The Gameweek 25 captaincy debate may not be as straight-forward as it seems.
All the talk has been about Liverpool options on the back of their recent wins at Wolves and West Ham but some Manchester City assets could offer an alternative.
The Captain Sensible article is back once again to help you trust the right player with the armband.
Usually, most of this article is restricted to Fantasy Football Scout Members but in line with our Members Articles Unlocked series, this particular instalment is FREE to everyone.
Fresh from defining the seasons of many a Fantasy manager midweek, Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) is the runaway leader of the Gameweek 25 captain poll.
The Egyptian notched 16 points across his Double Gameweek 24 fixtures, going close to scoring at Wolves before registering a goal and assist at West Ham.
The question now is whether he can replicate that form against a Southampton side that has made defensive improvements recently.
Thankfully, Salah four goals in his last four Premier League outings at Anfield so there’s every chance he can continue his recent resurgence.
However, Southampton’s defensive efforts on the road of late should not be forgotten, even if they have some injury concerns, which we’ll discuss later. In their last four away matches, only Liverpool (one) themselves have conceded fewer goals than the Saints (two) – while Jurgen Klopp’s men are the only side with more clean sheets in the same period (three to two), which pitted Southampton against Crystal Palace, Leicester, Chelsea and Aston Villa.
Nevertheless, Salah’s run of form, combined with Sadio Mané‘s (£12.3m) injury, has led to 57.6% of our voters backing him as the best captain for Gameweek 25.
A long way off in second place is Sergio Aguero (£12.0m) who has the support of just 8.6%.
However, there are still reasons to consider the Manchester City forward, who has scored six goals and registered an assist in his last three Premier League matches, averaging 12.3 points per game in that period.
Crucially, the most recent of those, the 1-0 win at Sheffield United, saw Aguero get rested after a poor display from colleague Gabriel Jesus (£9.5m). That may be the encouragement his owners need in terms of how likely the Argentinian is to start against Spurs.
Manchester City’s next opponents have kept just one league clean sheet at home since Jose Mourinho took over, so more goals for Aguero are hardly out of the question.
However, only 2.6% of our voters have considered the knock-on effect Aguero’s form may have on Kevin De Bruyne (£10.6m).
Not only does the increased threat of the centre-forward boost the Belgian’s already incredible assist potential, but De Bruyne also has attacking returns in each of his last four away matches. During that period he has strung together two goals and four assists; an average of 10 points per game.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.7m) looks set for a third-place finish in the Gameweek 25 captain poll ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Burnley.
The premium forward may have missed the last two Gameweeks through suspension but before that, he was showing some form.
Between Gameweeks 19 and 22, Aubameyang found the net three times, against Bournemouth, Chelsea and Crystal Palace. Meanwhile, Burnley have kept just one clean sheet in their last four at Turf Moor.
Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s (£7.6m) remarkable consistency has been of great use to his 42.3% ownership in recent months.
You have to go back to Gameweek 16 for the last time he blanked and even then, it was a match he didn’t start. If we factor starts into the equation, the last time Alexander-Arnold did not register a clean sheet, assist or goal having featured from the beginning was the Gameweek 13 win at Crystal Palace – that was in November.
That consistency will almost certainly be why 4.7% of Fantasy Football Scout voters decided he was the best captain option for Gameweek 25.
3.7% are still committed to Jamie Vardy (£9.9m) despite his recent troubles. The last time the Leicester man scored was in the Gameweek 18 defeat at Manchester City and he has managed just one assist and a missed penalty since then.
Chelsea come to the King Power Stadium on Saturday lunch-time still with only one clean sheet away from home this season.
James Maddison (£7.6m), Jack Grealish (£6.7m), Roberto Firmino (£9.6m) and Ayoze Pérez (£6.2m) are the only other options with more than 1% in the captain poll.
Player statistics – Last four matches
When we filter our data by each player’s last four matches, Jesus is still top of the pile for his 15 shots in the box – although it’s hard to truly consider him for the captaincy.
More pertinent is the fact that, of those likely to start in Gameweek 25, and therefore be in the captaincy frame, Aguero is the busiest in the penalty area.
His total of 13 shots in the box over his last four matches is the same as Firmino and one more than Salah (12).
Crucially, Aguero’s game-time during this period makes this figure even more impressive, as it works out at a shot in the box every 21.9 minutes. By comparison, Salah has managed one every 29.5 minutes over this period.
Firmino has also bested Salah in this regard in their last four matches, averaging a shot in the box every 27.2 minutes.
Level with the Egyptian for 12 shots in the box over the specified period are Raúl Jiménez (£7.6m) and Gerard Deulofeu (£6.1m).
Also performing well in this department over their last four are Ismaïla Sarr (£6.2m), Troy Deeney (£6.3m), Danny Ings (£7.0m), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.1m), Chris Wood (£6.2m) and Tammy Abraham (£7.7m) – who each have 11 shots in the box.
By contrast, Aubameyang is some way off the leaders. Over his last four matches, the Arsenal man has registered eight shots in the box, five fewer than Aguero and four below Salah’s total. Factoring in the sending off at Palace, it still works out at a shot in the box every 42.1 minutes for Aubameyang.
However, Vardy has fallen even further behind the main pack for penalty box activity in recent weeks. During the period in question, the Leicester centre-forward has shot just four times there, once every 78.3 minutes.
Alexander-Arnold, fourth in the captain poll, has shot in the box just once since Gameweek 22.
Filtering these attempts on goal by quality, Aguero holds his own once again. In the last four matches, no player has more big chances than the Argentinian, who has registered a total of seven, level with Jesus.
Meanwhile, Jiménez is also in a strong position with six of his penalty box efforts going down as big chances. Just behind him is the in-form Calvert-Lewin on five big chances.
An interesting new face in these parts is Oli McBurnie (£5.7m), who despite only shooting seven times in the penalty box over his last four, has five big chances to show for it. That means 71.4% of his efforts in the area during this period have been of high quality, Jiménez, Aguero and Jesus the only players to register more big chances than him.
A number of those in-form options on 11 shots in the box are also in the top five for this category, Deeney, Ings, Wood and Abraham all on four big chances each during the specified period.
Interestingly, just three of Salah’s wealth of penalty box efforts has been of high quality in the last four matches. That’s probably a little lower than his backers were hoping as it’s four fewer than Aguero and half as many as Jiménez.
Meanwhile, Firmino, ahead of Salah for penalty box efforts, is also one ahead on big chances too, recording four since Gameweek 22.
Three is also the number of big chances recorded by Aubameyang over his four, again, a long way off Aguero, level with Salah but still one more than Vardy (two).
Another category, another top spot for Aguero. In his last four matches, nobody has matched the Argentinian’s levels of accuracy, with 10 shots on target.
You’ll notice that all four of those directly below him in this department are unlikely to be anywhere near you consideration for a Gameweek 25 captaincy. Jesus, Harry Kane (£10.8m) and Marcus Rashford (£8.9m) are all tied on eight shots on target but one is a rotation risk and the other two are long-term injury absentees. Stuart Armstrong (£5.2m), on seven, is also a doubt for the weekend and faces Liverpool anyway.
Therefore, any rivals for Aguero’s domination of shots on target are at least four behind him.
Let’s start with those who ticked the boxes both for a high volume of shots in the box and big chances.
That draws our attention to Deeney, Jiménez, Firmino and Ings, who have all registered six shots on target in their last four.
Of particular note from a Liverpool perspective, is that Firmino’s figure here is higher than Salah’s. In fact, the Brazilian has beaten the Egyptian for shots in the box (13 to 12), big chances (four to three) as well, topping each goal threat category when compared against his colleague.
It is (perhaps only a little) off-putting that Salah has managed just four shots on target over his last four. That means 17 players have managed more over their last four Premier League outings.
Meanwhile, Ings’ relatively strong performance across of these departments may be enough to convince his owners to start him in Gameweek 25 – and avoid captaining Alexander-Arnold.
Neither one of Aubameyang and Vardy looks hugely regular in terms of accurate efforts of late. Each player has managed just three, seven fewer than Aguero and half that of Firmino, Jiménez, Ings and Deeney.
De Bruyne’s goal threat also continues to dwindle. Over his last four matches, the Belgian has managed not a single shot in the box and also has a zero in columns for big chances and shots on target.
However, De Bruyne retains a strong position when it comes to creativity. Over the last four matches, no player in the league has played more key passes than him. These, of course, arguably count for more than his rivals for the armband when we consider the hot-form of Aguero.
However, it is worth noting that a few individuals have outperformed De Bruyne for the quality of chances created recently.
The majority of our voters will be very happy to see that one of these assets is Salah, whose total of four big chances created is the joint-second-highest in the league over his last four matches.
Level with him is Mahrez whose apparent ability to match De Bruyne’s creativity and infinitely superior goal threat could make him an essential Fantasy option if he wasn’t so rotation prone.
Meanwhile, no Premier League has fashioned more big chances in their last four matches than Wolves’ in-form winger Adama Traoré (£5.8m), a testament to the hard work Nuno Espirito Santo has undertaken to improve his end-product.
When it comes to the expected data, it is no surprise to see Aguero top of the pile for expected goal involvement (xGI), by a fair distance too.
His minutes per xGI (64.7) is also considerably superior to Salah’s (105.4), although the Egyptian has the best score of any fit Liverpool option, Firmino behind him on 126.5.
As mentioned on this week’s Captain video on YouTube, it is Pérez who has been the likeliest to score for Leicester, as he sits in the top six for minutes per xGI over his last four matches.
Aubameyang is some way distant, just as he was for the raw data. His minutes per xGI over the last four matches is bettered by 51 players (who have played 170+ minutes in the specified time-frame). One of those is Vardy, a popular make-way for the Arsenal man, his score of 165.5 largely influenced by Gameweek 23’s missed penalty.
Alexander-Arnold is even further behind on a score of 350.5, which perhaps increases his reliance on a clean sheet for Gameweek 25 and, as already mentioned, the form of ex-Liverpool man Ings may dash hopes there.
Opposition statistics – Last four matches
Amid the ominous form of Aguero, Spurs come into Gameweek 25 in a reasonably perilous position.
Over their last four matches they have conceded 39 shots in the box, only Aston Villa (43) and Burnley (45) shipping more. Crucially, this period has pitted Spurs against Southampton, Liverpool, Watford and Norwich – many of these teams not even close to what Manchester City are capable of in the penalty box.
Despite Nick Pope‘s (£4.6m) recent efforts, Burnley are still handing out plenty of opportunities in the area. In fact, they have finally managed to displace Aston Villa from the bottom of the pile in this department – encouraging for Aubameyang backers.
By contrast, Liverpool’s upcoming opponents Southampton have been in fantastic shape, which may cause some slight concern for those hoping to trust Salah with the armband.
Over the last four matches, when the Saints have faced Spurs, Leicester, Wolves and Crystal Palace, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men have conceded just 22 shots in the box, just 5.5 per game.
That total is the same as Manchester City shipped in that time while only Chelsea (20) have allowed fewer than that over their last four matches.
Considering that Southampton will be away from home against Liverpool, this data suggests that if they, as suspected, park the proverbial bus, it could limit Liverpool’s attack.
Southampton don’t fare quite so well when it comes to big chances conceded but are still in the Premier League’s top six over the last four matches.
During this period, they allowed seven big chances, better than Liverpool themselves (eight), further evidencing the theory that they will make the Reds work hard at Anfield.
Away matches have produced even better results for Southampton as only two sides in the whole division have conceded fewer than their five big chances in their last four on the road.
Meanwhile, Spurs have fared worse than the Saints in this department too. In their last four matches, they have conceded nine big chances, the same number as Burnley.
Crucially, only five teams (Sheffield United, Bournemouth, West Ham, Aston Villa and Newcastle) have conceded more than that during the specified time-frame – none of which are facing any serious options for the captaincy in Gameweek 25.
The expected data looks a little better for Spurs although they are still in the bottom half of the table.
West Ham (8.82) find themselves bottom of the league for expected goals conceded (xGC) over their last four matches although Liverpool played a big part in that on Wednesday night. Arguably, Brighton may not be able to match the Reds’ prowess on Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Newcastle (8.51), Bournemouth (8.13), Aston Villa (8.03) and Burnley (7.97) complete the bottom five, the latter offering encouragement to Aubameyang owners yet again.
Spurs’ score of 6.58 is quite out of step with their actual goals conceded total of three for this period, suggesting they were fortunate not to be breached more often. Again, that sounds somewhat ominous ahead of facing Manchester City.
Southampton’s xGC for this period is relatively admirable in comparison. Their score of 4.60 is bettered only by Manchester United (4.28), Manchester City (3.32), Wolves (3.10) and Chelsea (3.10). However, despite some impressive numbers in this section, there are other factors to consider at Southampton, which we’ll cover in our conclusion.
What does the RMT tool say?
While Salah is the people’s favourite and has decent form on his side, the Gameweek 25 captaincy debate is not quite as straight-forward as it seems.
Arguably, Aguero comes into this weekend in better statistical shape than the Egyptian (as far as goal threat is concerned) with superior figures for shots in the box, big chances and shots on target.
Furthermore, the defensive data of recent matches suggests that Spurs could actually be easier to penetrate than Southampton at Anfield, especially if they place every man likely behind the ball.
Therefore, if we were to be confident of a start, Aguero certainly looks like a formidable captain option for Gameweek 25, especially considering he has seven attacking returns in his last three outings.
Of course, the question with the Argentinian, as ever, is whether or not he will suffer from rotation.
He had some rest against Sheffield United in Gameweek 24 but played nearly every minute of Wednesday night’s EFL Cup semi-final second leg. So the concern of Pep Guardiola Roulette is likely to remain, although there are seven days between the trip to Spurs and a Gameweek 26 meeting with West Ham.
Meanwhile, it must be said that Salah may not have quite the same likelihood of scoring as Aguero, his creativity is considerably better, arguably at the highest level it has been at all season, according to the data mentioned above.
Therefore, on form alone, Salah is the more likely to soak up points from a variety of avenues compared to Aguero, although it would be nice to see a slight upturn on the Egyptian’s accuracy from the last four matches.
We can probably make the same comparison between the Egyptian and colleague Firmino. The Brazilian looks more likely to score, but not by a huge amount, while Salah looks significantly more likely to assist.
Also, while Aguero and Firmino have both been shooting more frequently in the penalty box than Salah, besting him for quality and accuracy too, the Egyptian is more richly rewarded for his goals given his classification as a midfielder.
One other factor to consider is that of Southampton’s problems at right-back. It looks to be a one-week only thing as Hasenhüttl revealed that new loan signing Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.4m) will play no part in Gameweek 25.
With Cédric Soares‘ (£4.8m) knee problem keeping him out until February, that leaves the Saints with limited options at right-back.
Yan Valery (£4.6m) is back from illness but has not covered himself in glory this season while Kevin Danso (£4.2m), a left-footed centre-back, has been particularly poor when asked to play on the right of defence earlier in the campaign.
Midfielder James Ward-Prowse (£5.8m) slotted in there during Cédric’s substitution in Double Gameweek 24 but, of course, Hasenhüttl may prefer to use his creativity in the middle of the park.
Either way, it looks as if Southampton will be short-staffed on the right of defence, suggesting that their aforementioned impressive statistics could be harder to replicate at Anfield than if they were injury-free.
That could ultimately be what swings the pendulum back towards Salah for the captaincy this Gameweek. If Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) is allowed more time and space then it could unlock more attacking returns for Liverpool’s offensive players.
However, as we are having to largely guess who will slot in at right-back for the Saints, the caveat is, of course, that we can’t analyse much data about their capabilities without Cédric.
Finally, the case for Aubameyang looks to be more about the fixture than the form of the player.
Burnley have been very obliging in recent performances so there could be opportunities for Arsenal, it’s just whether Aubameyang is poised to exploit them or not.
His last four matches data, which left a fair bit to be desired in comparison to others, can only go so far in assessing his form, considering he has just served a three-match ban.
In that time, Mikel Arteta has made further improvements, largely helped by the form of Gabriel Martinelli (£4.5m), so you could even argue that it is uncertain exactly where Aubameyang fits into the side at this point.
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