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Heung-Min Son
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Weekly Picks

Captain Obvious: Week 38

by Steve Rothgeb
Updated On: May 21, 2022, 12:56 am ET

Greetings, and welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate, the most important decision of your gameweek.


It has all come down to this. Here we are, on the cusp of our final deadline for the final gameweek of the 2021/2022 season. A season that has been a roller coaster for everyone. There has never been a season quite like this. More postponements, blank gameweeks and double gameweeks, countless players thought fit on Friday only to be absent for their match the next day due to a positive Covid test, than we could even keep track of. So many twists and turns, and not the sort you can really say made the game any more enjoyable, because pretty much every unpredictable twist tied in some way to the pandemic.


It has been a particularly rocky season for your humble writer. Smack dab in the middle of the campaign, I had to shut it all down temporarily for medical reasons, spending the holiday season in hospital, making whatever adjustments to my squad I could when I had my phone, a signal, and a bit of consciousness. Happy to report, now about five months on from that medical dilemma, I am back to my old self…and still managed to put together a respectable fantasy season.


Right, forgive the self-centered nature of this column, but to add to the final gameweek of the season, I happen to be writing this on the morning of my 45th birthday. So, between reflecting on the year that has passed and celebrating another year being alive, I selfishly feel entitled to dwell on my personal journey through this topsy-turvy FPL season.



As far as Week 37 goes, it was…pretty good, I suppose. It was somewhat the opposite of how the previous massive double gameweek went, yet it yielded rather similar results. You see, in Week 36, having used my Bench Boost chip, I got a green arrow and solid returns from almost all of the fifteen players eligible to rack up points. However, because I picked one of the lowest scorers for my captain, I did not have the giant climb up the rankings I was hoping for. 


This time around, I was on a Free Hit chip and, while many of my players returned very little (my keeper and three defenders combined for 13 points over six fixtures), I managed to get that green arrow by getting the captain right this time, backing Richarlison with the armband. My round rank was inside the top 500k, so it was a decent green arrow, but one choice alone, backing Philippe Coutinho over James Maddison, cost me 22 points. Ouch.


Still, I am pretty much right around where I expected to be a few weeks ago, sitting at a rank of 55k heading into the final day of the season. At this rank and at this stage, it would appear that my chances of ending with a rank that has a five-digit number is about 99%. Considering the obstacles this season, I believe that is a rank anyone can be happy with. The hope is, I can get one more green arrow and be able to say I finished inside the top 50k. With over nine million participants, not too shabby. Actually, now that I think about it, a 45k finish would be a nice benchmark. With nine million plus managers, that would put my rank inside the top 0.5%.


I had a friend who I play in a mini-league with tell me just a day or two ago, when I asked if he conceded the league yet, given my current lead over him, he had thrown in the towel a few rounds back when I passed him in the ranks. Yet, as he heads into the final day, he is ranked inside the top 100k, if only just. Still, and I mean this to all managers out there - be proud of what you were able to do this season and if you are unhappy with where your final rank is, you have the right to excuse this season as an aberration. Given all the chaos that was at play, luck, both good and bad, had more to do with where everyone winded up than ever before. This is not to take away from anyone’s accomplishment of a very high rank. I just want to somehow, and not in some cheesy overly sentimental way, give a nod to all managers this season. 


I’m sure next season won’t have some major unprecedented curveball our way. Like, what could possibly be next? Shoehorning the World Cup tournament in the middle of the season? That would be absolutely…huh? What’s up? Oh. That IS going to happen? Right, well, get the most out of the summer break that you can, folks. You have earned it.


So, that about does it for an intro. How about what we came here to discuss? Let’s take a look at the final gameweek of the season, then, in this Week 38 edition of Captain Obvious…


Heung-Min Son


When you combine the two factors I think fantasy managers should be looking for when lining up a captain - ease of opponent along with how much the player and his club have to play for - then put them into a computer, it will spit out the words: Tottenham Hotspur.


Spurs are playing Norwich City, the weakest side in the league. The Canaries have been at the very bottom of the table pretty much all season long, they have conceded the most goals in the league while scoring the fewest - not a good combination. Meanwhile, Tottenham need a positive result, at least a draw, to wrap up a top four finish. They can ill-afford this weekend to allow a club like Norwich to pull an upset.


Along with what is at stake for the club, in the case of Heung-Min Son, there are personal achievements on the line as well, as he will head into Sunday just one goal behind Mo Salah in the race for this season’s Golden Boot. I will espouse a little more, but sometimes, when picking a captain, it is best to keep the reasoning simple - arguably the best fantasy player of the past two months, on a team looking to seal a top four finish, facing the worst side of the league who have the worst defensive record and nothing left to play for except a chance to finish 19th instead of 20th…these are the factors that should make the idea of backing Son look extremely wise.


Because it is the final gameweek of the season, and folks who are not happy with their current position, we are going to look at several names for captaincy, and I am not saying I am 100% going to do it myself, but it seems to me on paper, given form, fixture, health and what is on the line, Son appears to be the most logical, the most pragmatic pick of them all. What, if anything, negative can be said about him? That he blanked in his last game? For me, it only increases the likelihood of a haul against Norwich. If you are not looking to manipulate the numbers, as in, if you are not interested in a pick that will feel safe due to a high captaincy rate or a pick that has some high risk/high reward potential for one last big swing at a spike up the ranks…just a solid captaincy pick with all the right factors lined up, here is your man.


Kevin De Bruyne


If I am so keen on Son as a captaincy pick, why am I bothering to add more names? Well, because, first of all, only one in three teams has Son on their roster…somehow. There is also, of course, no guarantees that Son will deliver the goods, so you may want to look elsewhere for a final big haul and, considering his exploits over the past month and change of the season, Kevin De Bruyne does not seem too bad an option, either.


Like Spurs, City have something to play for when they travel to take on Aston Villa, and that is a little something called the LEAGUE TITLE. Yes, in a season where every tournament came up empty for Pep Guardiola’s side, it would be considered a travesty of a campaign if Manchester City fails to wrap up a league title and give it away to Liverpool, the side that HAS won, or is potentially going to win, every piece of hardware out there. This should be a game City wins handily, with whatever XI Pep Guardiola goes with, but considering the situation, he will field his strongest possible side, and that includes KDB, naturally.


So there are a couple of reasons I think KDB makes sense to captain. From a pure numbers perspective, I think for those looking for that extra bit of help in their final attempt to move up in rank, KDB is potentially more useful than Son because his captaincy rate should be considerably lower. De Bruyne has seen considerable investment through the transfer market ahead of this weekend, so he should be in the top 3-5 “most captained” players, certainly for managers inside the top 100k, but he offers a substantial differential to Son, as he is on only about half as many rosters as the South Korean international is.


The other factor that I can see folks leaning toward the Belgian is down to what one personally believes will happen, scoreline-wise, on Sunday. In other words, say City win 1-4 or 1-5 over Villa while Spurs win their match, 0-2. Without knowing anything else about what took place in those games, going by the scoreline only, would you rather have captained Son or de Bruyne? I think most of you would rather back KDB, because more goals means more chance of being involved. So, if that’s the way you see the games going, then maybe backing City makes more sense. After all, they have a reputation for dominating and getting the job done, whereas Spurs are kinda known for either bottling their attempt at success or, at the very least, making it look extremely difficult. (I tell you, if NOR v TOT is 0-0 at the break, I may have to turn the game off)


Right, so to best imitate a broken record, Manchester City have something big to play for. We know, assuming fitness, KDB will surely start. We have seen him explode for huge single-game scores before and we know City can rack up goals, they have more than any club in the league. In fact, they have 96 goals on the season, and I guarantee they know it. So, I could totally see them, once they take control of the match, working to get to at least four goals, so they can hit that nice century mark.


Harry Kane


As is typically the case, in weeks where I think Heung-Min Son is a good captaincy pick, I also think Harry Kane is as well. In fact, sometimes I will group the two together in this column because they are so close to each other in my mind.


So one of the biggest factors that would make me separate the two names, like I have done here ahead of Week 38, is health. Now, according to reports that have surfaced in just the past few hours, Kane is thought to be good to go for Sunday, after earlier reporting had revealed he was absent from training with an illness. The latest scoop, however, makes one believe that Kane will be ready for Norwich and, given the circumstances, we have to agree.


That being said, I do feel that, while an elite option this week for the armband, Kane is a notch below Son in terms of safety. It is not so much that I worry Kane will miss the game, it is that I am worried, should there be any lingering issues, if Spurs get out to a two-goal cushion, might Kane get removed early when the result looks in the bag? Perhaps if we were smack dab in the middle of the season, I would not put so much emphasis on what appears to be a non-issue, but we are talking about picking your last captain of the season. You’d hate for that one roll of the dice to go toward a player that might have his minutes reduced significantly, even if the chances are slim, especially if you have someone like Son you can back instead.


Mo Salah


Which creates a nice segue into my fourth and final “elite” option for the last round of the season - the incomparable Mo Salah. A nice segue, in that Salah is another player who’s fitness is in a bit of question heading into Sunday’s game against Wolves. Salah has been nursing a muscle injury which kept him completely out of action earlier in the week against Southampton. According to Jurgen Klopp, “no risks” will be taken in regards to Salah, or Virgil Van Dijk for that matter, but that, ideally, for the purposes of rhythm ahead of the Champions League final, the Egyptian international would play.


Now, as mentioned in regards to Kane, I am personally not keen on the idea of putting the armband on any player who is at risk of not playing, or at least, not starting, which is actually worse, because if Salah did not play at all, then at least you can turn to your vice-captain rather than a potential one-point cameo doubled to two points. But, as we get closer to the deadline, particularly around lunchtime on Sunday, we may have a better clue as to whether Salah starts or not.


Remember, Salah is protecting a one-goal lead for the Golden Boot. This is not to suggest that Klopp would assist in helping a player reach a personal achievement at the cost of a team objective, which is clearly to put themselves in the best position to win the Champions League final. But, if Salah came through Friday’s training okay and looks even better on Saturday, then in my heart, I think he starts. Liverpool may have a better chance at a Champions League trophy than a league title but a league title is still possible. Hitting the quadruple of the Carabao Cup, FA Cup, Champions League title and Premier League title is still in play for the Reds.


It is situations like this that the very best rise to the occasion and play. Facing a Wolves side that just coughed up five goals to Manchester City less than ten days ago, the Reds hope to score early and often enough to put the pressure on the Citizens in real time. All that said, even though Salah is bound to be among the most-captained player this week across the game, the only situation I would give him the armband is if I got some positive strong rumors before the deadline that he will indeed start. Based on Klopp’s phrasing, I would be extremely worried that if Salah does not start, he will come on for some minutes to prep him for the CL final.


Honorable Mentions


Mason Mount/Reece James/Marcos Alonso


The Chelsea trio are lumped together as I have them very close to one another in terms of strength for captaincy. With their game at home, one could argue that the Blues have the easiest fixture of the day, even more so than Spurs at Norwich, as Chelsea will be hosting lowly Watford. The Hornets have been in a downward spiral for months now, playing far worse since Roy Hodgson took over for Claudio Ranieri back in January.


I think if you are looking for a safe play, where you are guaranteed a minimum of six points doubled, then I think one of James or Alonso is worth backing. I just don’t see Watford scoring in this one. However, if you are expecting to see James to play in a right wingback role, you may be in for disappointment. Perhaps because of his proneness to injury, Thomas Tuchel has been deploying James as the right-sided center back of a back three. Those looking for, and have found in recent weeks, attacking returns coming from one of Chelsea’s defenders, then Alonso is looking the better pick right now, though either could outscore the other this weekend for sure. Meanwhile, if looking for multiple attacking returns, and a player who can be assured to start, then Mason Mount is a solid left-field pick. Remember, Watford just coughed up five goals in their last game versus Leicester. They have no designs on defending anyone. Chelsea could put up a cricket score here and I think they will not have much backing for captaincy among their assets. This could be the best place to look for something flying under most people’s radar.


Jamie Vardy/James Maddison


Fresh off talking about the five goals the Foxes scored last weekend, it feels the right time to mention these two names.


Not that Leicester have much to play for but they have endured a difficult season in the injury department and they are finally getting close to full fitness just in time for the season to be over. Vardy has been one of those that has been sidelined but has exploded since his return, netting two braces in the past ten days. At home against a Southampton defense that looks to have packed it in a few weeks ago, we could be in for another lopsided score here and Vardy would be my top choice to back for a huge haul.


However, considering his recent form, it would be unfair for me to mention Vardy without also mentioning James Maddison. Fresh off a round that included two goals, two assists and five bonus points, clearly Maddison is in peak form. I think Leicester will score at least two, possibly three or more against the Saints and if that is the case, odds are Maddison and Vardy will hook up at least once, with a good shot at multiple returns.


Sadio Mané/Diogo Jota/Luis Díaz


Such talent in the attacking trident for Liverpool, that at least one of these names has to be benched every game, it is incredible. Remember, Roberto Firmino still exists, too.


Again, like with Mo Salah, even though these other Reds are all fit, at least as of this writing, I think it is best to refrain from backing a Liverpool player until we get, and if we get, some clues regarding their lineup on Sunday. Mane is a fantastic differential if we know him to start. Jota might be the most consistent producer of the trio, while Diaz may garner the least amount of trust, but, because he played no part in the last game against Southampton, may be a better bet than anyone to secure a starting role on Sunday. If I had to pick a best option now, it may be Diaz, but if given a peak at the XI, if all three of these guys were to start, I would rank them in the order listed - Mane, Jota, Diaz.


Ivan Toney/Christian Eriksen


Finally, I have to give a nod to the duo from Brentford. At home against a Leeds side who have the second-worst defensive record in the league, giving up just one less goal than Norwich has, I have to think that the Eriksen-Toney connection will be on this weekend.


Toney has three double-digit hauls in the second half of this season, two of them coming against the likes of Burnley and Norwich, so we have a small but telling sample that the striker likes to score big on the clubs at or near the bottom of the table. Eriksen, meanwhile, may be more of a sentimental pick I am making rather than a sensible, non-biased one. But if I have the faith in Toney, then it would stand to reason that a big day for Toney has to include Eriksen. I smell a free kick worldie coming.


I say all this knowing that the game could very well go the way of Leeds. After all, they have the advantage of a reason to play their guts out - they are fighting for survival in the top flight and they need help for it to happen, while the Bees are safe, firmly situated mid-table. I think the home environs for Brentford will give them the edge though and Leeds’ poor defending will once again be their Achilles’ heel. 


Right, that wraps up this final edition of the season for Captain Obvious. What a season this has been. Almost feels like a completely different world than the one we occupied nine or so months ago. Thank you so much for following the column and it continues to be my sincere hope that my musings about captaincy every week has been helpful for you. Remember, I am a mistake-prone human being. As awesome as it would be, I cannot tell you who the best captain will be in a given round every time. But, hopefully, by narrowing the choices down to a few solid nominees and addressing some of the positives and negatives of their selection for the armband, I have provided you some assistance in making that tough decision thirty-eight times a year. It has been, and continues to be, a pleasure to share the highs and lows of another FPL season.


Good luck, and may your last arrow this season be green.

Steve Rothgeb

Steve Rothgeb is a contributor for NBC Sports Edge and WorldSoccerTalk.com, a self-proclaimed fantasy sports oracle, and Tottenham Hotspur fanatic. He can be found on Twitter @FuzzyWarbles.