It’s a two-horse race at the top of this week’s Captain Poll so far, with Robin Van Persie edging Theo Walcott into second spot by 34% to 31% ahead of the weekend deadline. The Dutchman has already topped the Poll on 15 occasions already this term; 13 more than any other player, with his average across those fixtures working out at 6.46, or 12.92 with the armband attached. We take a look at the votes cast so and analyse main protagonists’ respective fixtures.
Robin Van Persie
Many have concerns over his game time but, having been handed a brief second-half sub appearance in Monday’s FA Cup win over Reading, the Dutchman will be far from fatigued heading to Loftus Road this weekend. Van Persie will then have a seven day break before United’s next game, at home to Norwich –the Canaries clash comes three days before the second leg of the Champions League showdown with Real Madrid; if Sir Alex Ferguson were to consider the possibility of omitting him from the first XI, it would surely be next weekend.
Harry Redknapp’s side have racked up three back-to-back clean sheets at home, though, keeping out Spurs and City –intriguingly, QPR are one of just two teams Van Persie has yet to pick up attacking returns against this term. With a goal, assist or bonus in each of his last six on the road – in a run that harvested 46 points, or 7.6 ppg – Van Persie’s owners will be confident he can replicate Michu’s 18 point haul against the R’s in the previous Gameweek. Bearing in mind Wayne Rooney is unlikely to feature, according to reports, the Dutchman’s contribution will be more crucial than ever.
Fielded up front for the Gunners’ disappointing defeat at the hands of Bayern in midweek, Walcott is expected to shift back to the flank, affording Olivier Giroud the chance to lead the line once again. Despite Arsenal’s recent woes, Villa’s dire defence offers Walcott plenty hope – Paul Lambert’s side have conceded in each of their last 10 and have shipped 15 goals in their last four on the road, with Brad Guzan beaten at least twice in each of that quartet of matches.
Walcott has scored or assisted in nine of his last 10 – an incredible run of consistency – and has served up double figures in three of his previous seven at the Emirates. Giroud could be a real differential contender, though. The Frenchman has produced double figures in two of the last three at the Emirates but with Arsene Wenger’s side low on morale, has just 2% of the votes cast so far, with Santi Cazorla selected by 1%
The Tottenham winger rolls up to West Ham on Monday evening in scintillating form. Bale has scored four times in the last three Gameweeks and has registered back-to-back double figure hauls – indeed, five of his seven sets of double figures have been on the road so far, a clear indication of his propensity for points away from White Hart Lane.
With a brace in the first leg of the Europa League win over Lyon, Bale (who has received 17% of the votes) has scored all of Spurs’ last six goals and is up against a Hammers side with a single clean sheet in the last nine Gameweeks. Sam Allardyce’s side could be buoyed by the return of James Collins and have been fairly resilient at home – they have conceded more than a single goal in just three of their 13 fixtures at Upton Park.
The Bulgarian has just 2% of the votes cast ahead of a home clash with Stoke. Berbatov has decent form at the Cottage in recent weeks, having scored or assisted in three of the last four in front of his own fans but a move to “the hole” last time out, affording Hugo Rodallega to lead the line against Norwich, is a real concern. Stoke’s recent defensive record boosts Berbatov’s appeal, though; the Potters are without a clean sheet in eight matches now.
Newcastle’s January acquisition has hit the ground running, with attacking returns in all three of his appearances. Sissoko squares up to Southampton at St James’ Park next and will be looking to replicate the home debut display against Chelsea which harvested a 15 point return. The Saints are no easy touch, though; you’d need to go back to Gameweek 10 to find the last time they were beaten by more than a single goal and arrive on Tyneside having swept aside City. Nevertheless, there’s been a definite upturn in form since a host of new arrivals and even Papiss Cisse has earned 1% of votes, despite scoring two home goals all season.
Sergio Aguero has accrued just 1% of the votes cast ahead of City’s clash with Chelsea. Aguero has been in decent form, though; his last five starts have produced three goals and a pair of assists, with two sets of double figures also thrown in.
As Everton prepare to travel to Norwich, Marouane Fellaini has received just 1% of the votes. The Belgian has scored in just one of his last eight appearances, though, and with the Canaries conceding just once in their last three, he’ll need to step up if he’s to return to scoring ways.
A mere 1% have opted for Juan Mata as Chelsea travel to City. Having been handed a brief sub role against Wigan last time out, though, he will surely start this one – Mata has produced three sets of double figures in his last five road trips, scoring or assisting in each of them.
Rickie Lambert is another who has earned a surprisingly low 1%. The Southampton forward travels to Newcastle with a superb away record – he has scored in five of his last six on the road and with the Magpies registering one clean sheet in their last five at St James’ Park, Lambert’s owners will be confident of further returns.
Edin Dzeko and Romelu Lukaku are further down the list, despite some solid displays of late. The City forward has started six of the last seven and has scored in five of those first XI appearances ahead of the visit of Chelsea, while Lukaku welcomes Sunderland to the Hawthorns having scored or assisted in five of the last six Gameweeks. As his display at Anfield in the previous match showed, the Belgian is more than capable of producing even if handed a sub role.