This article takes a deep dive look at the all important Fantasy Premier League Gameweek 26 captain decision. It’s written by our resident FPL captaincy expert Chris Tan who takes a close look at the fixtures, poll and stats breakdown before concluding on his best pick for the armband.
FPL Gameweek 25 Captain Recap
Before we delve into the FPL Gameweek 26 Captain Decision it’s important to cast our eye back to last week to get a feel for team and player form.
Saturday – 1 February 2020
Leicester and Chelsea ended in a stalemate with Leicester looking the better team in the fixture. H.Barnes continued to impress with his direct approach and it was Rudiger who hauled 16 points thanks to two assists from Mount. If Abraham wants to recapture his early season form he’s going to have to improve his decision making and movement. Bournemouth extended their little recovery with another win pushing Villa back into the relegation mix with the only positive being a debut goal for new boy Samatta. Sheffield United picked up another clean sheet (CS). Liverpool comfortably dispatched Southampton with a brace from Salah and a hat trick of assists from Firmino. Newcastle vs Norwich ended in a bore draw with the Newcastle attack devoid of any real quality. Everton pulled off an amazing comeback after going two down against Watford thanks to the unlikely hero, Mina with a brace. Snodgrass took the biggest haul of the week but West Ham absolutely threw away the game with some comic goalkeeping and defending. Finally, Jimenez came close, new boy Fernandes appeared to be operating on a shoot on sight policy (which might come off in the future) but it was another goalless display, as someone “Must have moved the posts,” according to Ole.
Sunday – 2 February 2020
Arsenal were all over Burnley in the first half, but didn’t take their chances, which was very frustrating for the new Aubameyang owners. Then they tailed off in the second half and this new look Arsenal side appear to have forgotten how to win. City dominated Spurs, but missed another penalty (who will get the next one?) then a terrible Mahrez corner led to Zinchenko getting a red card and City were quickly punished by new boy Bergwijn then the game was ended by Son.
Who did I tip?
Salah (16) – his second was very fortunate, but if anyone was in doubt before it’s pretty clear that the old Salah is back.
Aguero (2) – I was very surprised that he didn’t take the penalty when it was awarded and although Lloris has saved one from him before, if he would have taken it that could have significantly changed the outcome of the game and his FPL total.
Aubameyang (2) – with two big chances (BC) and one big chance created (BCC) this could easily have been a double figure haul, but the fact that it was a blank was very painful for me personally and the thousands that transferred him in.
How have we done to date?
I did an analysis of my picks over the season to date to compare with the top poll choice:
My gamble well and truly backfired this week! It does illustrate that although a differential captain can help you catapult up the ranks, the impact of being wrong when you factor in the effective ownership of the popular choice can really hurt.
What did we learn?
Is the age of the forwards over? – the only forwards to score this Gameweek were Samatta and Murray. For the middle part of the season most managers were setting up with a 3-4-3 formation to utilise all of their forward slots. The highest scoring team of the week was a 4-5-1 formation. With teams fighting for survival does this bring the defenders back to the forefront for a potential formation shift or was this just a momentary blip?
Can you trust anyone other than Liverpool – with City you don’t just have rotation worries, their performances have been inconsistent this season. Vardy has gone off the boil. Arsenal aren’t clicking. Spurs aren’t reliable. Chelsea don’t have a talisman. It’s starting to feel like too much of a punt to pick anyone but Salah at the moment.
FPL Gameweek 26 Captain – The Fixtures
Gameweek 26 fixtures are the reverse of Gameweek 1, here’s what happened last time:
Salah (and Liverpool) started the season off with a bang picking up a goal and assist with VVD scoring from a TAA assist. For many Salah will be the captain of their bus team and who can blame them. Sterling (when he had more confidence) bagged a hat trick to make him highest points scorer of the week with Mahrez picking up an assist hat trick and both Aguero / Jesus scoring. Looking at West Ham’s recent performances, this could easily be a repeat of that event but City haven’t looked as good lately. Aubameyang picked up the only goal in a narrow win, but I won’t be trusting him with captaincy again for a while. Lastly Rashford scored a brace with Martial also picking up a goal, which prompted several to wildcard in United assets for what proved to be a false dawn. I can see Chelsea being out for revenge now, but United are hard to break down.
Twitter FPL Gameweek 26 Captain Poll
Who do our Twitter followers think is the best FPL Gameweek 26 captain?
Old Hunting Ground – do any of the likely lads have a good history vs their opposition?
Salah – he’s only played them once, but he got plenty of opportunities and Norwich don’t have enough points or the players to sit back to try and contain Liverpool, they will have to attack Liverpool and they will get picked off.
Sterling – has played West Ham three times at home and scored two goals (both in one of the games). He clearly enjoyed playing them in Gameweek One but a lot has changed since then and he looks a shadow of the player he was. In addition, he appears to have picked up an injury and should miss this game.
Jesus – he’s only played them once at the Etihad and picked up an assist in that game. With a long rest before this and the next figure rotation shouldn’t be an issue, but will Pep play him in the Sterling role again?
Aguero – only three of his goals against West Ham have come at home, however he looks likely to spearhead the attack given the above rationale and I wouldn’t bet against him scoring.
Mahrez – picked up all of his returns in the game earlier in the season and blanked the other two fixtures.
Aubameyang – picked up an assist at home against Newcastle, but Arsenal just don’t seem to be converting chances or creating that many at the moment.
KDB – the majority of his returns have come at home with a goal and two assists, but there look to be some better options this week.
Members Stats breakdown – FPL Gameweek 26 Captain
These stats are pulled from the Fantasy Football Hub OPTA Stats tool that is available to all members to help you analyse the players and teams. I have pulled data from the last four Gameweeks, as we’ve had a lot of games recently and I wanted a more current overview.
Individual Player Stats – who stands out?
This is a longer list than usual as I wanted to get some insight on a few players that have caught my eye recently. I will only go into detail on the potential captain candidates though and a few with solid stats:
- Salah – in the last two weeks he’s made a strong case for being an auto captain. His goal threat stats looking excellent with only Aguero ahead of him, however he has far superior assist potential with the most big chances created (BCC).
- Aguero – has the best goal threat in the game and has had seven BC in the last four in only 267 minutes. He is over his xG but the chances will keep coming and I don’t see any reason why he won’t sustain his goal scoring rate. Furthermore, after Gundogan missed the last penalty he might be back on penalty duty.
- Jimenez – has had some tough games recently, but he’s still doing well in the statistics, which suggest the last blank might not be a regular occurrence. He’s had the second most BC, his goal rate looks sustainable based on his xG and he offers decent assist potential too.
- Deeney – is quite a solid under the radar pick, he won’t blank Gameweek 31 and he’s actually under performing his xG/xA despite his recent returns.
- Firmino – has underperformed his xG by a lot, but he loves to score away and he faces Norwich next. His recent hat trick of assists highlighted his creative potential, but with five BC he clearly has goal threat in his locker too.
- DCL – similar to Deeney he’s been steadily ticking away and he’s also slightly unlucky to be under his xG/xA.
- Jesus – with Sterling out he might get to play alongside Aguero again and in just over half the minutes of some of the others, he’s demonstrated that he gets a high frequency of quality chances and can provide them too.
- Vardy – he had a good chance against Chelsea but four shots in four games is a long way from what he was producing earlier in the season. Admittedly all of these shots were on target, three were BC and he has also created three BC so there could be an argument that he’s reverting to his stat buster days.
- Son – his goal threat looks solid without indicating anything exceptional and he looks to be due an assist.
- Mahrez – although he’s played a game less, his stats (especially his goal threat) have definitely tailed off recently. Will the absence of Sterling change anything?
- KDB – similar to Mahrez, his goal threat has gone right down, possibly due to the majority of his shots being from range and suffering from poor accuracy. His creativity looks fine though, although he has been slightly outperforming his xA.
- Aubameyang – although the sample only includes the last game and the game that he was sent off, his stats don’t make for great viewing. The only silver lining is that a high percentage of his chances were BC and he also created a BC, which suggest that returns should be coming.
Team Stats – which looks like the best opportunity?
Captaincy Gameweek 26 – Team Attacking Stats
Everton v Crystal Palace
There aren’t any captaincy candidates in this game. Looking at the stats, Everton have decent attacking threat and are slightly behind their xG, which looks promising when you consider that Palace haven’t kept a CS in their last four. In addition, Palace have the worst goal threat and Everton have one of the best defences. So overall this looks like it will be an Everton win with a CS (the bookies agree giving them a 45% chance of a CS) and if you own Calvert-Lewin (six BC) and / or Digne (nine KP and 3 BCC) you’re well placed for this one.
Brighton v Watford
There aren’t any captaincy candidates in this game. Looking at the stats both sides have decent attacking threat with a reasonable amount of BC created. From a defensive perspective, Brighton have been unlucky to have conceded eight based on their xGC of 6.1 although they haven’t kept a CS in the last four. Both sides appear to have similar defensive stats and I would expect both sides to score in this fixture. Deeney (four BC) looks set to continue his run here.
Sheffield Utd v Bournemouth
There aren’t any captaincy candidates in this game and several will be hoping for a Sheffield Utd CS here (the bookies fancy it too with a 46% chance). Interestingly, although Bournemouth have been dire lately they have better attacking stats than Sheffield United and they have won their last two games, which signifie an upturn in form. Defensively, Sheffield Utd look fairly solid, but they have been fortunate to have only conceded two based on their xGC of 5.27. Bournemouth on the other hand concede a lot of shots / SIB, but not that many BC, which implies that they do restrict their opposition into taking lower quality shots. Despite that, they haven’t kept a CS in their last four and are fortunate to have only conceded six based on their xGC of 7.44. This might end up being be a lot closer than people expect.
Man City v West Ham
+ City continue to dominate the attacking statistics with the highest frequency for all the key areas and they’re way behind the xG (mainly due to the penalty miss).
– West Ham don’t just concede a lot of shots / SIB they have the second highest BC conceded (14), they haven’t kept a CS in the last four, they’ve let in 10 goals and they’re only slightly over their xGC of 8.98. The bookies agree and have given them just a 6% chance of a CS.
+ Aguero is clearly the best asset for this one (seven BC) and with a week since the last fixture and two weeks until the next one rotation shouldn’t be a concern. With Sterling out this could open the door for Jesus (four BC and two BCC) and in a game likely to be full of goals, you’d have to fancy KDB (three BCC) to have some involvement. Then if you want another all rounder then Mahrez (one BC and two BCC) also looks like a great option.
Wolves v Leicester
This should be a great contest, but it’s not really the best fixture for a potential captain. Leicester appear to have a higher frequency of shots, but Wolves have more quality chances (14 BC) and are unfortunate to have only scored five based on their xG of 7.21. They also appear to be slightly better than Leicester defensively with only four BCC despite facing Man United, Liverpool and Southampton. Leicester haven’t kept a CS in their last four and have conceded twice as many BC (nine). For Leicester Vardy (four BC and three BCC) and Barnes (three BC) look most likely. For Wolves it’s Jimenez (six BC) and Traore (five BCC).
Southampton v Burnley
There aren’t any captaincy candidates here despite Ings returning to the leaky Burnley. Southampton have slightly superior attacking stats to Burnley but they have only created six BC compared to Burnley’s eight. Southampton’s defensive stats also took a battering in the last game with 12 BC conceded overall, although they’re slightly over their xGC of 7.1 with eight (the bookies still fancy them and have give them a 42% chance of a CS). Burnley have conceded the most shots/SIB, however like Bournemouth it appears that this could be intentional to restrict the amount of quality chances and this is reflected by the 10 BC conceded, which although high, is less than some of the peers around them. Despite that they look to be riding their luck with only four goals conceded despite an xGC of 8.49 (admittedly that does include a penalty save). Ings (three BC) and Wood (seven SIB & two BC) appear most likely to benefit from any opportunities.
Norwich v Liverpool
+ Liverpool haven’t had as many shots as City but they still have the second highest amount of BC and they’ve scored the most goals (10) in the last four.
– Norwich are better than a lot of people perceive them to be defensively, but they have still conceded 10 BC and only have a 11% chance of a CS.
+ Salah (five BC and five BCC) is the obvious choice to target this fixture, but Firmino (five BC and one BCC) also looks to be a great option.
Aston Villa v Spurs
+ Spurs have terrible attacking stats and it’s no wonder they’ve only scored four goals with only seven BC created, which is less than teams like Bournemouth and Burnley.
– Their luck could turn though, as Villa have conceded the most BC (15), they haven’t kept a CS in the last four and have conceded ten goals.
– Interestingly although Spurs have only conceded two, their xGC is 7.78 (admittedly this is largely from the City and Liverpool games, which included a saved penalty) which indicate that they’re due a bit of a correction. They have conceded a worrying amount of SIB and 11 BC.
+ Overall Son (three BC and one BCC) looks to be the best option for Spurs and he’s played 90 minutes in every game. I wouldn’t bet against Grealish given how many chances Spurs concede either.
Arsenal v Newcastle
+ Other than Palace these two have the worst attacks in the league, which is pretty embarrassing for Arsenal.
– Similar to Spurs, this is a great opportunity to increase their output as Newcastle have conceded 14 BC. They’ve somehow only conceded three goals despite an xGC of 8.06. There’s been a bit of a debate about this lately, with some arguing that we’re looking too much into xG and it’s about the goals conceded / CS not the shots / BC conceded and xG. I think the truth lies somewhere half way between the two and I don’t expect them to keep a CS here (they have a 13% chance of a CS).
+ Despite only being back for one game, it’s clear that Aubameyang is the main threat for Arsenal and his 53% goal involvement for them backs that up.
Chelsea v Man Utd
There aren’t any captaincy candidates in this game. United look toothless without Rashford or a proper number nine and might have to resort to pot shots from Bruno unless Ighalo can reproduce his early Watford career form. Chelsea have far better attacking stats, but they’re not converting as many of their chances as they could be largely due to an out of sorts Abraham. Both sides look fairly solid defensively and this should be a close contest, although Chelsea will want revenge for Gameweek One.
FPL Gameweek 26 Captain – Summary
How do they stack up? The lowest score wins:
The FPL Gameweek 26 Captain Dilemma
Some potential punts
Gaps are really starting to widen a little now. Going with the most widely captained is the safe option, but it is very difficult to close this gap unless you have a few differentials. This week it’s looking like Salah will be the most highly captained, so it will be hard to make up much ground if you go down that route but if he hauls again you will get punished hard, as I experienced last week.
Where do these fit in with my goals?
Looking at the difference in points with regard to overall rank there are ~128 points between top 10k and 500k, that’s quite a significant gap now and it will be difficult to close by going with all the highly owned players and captaining the most popular option each week.
Crushing it (1,512 points should place you in or around the top 10k)
At this stage of the season, your goal should be to keep pace with the pack and your captaincy decision should largely be based on the effective ownership of a player, however that doesn’t mean you can’t go with someone else. Salah looks to be the safe option though.
Still in contention (1,417 points should place you in or around the top 250k)
You’re not that far behind (~95 points from top 10k) and several of the players ahead of you will have used some chips. Salah will be the most popular captain option, going Aguero could have some good upside but it’s risky.
Starting to fall behind (1,384 points should place you around the top 500k)
It’s a big risk going against Salah when he’s on this kind of form, but if you get it right it will help to catapult you back up the ranks.
FPL Gameweek 26 Captain – Conclusion
Based on the summary it looks like Aguero is the best option followed closely by Salah and the other City players in what is pretty much a two horse race.
Aguero has excellent goal threat (he’s likely to get penalties back) and has the dream combination of the best attacking team against the leakiest opposition.
Mane should be back for the game, however it’s unlikely he will play the whole match prior to the Athletico Madrid fixture so Salah should be the main man for Liverpool. He’s on fire at the moment and although his opposition stats look to be stronger than City’s, we had the same thoughts prior to Southampton and I can’t see anyone being able to withstand Liverpool on this form.
If you don’t own Aguero then KDB, Mahrez and Jesus are all worth consideration on a pure fixture basis but it is a very risky move.
The others are great differentials and I think that should be sufficient without feeling the need to Captain them when there are some far superior options available.
What if we look specifically at Home and Away stats for the season?
The attacking stats highlight the difference in output between City at home against Liverpool away, which suggest they will score more goals which means there will be more points available.
The defensive stats show that there isn’t that much between West Ham and Norwich (or Newcastle) when you look at their respective stats at home or away. It also suggests that West Ham have been very lucky and are due a correction.
I’ve converted the individual player stats to per 90 minutes to equalise them given the disparity between minutes played. Aguero clearly has the edge over Salah. Interestingly Mahrez looks to be a slightly better option that KDB due to his superior goal threat.
Where are Norwich and West Ham vulnerable?
In their last four home matches, Norwich have allowed 46 crosses from their left compared to 37 on the right, which suggests this might be a good game for TAA. With regards to chances – they’ve conceded 17 centrally with 10 from the left and 11 from the right flank. Firmino could also benefit from this and Salah too, as he tends to drift inside a lot.
In their last four Away games, West Ham have allowed 57 crosses from their right compared to 34 from the left, which suggests that both Silva and Jesus (if he plays) may get several assist opportunities. With regards to chances – they’ve conceded 17 centrally with 13 from the left and 11 from their right, which looks promising for Aguero and Mahrez (if he plays).
Overall (despite the summary and drilling deeper results), I think Salah is the best and safest option, he’s the poll winner, his ownership is 43.2%, he (and Liverpool) are on great form and a draw won’t be enough for Norwich so they have to attack Liverpool. Furthermore, with Mane only just returning he is more likely to be involved in the goals.
Then I would say Aguero is an excellent explosive differential option. City are likely to score more goals, he has the best goal threat per 90 minutes and the highest bonus accrual. There is more danger, however of the goals being spread throughout the team.
There is a reasonable argument for Mahrez / KDB as well, but if you have one of the above two they’re the safer options. If you want to take a punt then I would go for one of these alternative City attackers (including Jesus).
One thing to note is that City play this weekend, which means you at least get a press conference prior to the match whereas you’re going in blind if you’re captaining a Liverpool player. Furthermore, Liverpool play Norwich on Saturday evening prior to an away game in Madrid on Tuesday night. Once they go 2-0 there’s a danger they will try to close the game down and rest players before the Champions League. With City they have two weeks off before they play Leicester in the league so they can effectively go all in for the West Ham game. It’s for that reason that I’m starting to sway from Salah, but he’s still the most sensible option.
Have a look at the OPTA stats yourself:
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