Welcome to Fantasy Premier League Captain Picks Game-week 3. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to another season of Fantasy Premier League! While I’m sure most of you remember the pain and agony from last season’s FPL start, when conventional FPL wisdom was thrown out the window and mere mortals made impulsive transfers and rash decisions and soared above experienced players early on and throughout most of the season.
It seems that the FPL Gods have been kinder to us this time around as the start of the season has been considerably nicer to us, with several of the premium players – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sergio Aguero, Eden Hazard – as well as some of the budget picks – Andre Gray, Alvaro Negredo, Nathan Redmond, Erik Lamela – delivering FPL points from the get-go. Consequently, many of you are in considerably better positions now than at the same time last season. Looking at the fixture list for this round, we see that the big teams have favourable match-ups, the exceptions being Tottenham and Liverpool who face each other. In other words, there are plenty of good choices for the armband this week, so let’s take a look at who they are, shall we?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Hull A)
Forget FPL Gods – there is a new God in Manchester, and his name is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Speaking as a Norwegian, Zlatan is a man my countrymen either love or hate; love because of his personality and him playing for Sweden, or hate because of his personality and him playing for Sweden. Yep, you read that right. Football is one of the few things Sweden is better at than Norway – alongside death metal and meatballs – meaning that there is a bit of jealousy coming from my fellow Norwegians. As such, several raised critical voices regarding whether or not he would be capable of maintaining his goal-scoring rate in the tougher and more physical Premier League. With this thought in mind, I laughed to myself as I watched Zlatan crush Fonte in the air to head in the opening goal against Southampton – seems more like it is the defenders that will struggle with his physicality!
With his two goals against Southampton, Zlatan now has three goals in two matches. The goals include a header, a penalty and a shot from distance, highlighting his diversity. Zlatan is averaging 2.5 shots per game so far, which is the second lowest of the players in this article, but his vast experience and clinical finishing means that he only needs a good opportunity to score a goal. While United have started well, sitting in 2nd place with two wins, their opponents this week have surprised all of us as Hull sit in 3rd place, also with two wins. Essentially all of us doomed Hull to relegation before the season had even started, hence it will be interesting to see how long they can keep it up. I remain more skeptical towards their performances and expect them to fall towards the bottom of the table before long. I fully expect the difference in quality between the teams to show on Saturday, and as the scorer of three of United’s five goals so far, expect Zlatan to lead the way.
Sergio Aguero (West Ham H)
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it Superman? No – it’s the ball Sergio Aguero blasted above the goal and up into the sky when he missed his second pen against Steaua Bucharest! It’s finally coming down after almost a week up in the sky; what a crappy pen by Aguero. Penalties are a luxury not too often given to players, and quite frankly should result in a goal in the vast majority of cases, yet Aguero has taken four pens in his last three matches – and missed two of them. How a player can miss two penalties and still score a hat-trick is besides me, but that is precisely what Aguero did against Steaua. Don’t think that the number of penalties City have been given is a fluke either – with Guardiola’s possession-based tiki taka, City will certainly pass the ball around in the box, forcing plenty of awkward challenges from the defenders. If Aguero scores a penalty after a foul by Collins or Antonio – you heard it here first. Including his hattrick against Steaua, his goal-tally is six goals in three matches – move over Zlatan, there’s already a God in town, and he’s wearing sky blue. Interestingly enough, his goal against Stoke that wasn’t a pen was a header off a free kick – meaning that he has yet to score a goal from open play in the Premier League. Aguero is actually a great header; it’s his height that makes him come up short.
While City sit top of the table, having won both matches, they have been far from convincing in their play, often looking unstable and vulnerable at the back and making bad passes. Still, one area of their game that has drastically improved and that is the intensity and the pressure they immediately put on the opposition whenever they lose the ball. Hence, we should see City return the free-flowing attacking prowess they demonstrated in Pellegrini’s first season. Aguero is the clear number one among the players in this article regarding shots per game – he is averaging five shots per game so far while City are averaging 14 shots per game. In other words, over a third of City’s shots come from Aguero. To put it bluntly – when Aguero plays, expect him to score. Coming up against a West Ham that lack both Cresswell and an experienced right back, expect the goals to flow in this match, and Aguero to be among them.
Eden Hazard (Burnley H)
While most managers will look towards Zlatan or Aguero for the armband this round, Eden Hazard represents an excellent differential choice as Chelsea go up against recently promoted Burnley at Stamford Bridge. While Burnley managed to beat Liverpool this past week, they also lost at home to Swansea in the opening round – I was told in my WhatsApp chat that Liverpool were extraordinarily crap against Burnley, which may explain Burnley’s unexpected victory more than any suggestion of victory based on merit. This is further illustrated by the fact that Burnley have conceded the most shots per game so far in the Premier League.
Chelsea and Hazard disappointed all of us last season as Mourinho once again showed his lack of ability to maintain stability and squad coherence over time (wonder how long it takes before he blows up at Old Trafford?), but Hazard saw a resurgence in the final matches of the season and in Euro 2016, which he has carried into this season as he has one goal and one assist in two matches. With Conte in charge, Chelsea are widely expected to rediscover the defensive solidity and result-fixated playstyle they have become known for – I’m sure Hazard is looking forward to the exact opposite when he plays for Belgium with Roberto Martinez as manager! I’ve yet to come to terms with this appointment – Belgium sit 2nd in the FIFA rankings, they have a young team that will certainly only improve, and they appoint Roberto Martinez as manager? Hell no!
Nevertheless, Chelsea are expected to be a title challenger this season and Hazard is very likely to be their most important player, which certainly will reflect in plenty of fantasy points for us fantasy managers and real-life points for Conte alike. Hazard’s stats show us something interesting; compared to the players mentioned here, he takes the joint-second most shots per game with 3.5, he makes more key passes and is fouled more often, and none come even close to his 7.5 dribbles per match. Clearly, Hazard can score fantasy points in many ways, whether it’s a goal, an assist, a set-piece etc. Despite narrow wins against West Ham and Watford, Chelsea remain clear favourites for this match, so expect Hazard to reward you if you give him the armband this week.
Jamie Vardy & Riyad Mahrez (Swansea H)
Last season’s relegation-doomed team that ended up becoming champions (Hull anyone?) has seen a difficult start to the season with one draw and one loss, and only one goal scored. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez set the world of football alight last season with 41 goals and 19 assists between them, yet the duo have little to show for so far this season, as their only goal was scored by Mahrez from the spot against Hull. Still, what better time to turn around a difficult start than with a home match against Swansea?
Mahrez is tied with Hazard for the second most shots per game, while coming in second after Hazard regarding dribbles and fouls per match, showing that he still should be expected to produce fantasy points for his owners. To the contrary, Vardy has the fewest shots per game among the players mentioned here with merely two per match – despite this, we all know his goal scoring abilities. His high work rate and the pressure he puts on the defenders means that he can snap up the ball at the slightest mistake by a defender, as shown in the Community Shield when he snapped up Fellaini’s back pass to score a goal. Unfortunately, he does not have the luxury of facing Fellaini every week, but Swansea aren’t exactly the most defensively solid team either. Swansea have had a mixed start to their campaign with an away win against Burnley followed by a home loss to Hull. Despite a rugged start to the season, Leicester should be considered favorites for this one. While most will look towards Aguero and Zlatan for the armband this round, both Vardy and Mahrez have the abilities to score well this round, meaning that they represent differential choices for anyone wanting to break away from the herd.
Harry Kane (Liverpool H)
Ah, Harry Kane… how many of us don’t remember when he cost a mere 5mln in FPL, yet still managed 21 goals in his breakout season? The following season he ended up top scorer in the PL with 25 goals, and playing for a young team that seems to improve upon each season, we can only wonder how many goals he will score this season. While scoring 46 goals in two seasons is impressive enough, it almost spurs an existential crisis for me when I look at his age and realize his a mere one year older than me! This lad is busy banging in goals, earning crazy money, and probably getting all the chicks he wants, while I mostly sit in my room, playing video games and watching Netflix.
Nevertheless, Kane has returned to Spurs following a disappointing Euro 2016, where his main contribution to the England team was taking corners. He will certainly have higher ambitions than that! Despite only getting an assist so far, he averages three shots per game, meaning that he can open his scoring account any time. I’ll admit, he has the worst opponent among all the players I’ve mentioned here, but remember, this is a Liverpool managed by Klopp he is facing. Just look at Liverpool’s matches against Arsenal and Burnley – three goals conceded and four goals scored against Arsenal, and two goals conceded against Burnley. That’s nine goals altogether in two games. What does a striker love more than coming up against a team that’s far more concerned with attacking than defending? With Liverpool’s style of play, I expect this to be a highly entertaining match, with plenty of opportunities for both sides. In fact, I’m actually considering getting up early just to watch it! (I’m residing in New York; the match starts at 7.30am here). Taking all of this into consideration, I actually expect Kane to be among the goals this weekend, and as thus I believe he, alongside Hazard, Vardy and Mahrez, represent a great differential choice compared to Aguero and Zlatan, who will probably receive the armband from the majority of fantasy managers.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by MekyCM