In Pursuit of Science Over Art: Part Two – Picking A Captain

A number of great hunts have foxed humanity over the centuries: searches for the Holy Grail, the Elixir of Life or the Lost City of Atlantis. But can any of these rival the fantasy manager’s perennial search for a formula for selecting their Captain?

The importance of Captain selection cannot be overstated. It can make or break your gameweek. I still mourn not captaining Aguero for his five goal haul against Newcastle in gameweek 8. It cost me 15 points and if I finish 15 points off a pound-paying position in the League I’m going to be cross! We all have our fantasy regrets but that was a humdinger!

To further illustrate the importance of Captain selection get this: if I had picked the player who ended up being my highest points scorer in each week of the season so far (to gameweek 14) I would have an additional 137 points. That would be enough for me to be top. Not just of FFUK, BUT OF THE ENTIRE FANTASY LEAGUE! I’d have 935 points vs the top scorer’s 931.

Of course it’s entirely fanciful, absurd even, to suppose that any manager might get their Captain pick right every week, but can we find some clues that might help make the decision-making a little better? And sure as hell I need some help on this! Of the 14 weeks so far I have only picked the “right” Captain on two occasions (Benteke in week two and Vardy in week 12). I haven’t analysed anyone else’s teams but I’m guessing this is below par. So let’s look at some of my decisions in a bit more detail:

I have made forwards my Captain on 11 occasions and midfielders on 3. When it comes to my highest points scorers however we find that goalkeepers have been best on two occasions, forwards on 4 and midfielders on 8 occasions (defenders, none). I’ve been getting this all wrong! A midfielder is clearly more likely to be my best points scorer, so it should be here where I make my selection. The top points scorers overall by gameweek is more evenly split: 7 have been midfielders, 6 have been forwards (1 a defender), however I think is more down to the fact that forwards have occasional red letter days, getting hat-tricks (or more) and super-big points totals – which of course only come once in blue moon: midfielders seem to be the week-in-week-out reliable Captain picks.

And this is complimented by the fact that of the top 20 players (by points accrued) in the league, 11 are midfielders (5 forwards, 3 defenders and 1 goalkeeper). So we want a midfielder for Captain, but which one? With so many midfielders performing well this season it can be hard to narrow down the options, so are there any other useful pointers we can pick up?

Well it turns out that there are. Of the best points scorers in my team by gameweek, 9 have been playing at home – not a gigantic proportion, but interesting nevertheless. More significantly, on 11 occasions the Captain has been playing what might be described as a “bottom club” – a team tending to languish near the foot of the table (Sun, New, Villa, WBA, Norwich, Bou and Swansea in my case). This is certainly significant.

So there you have it. The ideal Captain pick should be a midfielder playing at home against a bottom club. Which sounds fairly obvious, except I’ve not been following that pattern to date at all. Let’s see how the next few weeks go with my new formula!

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