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FPL tips: How top bosses pick their captain

Sheffield United v Leicester City – Premier League – Bramall Lane
(Image credit: Laurence Griffiths)

Selecting your captain is one of the key decisions that Fantasy Premier League managers face each week, but how do you make the right choice?

To help answer that question, we have taken a look at a sample of 1,000 managers with multiple top-10,000 finishes to see if there are any patterns to their captaincy choices.

Clear candidates

A graphic showing the most common captain picks by top Fantasy Premier League managers in gameweeks one to 12

The first thing which becomes apparent is that the elite aren’t going for madcap leftfield choices – there are just seven players who account for more than 90 per cent of their captaincy choices this season.

Mohamed Salah leads the way among the elite, having been selected to have his points doubled 3,587 times across the first 12 gameweeks. Those picks are not spread evenly across the season however.

He may have been chosen as captain in 757 of the 1,000 teams in our sample in the most recent gameweek and by a whopping 851 when Liverpool faced Sheffield United in gameweek six, but there have been four weeks when he was captained by fewer than 50.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah reacts during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool

(Peter Powell/PA)

One of those occasions was when he was sidelined with Covid-19, but the others came when Liverpool faced the resolute defences of Manchester City, Chelsea and Wolves.

So while there are clear favourites for the armband, you certainly don’t have to stick with your captain through thick and thin.

No easy games?

Everton’s Abdoulaye Doucoure (right) celebrates scoring his side’s third goal of the game during the Premier League match at Craven Cottage, London

(Julian Finney/PA)

Fulham are the most popular opponent for a top manager’s captain, taking care of more than 20 per cent of picks.

They are one of only four teams whose total is higher than 10 per cent – the most popular captain in each of the last three gameweeks has been facing the Cottagers.

A graphic showing the most common opponents of top Fantasy Premier League managers' captains

With just two wins, one clean sheet and the second-worst defence in the division 12 games in, that should come as no surprise.

At the other end of the scale, there are five opponents who account for less than 1.1% of captain choices between them – the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham.

Musical chairs

Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne sporting a Stonewall Rainbow Laces armband during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester

(Dave Thompson/PA)

Finally, captain choice clearly shapes transfer strategy – more than half of the top dogs who put their trust in Salah against Fulham didn’t own him the previous week.

There were even larger moves towards Kevin De Bruyne in GW3, when 521 of the top managers went from not owning the Belgian to having him lead their teams – meanwhile 643 of our elite managers brought in Bruno Fernandes just in time for his 11-point haul against West Brom in GW9.

A graphic showing how often top Fantasy Premier League managers captain a newly-signed player

The basic blueprint sounds simple enough: pick a top player who is facing an easy opponent. But don’t be afraid to jettison last week’s choice in order to bring in a new leader.

That advice might well be prudent for anybody who is not currently carrying De Bruyne ahead of a visit from West Brom.