“O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
How many times have you felt like this? Another week flies by, another Captain delivers you that sought-after prize of double points and they were already juicy enough to begin with. Suddenly an ‘alright’ gameweek turns into great one; red arrows shaking off their hue to reveal beautiful green undertones that thrust you up the rankings. Your Captain has steered the ship, yet again away from disaster, away from the rocks that threaten shipwrecking and into safe, open waters. There’s even a crowd of well-wishers gathering along the shoreline to cheer you on, recognising your valiant efforts and success.
But it’s not like that for everyone. Some of us have shipwrecked so many times we’re at the point of almost giving up and making do with a raft made out of flotsam and driftwood…
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.”
Ah yes, that’s more like it. Walt Whitman’s poignant allegory about the death of Abraham Lincoln at the end of the American Civil War is of course beyond reproach, but it seems awfully relevant within the world of Fantasy Football.
All of my Captains to this point have brought me nothing but frustration. Alas, their bodies are too big to simply sweep under the carpet, or hide in the airing cupboard – they must be disposed of properly. And the only way I can do that is to understand why I chose them in the first place, then see what other options I had and how they compared. That’s exactly what I’ve done, and it’s exactly the point of this article.
I will, week by week, discuss my Captaincy picks, how they went wrong, what else I could’ve (should’ve done) and compare those outcomes. The aim of this analysis is not only to see how my points totals have been affected (how many points I’ve lost) it’s also to look at the logic behind those choices. I want to know if I made fundamentally horrendous choices or whether it’s nothing more than ‘Hindsight 101’ and it’s only become obvious now after the fact. (Home teams will be capitalised).
GAMEWEEK 1 CAPTAIN:
• Leke James (12.0m) [molde fk vs AALESUNDS FK]
Before the season started I had it in my head that Torgeir Borven (11.3m) would continue his brilliant form into 2020. Then I heard rumours of his move to Rosenborg and the prospect of him taking the league by storm, or even being played by Odd seemed to diminish along with the thought of choosing him in my team. First mistake.
The three best forwards in the league last season – by quite some distance – were James, Borven and Ohikhuaeme Omoijuanfo (10.9m). Naturally as Borven was out of the picture it boiled down to who do I pick between James and Ohi. I sided with James as he was favourite to start and thus he was shifted into my team and duly captained.
Molde were huge favourites to win and likely to score multiple goals. James seemed like a perfectly sound choice for Gameweek 1 captaincy. He repaid with me a goal but also a red card after being booked twice. The fact that Borven scored a 93rd minute penalty for Odd in their game was the proverbial salt in the wound.
• GW1 Captain Score: 3pts
• Best GW1 Captain Score: 9pts (Niklas Sandberg, 7.6m)
• Points Lost: 6pts
Although I had better options in my team, I cannot fault the logic in choosing one of the most talented forwards in the league against a newly promoted side. This one goes down to horrible misfortune and shouldn’t be rued. To dwell or not to dwell? Decidedly not. (Sound Logic, Poor Points)
GAMEWEEK 2 CAPTAIN:
• Lars Jorgen Salvesen (8.5m) [STROMSGODSET TOPPFOTBAL vs odd bk]
Despite Bodo/Glimt finishing second to Molde last season, I avoided them completely as they suffered quite a few losses of their best players to bigger teams eager to snap up potential bargains. This is also a club that has only been in the top flight of Norwegian football five out of the last ten seasons, and before last season their highest finish was 9th. It was surely a fluke and it won’t happen again – look elsewhere. Mistake number 2.
I could have jumped from James to Borven and it would’ve have been perfectly fine to do so as he scored against Sandefjord. I chose not to as Odd lost that game – at home – and faced a much stronger side in Stromsgodset. I saw a home win and many goals, thus Salvesen not only walked into my team, but he was also given the ‘Kapteinens armbånd’ without much deliberation whatsoever. (Translation courtesy of Google.com).
• GW2 Captain Score: 1pt
• Best GW2 Captain Score: 7pts (Niklas Sandberg)
• Points Lost: 6pts
Salvesen got a beastly 10pts against IK Start the week before, only to return almost empty-handed the following game. I had Sandberg as my vice-captain on the basis that pretty much every other player in my team had a tough game. I wasn’t expecting points to flow and saw him as a good back up as he was on penalty duty, scored the previous week and I viewed Bodo/Glimt as a team most sides would feel they could score one or two against.
You can see for yourself just how well that turned out. I’m not too sure I can say this was the best decision. I was perhaps too influenced by Salvesen’s 10pts haul against Start in making the move to bring him in and captain him. There were slim-pickings elsewhere and even though Sandberg scored well, I would’ve captained whoever I brought in as my forward over him. I remain ambivalent about this one. (Iffy Logic, Poor Points)
GAMEWEEK 3 CAPTAIN:
• Ohikhuaeme Omoijuanfo [IK START vs molde fk]
I was one of the few to Wildcard at this point, influenced mainly by the concern of heading into Gameweek 3 with potentially as few as 9 starting players and an ineffective bench. The decision to overhaul completely is up for debate, but overall I was happy to commit to using such a chip so early on as it would be the springboard from which I would start my season.
With 81pts won in ‘Runde 3’ (RD Rank 2,973) you’d think I’d be happy. Ohi was always seen as the one-week salve in this situation, taking full advantage of yet again another easy fixture in which one of the best players in the league could wreak havoc. Sigh. Molde won the game 3-2 with a rather fortuitous last-minute goal by rampaging centre-back Stian Gregersen (5.2m). The two other goals were also scored by defenders. Bigger sigh. If I was told by a time-traveller that Molde would score 3 goals in that game, it would’ve resulted in the calmest, most assured captaincy pick in the history of my ESN playing career. Ohi was always destined to be chosen.
• GW3 Captain Score: 2pt
• Best GW3 Captain Score: 14pts (Andreas Hanche-Olsen, 5.7m)
• Points Lost: 12pts
Sandberg and Daouda Bamba (9.2m) also scored well with 13pts and to be honest all three were good alternatives. Ironically my vice-captain was Gilbert Koomson (7.1m) who failed to join the party, gaining a poultry 2pts.
Another 12pts lost due to my Captain not turning up. I absolutely refuse to be frustrated with this choice. It was not a bad captaincy pick at all. In fact, I don’t see why I’d choose any of those other players over Ohi in that situation again. I’d do the exact same thing. It was not meant to be, that’s all. Unluckeeeee. (Perfectly Sound Logic, Poor Points)
GAMEWEEK 4 CAPTAIN:
• Lars Jorgen Salvesen [STROMSGODSET TOPPFOTBALL vs aalesunds fk]
Not much to be said about this one. I chose to ignore Borven yet again (also ignoring hat-trick against Valerenga) and for some reason found way back to Salvesen. There seems to be a pattern here – I am drawn more to fixture than form when it comes to not only transfers, but captaincy picks. This methodology ultimately seems to have been my downfall. Gameweek 4 was to be no different.
Salevesen had just two shots in the entire game and they were both blocked. He did create on big chance and played a key pass, but other than that he was largely anonymous. Borven on the other hand ran riot again, racking up 15pts against a shell-shocked IK Start.
The 6ft 1” Norwegian had hoodwinked me once more, pulling me away from the advances of the more diminutive figure of the Trondheim-bound Odd forward, only to lead to me into more ruination. Four gameweeks in and still without success. Where was MY Captain?
• GW4 Captain Score: 2pt
• Best GW4 Captain Score: 7pts (Jens Petter Hauge, 7.9m/Gilbert Koomson)
• Points Lost: 5pts
Koomson was never going to be trusted to outscore Salvesen as he had a much lower ceiling relative to their fixtures. Hauge was perhaps on paper a better alternative but in the end I thought Stromsgodset would run riot, leading to many, many points for their leading man. Once more, twas not to be and I was left licking the wounds of another self-inflicted injury.
Aware of Bodo/Glimt’s form, I did have both Hauge and Kasper Junker (8.8m) in my team but even so I refused to accept Salvesen was not going to outscore any of their assets. This defiance led to a meagre 2pts. On the bright side, Salvesen had DOUBLED his last score so there was that. I should’ve brought Borven in (that’s not Hindsight, I was planning to do it either that week or GW5) but I didn’t. Once again fixture difficulty swayed me into a poor decision. (So-so Logic, Poor Points).
GAMEWEEK 5 CAPTAIN:
• Torgeir Borven (11.3m) [ROSENBORG BK vs valerenga fotball]
Finally, after weeks of waiting, I’d got my man. In his last two games he’d scored a ridiculous five goals and although Odd were up against Bodo/Glimt, I was confident of goals. Wanting to beat his inevitable price rise was also on my mind so as soon as ‘Gameweek 4’ concluded, I got rid of ‘Deadwood Salevesen’ and welcomed Herr Borven into my team. He was to be my Captain no matter what.
You cannot make it up. Borven’s move to Rosenborg was set to go through on 1st August, meaning he would remain an Odd player until then, even if it would mean Rosenborg would have to wait. Apparently they were unhappy to do this. His move to Trondheim was finalised less than 24 hours after he found himself in my team. Cue even bigger sigh.
His first game for Rosenborg would come too soon and he wasn’t even given half an hour to get a debut goal. I simply could not believe my luck. This was the guy I’d been monitoring for the last couple of gameweeks (as well as during pre-season) and when I had finally convinced myself I should take the leap, he finds himself sitting on the bench of Norway’s biggest club, my Fantasy armband tucked away in his pocket.
• GW5 Captain Score: 1pt
• Best GW5 Captain Score: 10pts (Gilbert Koomson/Kasper Junker/Andreas Hopmark 4.6m)
• Points Lost: 9pts
Obviously I was never going to captain Hopmark but Junker and Koomson were perfectly viable alternatives. My actual vice was Sandberg (vs ik start) which in itself, was not a bad choice (fixture-wise) but would have only yielded two more points.
It seems that choosing the right Captain is something I struggle with far more than is necessary. The right man eludes me still. I am the Cinderella of Fantasy Football, with no ‘glass armband’ in sight.
I should never have captained Borven as he had just moved to Rosenborg a day or two before. He wasn’t guaranteed a start (though I thought it likely) and Rosenborg are a team far from their best, playing insipid, uncreative football (more so at the time than now) making Borven a far worse choice than multiple other options. (Poor Logic, Poor Choice).
GAMEWEEK 6 CAPTAIN:
• Veton Berisha (8.9m) [VIKING FK vs ik start]
Out with the old (and disgruntled) Bamba, and in with the new (and very much in-form) Veton Berisha. IK Start had faced 69 shots and conceded 13 goals prior to the visit of under-performing Viking. Going into this game Berisha had scored 2 goals and got 2 assists in his previous three games. Not ground-breaking form, more a solid foundation to build upon especially with such a favourable fixture.
Now. I’m sure you’re beginning to see the picture by now. Yeah, that whole ‘form plus fixture’ spiel I keep banging on about? Failed me again, didn’t it? I’m not the biggest Beatles fan in the world, so maybe it’s because whenever I think of Bodo/Glimt I imagine a big yellow submarine and on some psychological level I’m put off, but that’s clearly something I need to deal with.
I even mentioned in comments prior to the games that I thought Bodo/Glimt will deal with Brann more than comfortably but I didn’t envisage 5 goals and certainly didn’t think Junker would get ANOTHER hat-trick. I had confidence in my new signing to continue his good form against one of the weakest teams in the league.
• GW6 Captain Score: 2pt
• Best GW5 Captain Score: 17pts (Kasper Junker)
• Points Lost: 15pts
Another swing, another miss. Like, I didn’t just miss the ball, I threw the bat into a nearby lake then punched a swan for good luck. At this point I’m not just sighing, I’m staring out the window trying to figure out why the Fantasy Football gods are so upset with me to no avail.
This is one of my least questionable picks. I refuse to accept this was a bad pick. Because it wasn’t. Viking may be underperforming, and Bodo/Glimt might be cruising, but Berisha is a very good player, capable of bringing home plenty of bacon, and IK Start might as well be a pig lying on it’s side telling everyone in the nearby vicinity to come grab a slice or two.
Berisha blanked for the first time in three games against one of the worst teams in the league. This was bad timing more than anything. Another 15pts lost all the same. (Sound Logic, Poor Points).
After much beard twirling and enough sighing to convince anyone who wasn’t too sure that I am indeed British, I have arrived at my conclusion. At least three of my captain picks were based on sound logic, two could be debated either way and one was certainly a poor choice. With 50% of my choices being perfectly reasonable, I am understandably frustrated by not being rewarded with any points but find it hard to be annoyed as the logic was sound.
The two debatable choices could be easily argued either way, so while they weren’t the best choices I could’ve made, they certainly weren’t awful. There was only one captaincy pick I definitely shouldn’t have done – it still stings now – yet it only resulted in a loss of 8pts.
The point of this article is to empathise with all of you who have suffered from poor captaincy picks. It’s also to show exactly how damaging blanking Captains can be to your team. If I had made the correct decision each and every week for the last six gameweeks, I would have amassed another 53pts. That equates to 10,711 places. That is how powerful the captain chip is. It will either give you or take from you, thousands and thousands of places in the ranking system.
My rank should be higher than it is. But ultimately it is down to me and me alone to choose whose points I wish to double on a weekly basis. Good logic (based on whatever variable you wish to look at) is always a good reason to do anything. Fantasy Football is a multi-faceted game which means if you only look at one variable – you are already in trouble. This is exactly what has happened to, pretty much from before the season started.
If I had trusted my instincts and gone with Borven from the start, we’d be looking at a very different picture, the same way in which if I didn’t convince myself Bodo/Glimt were a bunch of charlatans I’d have had a much stronger squad from Day 1.
Captains are no reason to stop playing this game. You cannot and will not get it right all the time. Those who do seem to choose better than most are either luckier than you, or I’m sorry to say it, a bit smarter. I certainly feel as though I have been somewhat put in my place and humbled for the last few weeks. I am not the biggest fan of the captaincy option as it adds another element of luck-based scoring to the game, yet I can see the appeal. It’s a point of weekly discussion. It makes the games more interesting and it also gives us a reason to vent if we fail.
Those in the same boat as me (I’m hoping I’m not alone here – I’m not the best rower) do not panic or stress or get annoyed or stop playing the game. If like me you can surmise you were right to captain who you did at least 50% of the time – you have no reason to be annoyed if you missed points. The decision can be the right one even if it yields no gains. That’s the definition of unlucky. That’s all it is.
The law of averages dictates you will get it right at some point so keep that in mind and keep approaching each gameweek with sound logic but perhaps open your mind to other variables you have perhaps been blind to so far.