With our Captain Poll showing an almost unprecedented see-saw battle at the top, we thought it was worthwhile drawing attention to some of the contenders involved in the tussle, weighing up their merits in the process. Robin Van Persie and Carlos Tevez both sit on 20% at the top of the pecking order, though several other candidates have received plenty votes. We worked our way through the main protagonists to see what they have to offer:
Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney
The Dutchman is the current leader in this week’s Poll, with over 20% of the votes cast so far. Van Persie has scored or assisted in all but two of his 15 starts for United and has found the net in each of his last four; his consistency is superior to any forward around, though it’s worth noting that Rooney has produced regularly alongside his new strike partner. The latter has picked up attacking returns in seven of his 10 starts with Van Persie and with spot-kick duties also in the bag, his current 2% votes in the Captain Poll is surprisingly low.
United’s superb attacking form on the road cannot be ignored. They have scored at least three goals in five of their last six away games and with Swansea conceding four to Norwich in their previous game at the Liberty, the signs look good for the Red Devils. Michael Laudrup’s side have, however, been particularly resilient of late and have conceded more than a single goal in just one of the last 10 Gameweeks – a run that includes clashes against City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs. Against the bigger sides, it seems the Welsh outfit have a tendency to sit back and soak up pressure, with less inclination to go on the offensive.
Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and David Silva
Reading arrive at the Etihad having conceded 13 goals in their last four, offering plenty of optimism for City’s fantasy owners. Brian McDermott has mainly fielded a 4-4-2 but a move to 4-5-1 after the break against Arsenal is perhaps a hint at his tactics for this weekend, with the Royals likely to sit tight in the hope they can avoid a hammering. Tevez’s home form has been particularly strong. He has returned 62 points over seven starts at the Etihad – an average just shy of nine points per home first-team appearance – but the issue is whether he will start. He has featured in the first XI just twice in the past five Gameweeks and with the fixtures picking up pace, Roberto Mancini’s rotation policy could come back to bite his owners hard.
Aguero has now started all but one of the last seven Gameweeks and with no European distractions looks a stronger bet to start – perhaps all the more so now that Mario Balotelli has been ruled out with illness, though Mancini did confirm earlier today he plans to rotate over the festive period. It’s been a hugely underwhelming campaign so far for Aguero after last season’s 23 goals – he has, however, notched three times in his last three home starts and with an ownership of 6% to Tevez’s 40%, may be a smart differential if he hits form. Silva sits fourth in the Captain Poll, just behind the Van Persie and the Argentine pair and certainly seems nailed-on to start by comparison. The potential for points is enticing, as demonstrated by his 16 point haul in Gameweek 12 at home to Villa but the Spaniard has been far from reliable; scoring or assisting in just five of his 12 starts for Mancini’s side.
The Welshman has been declared fit and available for Spurs’ home game with Stoke after recovering from a hamstring injury. Prior to limping off at Fulham in Gameweek 15, Bale had produced his best form of the season, with goals in each of his previous three. His form at the Lane has been patchy at best, though; one assist in his first five home games was followed by two goals and an assist in his most recent couple of games in front of his own supporters. Stoke have conceded more than a single goal just once in their last 14 league fixtures, though, suggesting Bale could be in for a testing time of it this Saturday.
Fifth in the Captain Poll after his 23 point haul at Reading last Monday, the Arsenal playmaker now travels to injury-hit Wigan. Roberto Martinez’s side have many regulars doubtful for the weekend, particularly at the back, and the porous Latics’ rearguard surely offers plenty hope for Cazorla, having conceded at least twice in each of their last seven.
Wigan’s 3-4-3 formation could also be beneficial to Arsenal. If Arsene Wenger maintains the same XI from Monday, their pace up front will pose plenty problems for the hosts. With no Boxing Day game to worry about, rest and rotation won’t be an option and with attacking returns in five of his last eight road trips, Cazorla certainly keeps his best form for away games – six of his seven goals have come away from the Emirates.
The Liverpool forward is also heavily backed this weekend as Fulham make their way to Anfield. Brendan Rodgers has called for a response after last week’s shock home defeat to Villa and the Reds will be confident of picking up the points – the Cottagers have conceded 18 goals on their travels, the second worst away defence in the league.
Suarez, however, has been incredibly frustrating at home. He has scored or assisted in just four of his nine Anfield appearances, with 38 of his 86 points picked up at home. Indeed, he has scored more than five points just twice in front of his own fans and, with no attacking returns in his last four, has went off the boil in recent matches.
Similar to Santi Cazorla, five of Mata’s six strikes have come on the road this season. Since his opening blank four Gameweeks, a return to form has seen him rack up the points – Mata has started five of Chelsea’s last six at the Bridge and averaged just over six points per home start from Gameweek 5 onwards. Back-to-back goals in the Blues two away games prior to their departure for the World Club Championship highlights his current form, while he turned in another sublime display in the cup against Leeds on Wednesday. Aston Villa arrive at the Bridge in strong defensive form, though; just two goals conceded in their last five suggests they may be no pushovers.
The Newcastle forward has scored seven of his side’s 11 home goals this term and has notched in four of his last five at St James’ Park – a clear indication of his importance to the Magpies’ cause. Indeed, over the course of the season Ba has 11 goals and two assists, meaning he has played a part in 13 of Newcastle’s 19 goals. Visitors QPR may have conceded in all four games under Harry Redknapp but remain unbeaten since Mark Hughes’ departure and are in better form than their hosts heading into this one. While Ba’s 3% of the votes cast seems a little low, he’s produced double figures at home just once this term, against 10-man Wigan in Gameweek 15.
Fernando Torres has now notched six goals in five games in all competitions under Rafa Benitez and racked up 16 points in his last league match – his strongest showing of the season so far. The Chelsea forward has picked up plenty ownership this week ahead of the home clash against Villa, though has failed to score or assist at home in the league since Gameweek 7. Nevertheless, he seems to have pick up in consistency under the new man in charge.
Yaya Toure has 3% of the votes after scoring in back-to-back Gameweeks ahead of City’s home showdown with Reading. Prior to that run, he had one assist in 12 appearances and has shown little consistency this term – in spite of that, huge numbers have drafted him in this week, with the Royals’ woeful form clearly boosting his appeal.
Christian Benteke has proven relatively popular this week, too. The Villa forward returned 15 points last time round at Liverpool and arrives at the Bridge in scintillating form – since the Belgian made his league debut in Gameweek 4, Villa have scored 13 times and Benteke has played a part in eight of them (five goals, three assists). If anyone is likely to breach the Chelsea backline on Sunday afternoon, Benteke looks the most likely.
For those Fantasy managers looking for a Tottenham option, Jermain Defoe has scored nine times this term compared to Bale’s six, with both also providing four assists. Perhaps surprisingly, Defoe has scored in just two of his last nine, though, and may struggle against Stoke’s physical backline. Jason Puncheon has averaged just less than seven points per game over his last three at St Mary’s and looks a real punt for the home clash with Sunderland, particularly with the influence of skipper Adam Lallana in the stands.
Michu seems to be an armband differential. He has scored seven times in nine home games this season and faces a United side with one away clean sheet – bearing in mind the league leaders conceded three at Reading in Gameweek 15, it’s surprising he’s not been more heavily backed. Adel Taarabt arrives at Newcastle on the back of his strongest showing of the campaign. Moved to the role in “the hole” behind Djibril Cisse, the QPR playmaker looks full of confidence and is up against a Magpies side with two clean sheets all season.
To round off, here’s some data on how the Captain Poll has been performing. So far this season, the average points haul of the poll winner is 6.6 points, with Michu and Van Persie both delivering 12 points over the past two Gameweeks, having topped the poll. Carlos Tevez’s 15 points back in Gameweek 3 remains the highest FPL score by a poll winner – the only time the Argentine has won the majority vote. Robin Van Persie has won the poll on 10 occasions this term, averaging 6.1 points.