FPL Gameweek 23 – Captain Picks

Mohamed Salah’s consistency may be hard to overlook this weekend, particularly if both of Crystal Palace’s first-choice goalkeepers are sidelined. Paul Pogba’s returns since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment have been outstanding, Eden Hazard could be afforded room to manoeuvre by Arsenal and Leroy Sane faces a manager-less Huddersfield. With Harry Kane ruled out, Dele Alli is our differential option this gameweek as Spurs travel to take on Fulham.


Mohamed Salah (£13.4m) vs Crystal Palace (H)

The Liverpool star notched a fourth double-figure haul in five gameweeks after slotting home a self-won penalty against Brighton and bagging maximum bonus points. With Xherdan Shaqiri (£7.1m) back in Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI, Salah returned to the centre-forward role in what is a fluid attacking unit. The Egyptian managed three shots against the Seagulls, hitting the target twice while missing a big chance late on. He also supplied three key passes for his team-mates in a game where Liverpool struggled to break down a stubborn Brighton outfit.

It could be a very similar match for the Reds in GW23 as Crystal Palace roll up to Anfield. Roy Hodgson’s men sat extremely deep in their 3-2 GW18 win away to Manchester City, effectively frustrating the hosts by leaving little room for attackers to work in. Despite that, the Eagles have conceded 17 times (of 28 total) on the road this season.

Salah has scored half of his 14 goals on home turf, while he boasts a points-per-match figure of 8.85 against non-top-six sides at Anfield this campaign. He has scored six goals, recorded three assists and accumulated three bonus points in games against those teams.

Current Palace No 1 Vicente Guaita (£4.2m) was forced off with injury in GW22 as Hodgson’s men led 1-0 at home to Watford. The Eagles conceded twice following the introduction of Wayne Hennessey (£4.5m), who reportedly picked up a quad-muscle injury in the 2-1 defeat. Both the Welshman and Guaita could miss a month of action. Palace are hoping to sign Brazilian stopper Lucas Perri, 21, from Sao Paulo while 39-year-old Julian Speroni (£3.9m) looks set to start between the sticks this weekend.

With Klopp likely to continue with a two-man central midfield in games against more defensive opposition, the Reds' first-choice penalty taker James Milner (£5.6m) is far from a certain starter. However, Georginio Wijnaldum's (£5.5m) potential GW23 absence would benefit the Englishman, while Milner is also an option at right-back with Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.2m) ruled out for up to four weeks. Salah’s armband credentials remain strong even if penalties are off the table, as Harry Kane's (£12.6m) injury means the Liverpool midfielder will be even more heavily captained than expected.

Leroy Sane (£9.6m) vs Huddersfield (a)

With Gabriel Jesus (£10.1m) set to rival Sergio Aguero (£11.2m) for pitch time, Sane pips Raheem Sterling (£11.3m) as our Man City captain of choice in GW23. The German was withdrawn after 73 minutes of the Citizens’ 3-0 win at home to Wolves last night, with the England attacker completing the game.

While trying to predict Pep Guardiola’s XI in a given gameweek is supremely difficult, Sane might be the more secure option this Sunday due to that substitution.The left winger has started all but one of City’s league fixtures since GW13. That run coincides with the absence of Benjamin Mendy (£6.2m), who is not expected back in action for at least another week.

Sane took four off-target shots (two in the box, three blocked) against a 10-man Wolves at the Etihad while also supplying two key passes, including the assist for the first of Jesus’ two goals. The attacker also picked up two bonus points for his efforts.

The 12.5%-owned midfielder has posted attacking returns in six of those nine starts from GW13. Away to non-top-six teams over the season (six fixtures), Sane has returned an average of six points per match. That includes two sub appearances totalling 19 minutes, with the German tallying 10.5 points per 90 over those six outings.

With David Wagner leaving Huddersfield Town yesterday, first-team coach Mark Hudson will take charge for the visit of City. Terriers chairman Dean Hoyle said: “I’ve asked Mark Hudson to take this weekend’s Premier League game against Manchester City. He knows how to play our game at its best and he knows the squad, so he’s perfectly placed to do so. Along with the technical staff, we’ll give him all the support we can ahead of the game.”

While containment is likely to be the name of Huddersfield’s game against the Citizens, Guardiola’s men have scored eight times in the past three gameweeks after losing form over Christmas. Sane’s returns against ‘lesser’ opposition and pitch-time potential promote the 23-year-old attacker in our armband thinking this weekend.

Paul Pogba (£8.5m) vs Brighton (H)

The Frenchman recorded an assist in GW22 by setting up Marcus Rashford (£7.4m) for the only goal in Manchester United’s 1-0 win away to Spurs on Sunday.

Pogba was at the heart of the Red Devils’ excellent first-half attacking display and took six shots (five on target) over the 90 minutes. Four of those on-target efforts were inside the box, while the midfielder also made three key passes.

On his new-found attacking freedom under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Pogba said: “The manager has told me to get in the box and get goals because I will score goals if I am in the box. My best example is Frank Lampard, he is the one who makes those runs, makes a lot of chances and scores a lot of goals. If I can do that and obviously the players help me, but if I am in the box then I can be involved in the play and get the ball to someone else but at least I am there in the box.”

With four goals and five fantaasy assists since ‘OGS’ took over at Old Trafford, Pogba is proving to be a fantasy gem. Up against a Brighton side that have let in 18 goals on their travels, the World Cup winner will be aiming to post a third consecutive double-figure haul on home turf.

Chris Hughton’s side are allowing opponents just over 15 shots per game so far this season, an average which increases to 17.5 when looking at away matches only. The Seagulls did restrict Liverpool to 10 efforts on goal at the Amex last weekend, though eight of those (including Salah’s penalty) were taken inside the box.

While Pogba’s team-mate Rashford is also a worthy captain candidate in GW23, the France star pips the striker in our captain picks due to his goal involvement, centrality to United’s attack and more-or-less guaranteed 90 minutes in a given gameweek.

Eden Hazard (£11.1m) vs Arsenal (a)

The Belgian returned to the ‘false nine’ role in GW22, providing the assist for Willian’s winner as Chelsea beat Newcastle 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. That was Hazard’s only key pass of the game, while his sole attempt on goal against the Magpies was blocked.

Despite a lacklustre attacking display, Maurizio Sarri is keen to continue using his star player in that centre-forward role. Following the Blues’ win, the Italian said: “At the moment in the defensive phase we are doing very well and one of the reasons, in my opinion, is that Eden is playing in that position. In the second half my feeling was that he enjoyed it.”

Sarri added: “I played him there because I wanted to see the solution with the three small players. I think that at this moment it is a very good solution because we are not less dangerous in the offensive phase. And in the defensive phase we are more balanced. In the last six matches we have conceded only three goals and one was a penalty. Now we need to improve attacking in the box when the ball is out of the box. It is impossible for Eden to stay in the box.”

While those comments are not particularly encouraging for Hazard owners in the long term, the Belgium star has a PPM average of 5 against top-six sides this season. Four of those fixtures were at home, while the midfielder blanked against Man Utd (H) and Spurs (a). Hazard has also scored 26 points in the last four gameweeks, 15 of which came away to Watford in GW19.

Chelsea are likely to be afforded more space to attack against Arsenal on Saturday than they were allowed by Crystal Palace, Southampton and Newcastle. Unai Emery has recently favoured a wing-back system, which should give Sarri’s forwards the opportunity to counter-attack against a three-man central defence.

Hazard has scored five goals and set up two in 14 Chelsea appearances against Arsenal (all competitions). Emery’s outfit are tighter at the Emirates this season, conceding just 10 of 32 goals on home turf, though they have been breached eight times in the past four gameweeks. Over half of those were shipped in a 5-1 hammering at Liverpool in GW20.

The Gunners are also conceding just over 12 shots on average per fixture, with West Ham managing 11 attempts (seven inside the box) against the north London side in GW22. With the possibility of more space to attack in GW23 and a decent record against ‘bigger’ sides this season, Hazard is at least worth a mention in the captaincy debate this week.


Dele Alli (£8.9m) vs Fulham (a)

With team-mate Kane out of action until March at least, differential Dele becomes our Spurs pick of choice for the armband this weekend. The midfielder fired off four attempts against Man Utd in GW22 – all of which were taken inside the box – hitting the target three times. One of those efforts was a big chance saved by David de Gea (£5.7m). Alli also made one key pass as Tottenham failed to convert numerous chances at Wembley.

Moussa Sissoko (£4.9m) is another injury concern for Mauricio Pochettino, with Christian Eriksen (£9.3m) forced to drop deep in a 4-2-3-1 for the second half of the defeat to the Red Devils. If both the Frenchman and Kane miss the trip to Craven Cottage this weekend, Alli appears a more attractive armband option than the Dane due to being stationed higher up the pitch. Heung-Min Son (£8.7m) is also not available after flying out to compete in the Asian Cup.

Spurs’ GW23 opponents Fulham are conceding an average of 15 efforts on goal per game (11.7 at home). Claudio Ranieri’s men have shipped eight times in the past four gameweeks, though two of those were own goals in a 2-1 loss to Burnley last Saturday. The Cottagers have improved defensively in recent weeks in terms of shots on target conceded, though the 10 big chances allowed to Arsenal on New Year’s Day suggests a defensive collapse is always possible for the league’s 19th-placed side.

Alli, who is having a quiet season FPL-wise, has scored two of his four goals this season over his last six starts. Both of those strikes were netted in away fixtures. The attacking midfielder looks nailed-on for sustained pitch time considering Spurs’ injury issues, while Pochettino could be relying on the England man to chip in with goals and assists with Kane ruled out for an extended period of time. A trip to Fulham could be the perfect game for the 2.9%-owned midfielder to begin beefing up his tallies.