De Bruyne’s poll lead anywhere midweek, we best start looking at Bramall Lane, where Manchester United are set to visit on Thursday evening.
The Red Devils’ well-documented failure on the European stage has masked impressive Premier League form of late, their Manchester derby draw coming after four consecutive domestic wins.
And, although the sample size is small, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men hold a decent goalscoring record against Chris Wilders’ team, having netted six goals in two matches against them last season.
In fact, because of Dean Henderson’s (£5.3m) loan deal, Manchester United were the only Premier League team to test a Sheffield United side without him last season, so we already know the damage they can do in the same scenario this week.
Last four Gameweeks
Still winless and after 12 matches in 2020/21, the Blades struggles are also highlighted in their underlying statistics, suggesting they are looking vulnerable to another defeat on Thursday.
As you can see from the table above, over the last four Gameweeks, only West Brom and Leeds have conceded more shots from inside of the box than Sheffield United.
More specifically, the Blades have conceded 23 chances through the centre of the park during that period, which is a league-high and certainly bodes well for Fernandes’ prospects.
Sheffield United centre-backs unaware of Danny Ings (£8.4m) making a simple run in behind
Che Adams (£6.0m) finds Ings although the Southampton forward is unable to convert on this occasion
Speaking of the Portuguese midfielder, he was once again looking lively in the Manchester derby. Despite coming out of the game with no Fantasy returns, Bruno had the most attempts on goal (four) of any player at Old Trafford and also created two chances – all while pressing from the front as a makeshift false-nine.
He was also slightly unlucky not to have a shot at scoring another penalty, as Marcus Rashford (£9.4m) turned out to be offside before Kyle Walker (£6.2m) fouled him in the box.
Rashford himself could prove to be an interesting outside captaincy shout this week. The Englishman has eight goals and four assists in his last 14 appearances (all competitions) and is going slightly under the radar.
Since the start of last season, Rashford has recorded 20 goals and 11 assists in the Premier League; a higher goal involvement than the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.5m), Sterling and even Sadio Mané (£11.9m).
Last four Gameweeks
Also, over the last four Gameweeks, only five midfielders boast a higher expected Goal Involvement (xGI) score than Rashford (2.33), despite him only playing 45 minutes against West Ham in Gameweek 11.
The five-day recovery time is certainly good news for Manchester United, especially given their hectic schedule for the past month. They then play late on Sunday as Leeds visit Old Trafford in Gameweek 14.
With most players fit and possibly Edinson Cavani (£8.0m) coming back, the Red Devils should win this match-up comfortably.
Sheffield United’s own weaknesses look poised to profit through the middle while their problems all over the pitch mean Rashford could also hit an explosive score.
Aston Villa v Burnley
Both Aston Villa and Burnley come into Gameweek 13 on the back of 1-0 away wins but I think Dean Smith’s men have the advantage on Thursday night based on their home form and the perennial appeal of Grealish.
Villa’s star man is enjoying his best ever Premier League season in terms of Fantasy output, averaging 1.1 attacking return per game.
And, thanks to Ollie Watkins’ (£6.1m) recent penalty troubles, Grealish is higher up the pecking order than before. It is important to understand that the club captain is not a nailed-on taker but it sounds as if any time Villa get one when Anwar El Ghazi (£5.7m) is not on the pitch (he is yet to start a Premier League game this season), he will step up.
“(El Ghazi) has good technique. We don’t get too many penalties. He took the last one against Man City and scored. So if he was on the pitch he would have taken it and if not, Jack (Grealish) would have taken it.” – Dean Smith
Meanwhile, Grealish and his Villa colleagues have been very impressive at home in 2020/21.
All home matches
They have recorded 17 big chances on home soil this season, which ranks them third behind Liverpool (23) and Chelsea (17) having played one fewer game than them in 2020/21 because of Blank Gameweek 1.
All home matches
Similarly, Grealish ranks third among midfielders in terms of penalty area touches at home in this campaign and, given his quality we can expect him to continue turning this involvement into goals and assists.
Aston Villa’s upcoming opponents Burnley will be high on confidence after securing securing a clean sheet at Arsenal on Sunday. However, it has to be noted that the Gunners have hardly been an attacking force to be reckoned with this year; only Newcastle, Burnley and West Bromwich Albion recording fewer big chances than them over the last six Gameweeks.
Last six Gameweeks
Furthermore, Burnley are still conceding plenty of shots and big chances this season. Only Sheffield United and Leeds gave up more shots on target in the last six Gameweeks than the Clarets.
Given his outstanding form this season and potentially adding some penalties to his appeal, Grealish emerges as one of the most exciting differential captaincy candidates for Gameweek 13.
Elsewhere, Wolves will welcome Chelsea, with neither team providing us with as many viable captaincy shouts as one might have expected a few weeks ago. The hosts have been struggling as a whole since the early period of Project Restart while the injury to Raúl Jiménez (£8.2m) has left them somewhat blunt in attack.
The same appears to be true of Chelsea whenever they operate without Hakim Ziyech (£8.1m) and Christian Pulisic (£8.2m), their struggles in that scenario made clear both at the start of this season and against Everton last time out.
The Premier League’s top two teams will face each other at Anfield on Wednesday and it might be the most difficult match to predict for this weekend.
We can probably expect Jose Mourinho to opt for a conservative approach though, increasing the chances of a low-scoring affair between Liverpool and Spurs.
Vardy could be an interesting differential shout as Leicester host Everton. Despite the Toffees’ clean sheet against Chelsea, the Foxes’ talismanic forward has blanked once since Gameweek 6, averaging 7.6 points per game.
In conclusion, De Bruyne and Fernandes seem to be the safest as well as the most “explosive” captaincy options for Gameweek 13. Both midfielders are on penalty duties and are constantly creating chances for their team-mates and themselves.
It must be said that Fernandes does have some slight advantage over poll favourite De Bruyne in the fact that he has more rest time between Gameweek 12 and 13 and Sheffield United are more likely to give up chances in central areas than West Bromwich Albion according to recent defensive data.
Completing this Gameweek’s top three list is Grealish, who is backed by the statistics and the eye test. Thanks to the late winner while playing with 10 men away to Wolves, Aston Villa will be growing in confidence and should have enough to easily dispatch Burnley.
The outside shouts for this week are the in-form Vardy, who faces a suspect Everton defence, as well as Rashford, who could play more centrally if Solskjaer opts for a narrow diamond formation; meaning he could also benefit from the Blades’ weakness through the middle.
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