Fantasy football round 17: Selecting your captain is not down to luck

While there is a degree of randomness and good fortune in any fantasy sports game, there is also a significant element of skill and judgement. Which is why every year, as the season progresses, you typically see the same names gravitating towards the top of any leagues you are a member of. Good managers make their own luck – as the golfer Gary Player once said:

The harder I practice, the luckier I get.

(I say this with the smugness of someone who moved to the top of all five leagues he is a member of last week. Hey, let me enjoy it while I can!)

In some respects, it is easy to see where the skilful application of thorough knowledge and research can be applied. Swapping injured, suspended or out-of-form players for those who are available and playing well, for instance. Or a good knowledge of who each team’s creative midfielders or set-piece takers are. Yes, there is still an element of luck involved, but a little knowledge can go a long way in terms of making your own luck.

In other parts of the game, though, there does appear to be a much more random element at play. For instance, why is it you always seem to end up picking the wrong player as your captain every week when the manager at the top of your league more often than not has a high-scorer as their skipper? That’s just bad luck, right?

Wrong. Of course, there is a degree of pot luck, just as there is in every other part of the game. But by applying a little bit of science, you can certainly improve your chances of earning a significant double-score bonus from your captain more often.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s do a quick bit of analysis looking at the highest-scoring player(s) in each of the 16 gameweeks so far, and see if we can spot any patterns in terms of who your ideal captain would have been in any given round of matches.

Analysis © Tim Liew, from Fantasy Premier League data. Any errors are my own

The first thing to note is that, of the 21 players who have been the highest or joint-highest scorer in a gameweek, all but two have been forwards or midfielders. Unless you have a very good reason for doing so, you should never make a goalkeeper or defender your captain – and even if you do have a good reason, you should seriously reconsider.

In terms of which team the top points-scorer plays for, it should come as little surprise that the only two teams who have provided at least three ‘top scorers’ are also the top two in the league – Arsenal and Manchester United. Indeed, more often than not – 12 out of 21 times, or 57% – the highest-scoring player in a gameweek will play for one of the top five clubs.

Conversely, the opponent against whom the top scorer accumulates their points is most likely to come from a team in the bottom half of the table – this has been true on 71% (15 of 21) of occasions.

Finally – and perhaps most significantly – home advantage is a significant factor in high scoring. Again, 71% of a gameweek’s highest scorers have had the benefit of playing at home.

So the basic principles you should apply when selecting your captain each week are as follows:

  • Ignore your defenders and goalkeeper – always select one of your forwards or midfielders.
  • Examine the fixture list. If possible, find a suitable match-up where a top five side is playing a team from the lower reaches of the table.
  • Prioritise players whose teams are playing at home over those who have an away match, even if that means nominating what would otherwise be your second or third-choice option as your captain.

Finally, you should also pay attention to who would become your captain in the event that they do not play for some reason. Be aware of who would be selected according to your ’emergency captain strategy’, as denoted in the drop-down box below the captain selection box. Your back-up captain will be selected on the basis of either their current transfer value or form (you can check this quickly by selecting the ‘data view’ tab at the top of your team screen). Using the same principles above, toggle between these two options to give you the best possible alternative.

Of course, the chances are you are probably already using many of these principles instinctively just by applying common sense – mostly, they are fairly obvious, except perhaps for the degree to which playing at home matters. But if you adhere to these rules consciously, you will maximise your ‘luck’ in picking up extra captaincy points more consistently, which could easily result in an extra 50 points or more over the course of a season.

Previous posts in the Fantasy Football series:

Ten tips to boost your score

Don’t panic!

Improving your squad

The importance of formations

A question of rotation

Following and bucking trends

The top 20 forwards

In-form midfielders

Defenders’ goals are vanity, clean sheets are sanity

Goalkeepers make saves – and savings?

Following the form book

Looking ahead

Scraping the bottom of the barrel

30 not-so-random questions


About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

2 Responses to Fantasy football round 17: Selecting your captain is not down to luck

  1. Pingback: Fantasy football round 18: Five tips for the rest of the season « The armchair sports fan

  2. Kudos for the great piece of writing. I am glad I have taken the time to read this.

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