FPL 2021/22 Captain Article: Gameweek 4

We explore the best options for the Fantasy Premier League captain for Gameweek 4 and reveal the results of our captain poll – who will you choose this FPL Gameweek?

Article written by connect_andy.

Antonio Captainers Rewarded

The first international break always seems to come round far too quickly after the season gets under way, with GW3 already feeling like a distant memory. Antonio, now 7.9m, emerged as a surprise captaincy choice this early in the season considering Fernandes, Kane & Son all had a decent fixture, but his form couldn’t be ignored.

A fairly simple decision some may say, but congratulations to those managers who stuck the armband on Antonio in GW3; a goal and an assist was certainly a massive captaincy success. Whether this hot streak continues once West Ham begin their Europa League campaign remains to be seen, but his ownership now sits above 50% and any differential status has well and truly been eradicated.

Many things have changed since the conclusion of GW3; a certain Portuguese forward rejoining the league, plenty of injury speculation and some bizarre selection concerns caused by quarantine rules. Hopefully some of these points will become clearer before the deadline, but let us explore the captaincy options in greater detail with the information and data we do have.

Results of the Poll

Twitter captaincy poll for Gameweek 4 (@fplconnect)

On what could be his second Man United debut against Newcastle on Saturday, Ronaldo (12.5m) appears to be the most popular captaincy option according to our twitter poll. It has been a long international break with many twists and turns, but the masses who have brought in Ronaldo, whether on wildcard or otherwise, seem to be trusting him with the armband.

Teams to Target?

When choosing a captain in FPL, sometimes recent individual form isn’t enough; hence why Salah wasn’t really considered as an option against Chelsea in GW3. Yes, he did score a penalty, but captaining a player against one of the strongest defences in Europe just didn’t feel right. Instead, we look to those who have an ‘easier’ fixture on paper.

‘Per 90’ defensive records for each team between GWs 1-3 (FF Fix)

There are usually a number of teams who emerge as potential ‘whipping boys‘ after the first couple of games – teams you plan transfers around to ensure you have at least one or two attacking options to field against them. Looking at the data so far, that team appears to be Arsenal. It’s probably a bit too early to target Arsenal given two of their opening games were against Man City and Chelsea, but they do look soft defensively; Arteta will be keen to turn that around quickly against Norwich on Saturday.

Newcastle haven’t made a great start defensively and are looking like a team who could concede quite a few goals in the coming weeks. They’ve conceded the highest xG per 90 (2.81), having played West Ham, Aston Villa & Southampton. These are all, in theory, ‘mid table’ opponents who have found Newcastle easy to create chances against.

This should be music to the ears of 1.7m+ managers who have already transferred in Ronaldo since his return to Man United; the Red Devils host Newcastle at Old Trafford this weekend. Should Ronaldo start, you would imagine this fixture presents a fantastic opportunity to contribute some attacking returns.

Leeds, who seemed to find a method of defending against ‘top 6’ opponents towards the back-end of last season, look to be quite leaky at the back in these early games. They’re conceding a high volume of shots – 16.7 per game – and have already shipped eight goals. If they defend like they did against Man United in GW1, Liverpool could really enjoy themselves this weekend.

Who are the main contenders?

Per90 stats for captaincy contenders between gameweeks 1-3 (Source: FF Scout)

You may have scanned through the above list and questioned the omission of Cristiano Ronaldo as a captaincy option, however this is simply a collection of players who have performed well in the Premier League so far this season. Each player on this list has had at least one strong performance under their belt in the opening three games.

Antonio (7.9m) is leading the way for FPL points (40) having already amassed an incredible four goals and four assists in his three appearances. He’s doing absolutely everything right so far; plenty of shots, penalty box touches and big chances created – he hasn’t been beaten on many metrics this season.

Calvert-Lewin (8.2m) is king of the xG with 1.13 per 90; aided by his new role as Everton’s penalty taker. In addition to penalties, DCL is also taking around four shots per game, yielding 1.5 big chances. Those who have watched Everton play this season will realise how well they are playing to his strengths in the box; at times he looked very isolated last season. Fitness doubts unfortunately linger so perhaps not a captaincy option this week, but certainly one to watch.

Captaincy Options in Focus

Based on both form and fixture data, we have narrowed the options down the three players for GW4 captaincy.

Mo Salah (12.5m) – Liverpool vs LEEDS (A)

Salah GW1-3 attacking stats in Premier League 2021-22 (FFScout)

In what appeared to be a tough fixture on paper, Salah managed to score a goal and take all three bonus points against Chelsea in GW3. It certainly emphasises the merit of having penalty takers as captaincy options; you never know when they might step up!

The Egyptian forward has started the season very strongly; he’s currently 2nd for both FPL points and shots attempted per 90 minutes, behind West Ham’s Antonio. No player has taken more penalty box touches than Salah (36), that’s an impressive average of 12 per 90 minutes. He’s even showing his generous side by creating three big chances for his teammates; this ranks him 1st in the league.

Looking at the fixture for GW4, Liverpool face Leeds at Elland Road this weekend. We’ve already picked apart Leeds’ poor defensive stats so far this season, although that has been heavily influenced by their opening day defeat at Old Trafford. Two factors that will have an impact in Leeds’ favour will be the support of their home crowd, and the return of Kalvin Phillips (who missed GW1).

Liverpool should still be too strong for Leeds having started the season impressively, and Salah’s own form should provide a solid foundation for their attacking output in this fixture. Salah, without a doubt, should be considered for captaincy in GW4.

Romelu Lukaku (11.5m) – Chelsea v ASTON VILLA (H)

Lukaku GW1-3 attacking stats in Premier League 2021-22 (FFScout)

It’s worth mentioning up front that Lukaku currently has an injury flag (Thigh injury – 75% chance of playing) in FPL having withdrawn from international duty early. The extent of the ‘injury’ is currently unknown and further information would be very handy indeed before the deadline. The fact that we’re still discussing Lukaku goes to show how strong a captaincy option he will be should his fitness be confirmed ahead of GW4.

Looking at the data, he has been limited to two appearances this season; a bullying display against Arsenal and a more isolated encounter against Liverpool in which Chelsea played 45 minutes with 10 men. Across these two games, he has already racked up 1.76 xG which ranks him 5th in the division. The majority of this came against Arsenal where Lukaku could benefit from strong waves of attack and provide a clear focal point for his teammates.

This is the Lukaku we expect to see in many games this season, including against Aston Villa this weekend if he is fit to play. Quarantine issues cast doubts over the involvement of Villa’s star keeper Emi Martinez, which adds further fuel to the Lukaku captaincy argument in GW4. Villa may find Chelsea too tough to resist at the moment, and you can bank on the Belgium forward being heavily involved should they make some attacking inroads this week.

Michail Antonio (7.9m) – West Ham vs SOUTHAMPTON (A)

Antonio GW1-3 attacking stats in Premier League 2021-22  (FFScout)

Michail Antonio is just a points magnet. He has already pocketed eight (yes, eight!) attacking returns in his opening three fixtures. Looking at his stats it is very easy to see why – he is ranked in the top 2 for all of the key attacking metrics aside from xA. He’s having frequent touches in the box, taking plenty of shots and still managing to provide great chances for his teammates.

Antonio’s ownership has now climbed above 50%; a staggering rise over the past few weeks. This will be much higher again in the better ranks, which means you won’t get much benefit if he does well in GW4 unless you captain him. West Ham’s fixture, away at Southampton, is the last before their Europa League group stage begins next Thursday. Southampton have conceded an average of 9.7 shots in the box per game this season, which should play to Antonio’s strengths.

Admittedly, there are plenty of strong premium captaincy options this week in Salah, Ronaldo, Lukaku & Kane, but you could do worse than hand the armband to the most in-form player who will be playing against a defensively weak opposition this weekend. Can he make it four hauls in a row? Stranger things have happened in FPL!

My view

There’s no doubt there will be many more strong captaincy options available this season than last; at times it was often a toss up between Salah, Bruno and Kane in the 2020-21 campaign. This season has brought the return of Lukaku and Ronaldo to the Premier League, both of whom have been very successful here in the past. To me, this has the makings of a very exciting season where the captaincy decision becomes so much more important to nail.

The tough decisions start here in GW4, especially for wildcarders who have either Ronaldo or Lukaku to choose from. Both of those options aren’t completely nailed on starters at this point, but perhaps the press conferences will help clear a few things up ahead of the deadline. Kane against Palace is also a strong captaincy option now he’s getting some regular minutes again for club and country.

As I have yet to finalise my transfer plans, which may involve bringing in Ronaldo before the deadline, I’m currently looking to captain Salah against Leeds. Arguably the most reliable FPL asset in recent years, Salah offers a sense of comfort amid the chaos that has been this international break. As I said earlier, choosing a captain will become incredibly tough once these new options become established, so I’d like to see how the likes of Ronaldo settle in before sharing the armband around.

A final note for owners of Antonio, which probably applies to you if you’re reading this article. If you’re a bit stuck on captaincy this week, Antonio is a very, very good option for the armband against Southampton. It’s very rare that even the top premiums hit the levels that he’s currently operating at, so why not try and cash in on the hot streak? Simply owning him won’t gain you any ground at this point!

Be sure to keep your eyes on the FPL Connect twitter page for all our latest releases, this season promises to be our biggest yet.

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