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31 Dec 2018 by Colm Hayes

FPL Gameweek 21 – Captain Picks

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Rotation worries are plentiful ahead of tomorrow’s deadline at 11.30am, so this is a gameweek where choosing your vice-captain could be just as important as who gets the armband. We assess four leading captaincy contenders and one differential choice for Gameweek 21.

PREMIUM OPTIONS

Eden Hazard (£11.1m) vs Southampton (H)

Back in his more familiar wide-left position for GW20, Hazard failed to return points against a stubborn Crystal Palace defence. The Belgian took just one off-target shot at Selhurst Park, while supplying three key passes.

The third most-captained player for Gameweek 20, Hazard frustrated his legion of owners but came close to recording a brace of FPL assists as Chelsea twice struck the post from set-plays involving the No 10.

At home to a leaky Southampton side, Hazard should find himself with greater scoring opportunities in GW21. The Saints are without a clean sheet under Ralph Hasenhuttl, conceding nine goals in five games since the Austrian took over at St Mary’s.

Southampton will also be without the influential Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£4.4m), who saw red yesterday as the Saints lost 3-1 to Manchester City.

The south coast side allowed the Citizens 14 shots in that clash, 12 of which were attempted inside the penalty area. Both Huddersfield (GW18) and West Ham (GW19) tallied 16 goal attempts against Hasenhuttl’s team.

Olivier Giroud (£7.7m) is out of GW21 with an ankle injury - the France striker was pictured leaving Selhurst Park on crutches. However, Hazard may not be set for an immediate return to the ‘false nine’ role with Alvaro Morata (£8.4m) fit again. The Spanish forward was Giroud’s second-half replacement against Palace. With Pedro (£6.3m) also sidelined and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£5.2m) doubtful after missing out yesterday with injury, Morata looks a decent bet for a start.

But whatever his position, Hazard is one of several great captaincy options this gameweek. Chelsea’s resident spot-kick taker still boasts 33 points over the club’s last four fixtures, while the Blues’ injury list suggests a night off for the talismanic midfielder is unlikely in Gameweek 21.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m) vs Fulham (H)

An underwhelming performance in Arsenal’s 5-1 hammering at Anfield on Saturday has caused many Aubameyang owners to jump ship.

However, the striker has already proved to some previous owners that patience is required – having returned just an assist in three starts after a 16-point score in GW14, ‘Auba’ bagged a brace at home to Burnley in GW18. Fulham (43) are the only team to have conceded more goals than the Clarets (41) this season.

The Whites do boast two clean sheets in the last three gameweeks, though the Claudio Ranieri version of Fulham continue to concede plenty of attempts on goal. The Italian’s outfit allowed 32 shots (18 in the box) in those three fixtures, while the team’s average concession per game is just over 15 attempts.

Having started every league fixture since GW10, rotation fears over Aubameyang – who came off after 70 minutes against Liverpool – are natural. But with Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£6.7m) sidelined and Mesut Ozil (£8.0m) a big GW21 doubt due to a knee injury, competition for places in the Arsenal attack is slightly diluted. The Gunners also have an FA Cup tie against Blackpool following this gameweek, which should afford Unai Emery the chance to rest his star players.

Aubameyang still sits joint-top of the Premier League scoring charts, level with Kane and Mohamed Salah (£13.3m) on 13 goals. All but two of those strikes have come against teams outside the top six. A start tomorrow could see patient owners rewarded, particularly those brave enough to hand ‘Auba’ the armband. Even if the forward is benched, two of his four double-figure hauls have come as a substitute.

MID-PRICED CANDIDATES

Heung-Min Son (£8.8m) vs Cardiff (a)

While Harry Kane (£12.6m) got Spurs’ only GW20 goal, Son’s four shots and three key passes see the South Korean edge out the striker in the captain picks for the second gameweek in a row. Son assisted that Kane wonderstrike, which was the forward’s only goal attempt of the game. Tottenham looked extremely tired in a lacklustre second-half showing which saw Wolves leave Wembley with a 3-1 victory.

Following the defeat, Mauricio Pochettino told BBC Sport: “We have had a very good run in the last few weeks and to keep that level is difficult. We tried to play a little more in the second half, but we were too direct and I think we started to pay for the effort in the other games. We are not machines. We need to understand that we cannot get ourselves in this situation.”

Those comments suggest rotation will occur for the trip to Wales tomorrow, though attempting to predict who Poch might rest is another story altogether. Son owners will be hoping the midfielder’s post-GW22 departure to the Asian Cup means he is not spared at the Cardiff City stadium.

The attacker’s GW20 assist means he has now returned points in each of his last seven starts – three of those saw Son post double-figure returns. Cardiff shut Leicester out at the King Power on Saturday but did allow the Foxes 16 shots (six inside the box). Palace failed to score against the Bluebirds in GW19 despite totalling 31 goal attempts, 22 of which came inside the penalty area.

A third clean sheet in a row for Neil Warnock’s men would be a huge surprise. Cardiff have let in 20 of 38 goals on their home patch, while Spurs were last kept scoreless by Man City back in GW10. Son, who was rotated to the bench in GW17, is currently playing a very advanced role and is well placed to return points once more if named in Pochettino’s starting XI.

Paul Pogba (£8.2m) vs Newcastle (a)

An 18-point haul rewarded owners who handed Pogba the armband for Bournemouth’s visit to Old Trafford. The Frenchman’s assist was slightly fortunate considering Romelu Lukaku (£10.7m) was offside for Man United’s fourth goal, but the midfielder did also hit the post in search of a hat-trick.

Following the 4-1 win against the Cherries, Pogba was asked what has changed for the Red Devils in terms of style under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The France star said: “It's different. We won games with the old manager, so it's just a different style of playing. We're more offensive, we create more chances, but we try to play like that. It's how we want to play, we want to attack. The manager wants to attack and that's what we are doing.”

An attacking United side can only be good news for FPL bosses, with Pogba the current lynchpin of a free-flowing team. Solskjaer’s side now travel to take on a Newcastle outfit that have conceded 15 times in 10 home games, with the Magpies losing seven of those fixtures.

Set to be the most-bought player for a second consecutive gameweek, Pogba will be aiming to post a fourth double-figure score in a row. While Rafa Benitez could again set up with a back five in an attempt to stifle United’s creativity, the Frenchman and his team-mates look extremely difficult to stop on current form.

DIFFERENTIAL CHOICE

Gerard Deulofeu (£5.5m) vs Bournemouth (a)

The Spaniard gets the nod as GW21’s differential pick after scoring 29 points in four starts since GW17. Deulofeu assisted Abdoulaye Doucoure’s (£5.9m) late equaliser for the Hornets against Newcastle on Saturday. That made it two goals and two assists over four gameweeks for the winger, who has only blanked against Chelsea since earning a place in Javi Gracia’s starting XI.

Watford travel to play a Bournemouth side that have conceded 11 goals since GW17, though the Cherries did shut out Brighton at the Vitality in GW18. Since then, Eddie Howe has lost Simon Francis (£4.4m) to a long-term knee injury while the ever-present Nathan Ake (£5.0m) hobbled off in the loss to Man Utd yesterday. On his team’s defending, Howe said post-match: “Defensively we weren't great, with the ball we weren't great and that's a bad mix coming to Old Trafford. They played in the way we expected but we didn't with them well, we didn't defend crosses well and allowed them too much time.”

Watford last failed to score in GW14, while their opponents’ issues at the back should allow players such as Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra (£6.3m) opportunities to increase their FPL tallies. Owned by just 1.8%, the Spanish midfielder is the ultimate differential for any managers who want to take a big risk with the captaincy.

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