Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers brace themselves, once again, as reigning champions Manchester City and plucky title challengers Arsenal face off – and play twice – in Double Gameweek 23.
The main event bears the hallmarks of a blockbuster, with its very own master and the apprentice sub-plot, and despite Erling Haaland (£12.2m) appearing as the overwhelming armband favourite, we analyse the latest Premium Members data to solve the captaincy conundrum.
As usual, the Captain Sensible article is here to highlight which assets have the best chance of hauling.
First, we will assess the fallout of the captain poll, before then analysing the best options, Rate My Team (RMT) and the Premier Fantasy Tools ratings ahead of Saturday’s 11:00 GMT deadline.
THE CAPTAIN POLL
Erling Haaland returns to the top of the captain poll in Double Gameweek 23 after a short break, backed by a mite over seven-tenths of the total votes cast by users at the time of writing.
No other player has garnered more than 10% of votes at this stage, with Bukayo Saka (£8.3m) currently in second place, backed by just around one in 11 of our users.
Martin Odegaard (£7.0m) occupies third place with 7.4% of the vote, followed by Eddie Nketiah (£6.8m) and Kevin De Bruyne (£12.4m) further back.
DOUBLE GAMEWEEK CANDIDATES
ERLING HAALAND/KEVIN DE BRUYNE/RIYAD MAHREZ
The summer arrival of Erling Haaland was proclaimed by all and sundry as the death of competition, with the realistic expectation that Manchester City’s dominance would be unassailable.
Haaland has certainly brought goals, 25 goals in just 20 Premier League appearances to be exact, but the Norwegian’s ample returns have papered over the cracks as Guardiola’s side struggle to adapt from tiki-taka to target-man.
Three blanks in Haaland’s last five Premier League matches have led to churlish suggestions that the Nordic sharpshooter is slightly out of form – but his recent hat-trick against Wolves is a stark reminder of his potential.
Haaland’s shot volumes are down over the last six matches, with his 15 attempts bettered by 19 other players.
The Norwegian places in the top four for big chances received (10) and expected goals (xG, 3.94) over that same period.
However, four of Haaland’s five blanks this season have arrived away from home in high-pressure games against the following “big six” opposition – Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Above: Erling Haaland rank second best for big chances received (10) over the last six matches
Kevin De Bruyne dropped to the bench against Tottenham Hotspur in City’s last Premier League outing, with tactical reasons cited as justification for the demotion.
De Bruyne is expected to return to the starting line-up against both Aston Villa and Arsenal who, unlike Spurs, typically play a more traditional back-four formation.
The Belgian was sprung for the bench just before the 60th minute against Spurs and created a match-leading three chances, highlighting the playmaker’s potential.
De Bruyne’s 19 chances created, six big chances supplied, and 15 successful crosses all play in the division’s top three over the last six matches – which suggests that returns will come for City’s underperformer.
Furthermore, City’s midfield maestro tops the charts for expected assists (xA, 3.15) and places a very respectable third for non-penalty involvement (NPxGI, 4.04) over that same period.
Riyad Mahrez (£7.7m) has undergone a timely revival as a Fantasy prospect ahead of Manchester City’s Double Gameweek 23 against Aston Villa and Arsenal.
The mercurial Algerian – usually renowned for his unpredictable and unreliable expected minutes – has started six out of seven Premier League matches for Guardiola’s troops since Gameweek 17.
A secure starting role and Mahrez’s natural ability are a potent combination, and City’s winger highlighted his high-ceiling potential in Double Gameweek 20.
Mahrez scored two goals and supplied an assist against Tottenham Hotspur delivering a 17-point haul in the second fixture.
Since the return to domestic action, Mahrez has registered seven attacking returns, netting three times and turning provider on four occasions, and the Algerian’s point tally (46) over that period is just two fewer than Erling Haaland.
The underlying numbers highlight Mahrez’s all-round potential with his nine shots in the box, 15 chances created, and five big chances supplied all placing in the top three among City teammates since Gameweek 17.
Manchester City’s immediate opponents Aston Villa are revitalised under the new stewardship of Unai Emery. Villa are in buoyant form, winning five of Emery’s first eight Premier League matches, but their defensive underlying numbers are a concern.
Villa place in the bottom two over the last six matches for big chances conceded (20) and non-penalty expected goals conceded (NPxGC, 9.88).
Arsenal host City in the second fixture of Double Gameweek 23 and Arteta’s rear-guard will offer a much sterner test.
The Gunners have registered nine clean sheets this Premier League campaign, a total bettered by only Newcastle United (12), but bizarrely only two shut-outs have arrived at the Emirates Stadium.
Over the last six matches, Arteta’s troops rank third-best for shots inside the box conceded (39) but sit around mid-table for big chances conceded (11) and shots on target against (25).
However, the Gunners rank third-best for non-penalty expected goals conceded (NPxGC, 6.11) despite facing Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United over that six-game period.