The Armband: FPL Gameweek 23 Captain Rankings
The Armband: FPL Gameweek 23 Captain Rankings

This article is part of our The Armband series.

After a hectic few weeks in the Premier League, it's nice to return to a normal schedule. With more than a week off (in league play), one would expect most players to be healthy, but that's not the case with numerous ones battling injury including Eden Hazard, Mohamed Salah and Jamie Vardy.

But before we look ahead, let's look back at the matches that came before the break. Coming off back-to-back hat tricks, Harry Kane failed many on a double gameweek with zero goals. In fact, most Spurs were a disappointment, with Christian Eriksen only tallying one assist in his two matches. While these guys can put up huge numbers, they've been inconsistent most of the season.

Outside of Kane, there doesn't seem to be a forward who is more in form than the rest. Roberto Firmino was on a scoring run, but he didn't start at Burnley and couldn't find the score sheet in a home win against Leicester. Sergio Aguero has the starting gig locked down, but he failed to score in away matches against Newcastle and Crystal Palace. Romelu Lukaku will look to return to form after playing only 13 minutes in United's last two matches due to a head injury.

In midfield, Raheem Sterling and Salah have been a head above the rest, but they aren't the only ones finding success. Kevin De Bruyne is always around the top of the list, while Riyad Mahrez has scored or assisted in eight of his last nine starts and Son Heung-Min has five goals and four assists in his last eight starts.

Marcos Alonso remains atop the defending rankings after scoring three times in his last five, with Nicolas Otamendi his biggest challenger outside of teammate Cesar Azpilicueta.

The biggest question coming out of the break may end up being what Liverpool will look like without Philippe Coutinho. There's no doubt his loss could make an immediate impact in the attack, with someone like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain possibly moving into a bigger role. Coutinho had 12 goals and eight assists in 19 appearances with the Reds this season and he'll surely be missed.

For Gameweek 23, you'll likely want to avoid any Liverpool player in a home match against Man City. In addition to the absence of Coutinho, City's defense has been better on the road this season, allowing only five goals. On the other side, City will be equally hard to trust given that they've scored two in their last three away matches and Liverpool have allowed four at Anfield all season.

In terms of finding a captain, there are much better places to look this gameweek. Chelsea (v. Leicester), Spurs (v. Everton) and Man United (v. Stoke) are all at home in decent spots. The best of those is United considering that Stoke have allowed 27 away goals, including five each at Tottenham and Chelsea.

I'm not the biggest Lukaku backer given his lack of form since September, but this is as good as it gets, and he had three shots on goal the last time these sides met. If you don't own Lukaku, any number of Red Devils could also be looked at for the armband. Paul Pogba is always around the ball and has 14 shots and eight chances created in his last four starts. Juan Mata is in the same range with 10 shots and 11 chances created in that period. Jesse Lingard is the most potent of them all, at least from a scoring sense with four goals and 15 shots in his last five appearances. If United go for at least three goals, he could be the biggest benefactor.

Production from Chelsea has been inconsistent, so I'd be wary of giving the armband to Hazard or Alvaro Morata. Hazard is dealing with a calf issue, so that's also a worry. He has one goal in his last seven starts and has been behind Morata in terms of shots on target and chances created in that period.

Most fantasy bosses will return to Kane because why not? Everton have lost their last three, allowing two goals in each. While Kane's extremely boom or bust, he's had at least three shots on goal in five of his last six starts. Eriksen returned to form in December, but he lacks the upside of Kane. In fact, due to that lack of upside, Son may be the better option.

Arsenal are on the road but get a side that has given up 10 goals in their last four home matches, including four to Liverpool. The Cherries have somewhat fallen apart in the fixture influx, and that means Alexis Sanchez could have a nice day before leaving the club. While he hasn't produced as consistently as a season ago, he's getting as many shots off and creating more chances, so the goals and assists will come eventually. With Mesut Ozil still a question, Alexis is the only place I'd turn for the Gunners.

For a differential captain, there are a number of choices with a lot of smaller clubs having decent matchups. The best places to turn should be Newcastle and Watford given that Swansea and Southampton have given up a combined 29 goals in their last 12 matches. That said, there's no reason to put faith in a Newcastle player whether it's Christian Atsu or Joselu. Watford may be easier to back since it's usually the same guys who find the score sheet, with Richarlison at the top of the list followed by a forward, which is looking like Andre Gray for this one.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam Zdroik
Adam writes on sports ranging from NFL and MLB to soccer and college basketball. Outside of writing, he has worked with a professional soccer team, Sporting Kansas City, and in the stats department at ESPN. He is a former Streak for the Cash winner and Michigan State graduate.
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