For the first time this year, I have included data based purely on the current season as 12 games appears to be a relatively useful sample size. I apply a small adjustment to try and account for the strength of schedule already faced (ie. have you played, and been destroyed by, City yet?) but I'm not sure that is tough enough to make the data really reliable. Hence, I am still leaning on the hybrid (current and prior year) data but it's useful to start factoring in the pure current year rankings at this stage.
Without running through each difference individually, I just want to highlight the difference a season can make. City rank 14th in this week's rankings but would be number one based purely on their 6 road games this year (in which they've scored an astonishing 23 goals despite travelling to Old Trafford, Craven Cottage and White Hart Lane). Given the way the team has changed in personnel (hello, Mr Aguero) and also tactical deployment (hello, attacking play), City might be one team where you would allow your eye to wander to those right hand columns.
I was shocked to see Arsenal so far down on this list but the hard data is what it is and Fulham have been pretty good on the road this year (3 clean sheets and just 6 goals conceded). Of course, the three quality teams they have faced have had plenty of success (Man City 2, Spurs 3, Newcastle 2) but this isn't the cake walk some may imagine. On the flip side, Arsenal have really turned a corner in the last few weeks and they've failed to net twice just once in the last 8 gameweeks. Would this put me off starting or captaining Van Persie? Nope. Which brings us to this week's captain picks.
I could save myself a lot of wear and tear on my keyboard by simply copying and pasting the fact that Van Persie is awesome and is probably your captain pick until further notice. 10 goals in the last 5 gameweeks is Ronaldo-esque and I don't think we've seen this kind of fantasy domination since Rooney in 09/10, or maybe since the Portuguese maestro departed for the Bernabeu. As we noted above, Arsenal's fixture isn't perhaps as easy as one might think, but it's going to take a very brave man to own but yet not captain Van Persie this week (or any other when he's in this kind of form).
Based on the fixture alone, Rooney might be the pick this week. Newcastle are a much improved side from last year, but as the table shows, their improved defense is not enough to quash the strength of United's home scoring prowess. However, United (and Rooney) have slowed down of late though it isn't clear which one's form is affecting the success of the other (probably a bit of both). They've won three in a row following the disastrous derby but none of the performances have inspired too much confidence Rooney is at least back to playing up top, but would you really captain him based on the below:
There are plenty of ways to talk yourself into Rooney this week, unfortunately not too many of them are based on fact. Throw in a (decreasing) chance of Rooney not being fit and the decision quickly turns into an easy one.
What you make of the City options this week really depends on how much stock you put in current year compared to prior year. Prior year data suggests City will slow down and struggle a bit at Anfield, while the current year data suggests Dalglish's men will be cast aside like every other team City have faced this year. In truth it's probably somewhere in the middle. City won't average almost 4 GPG away from home this year, but equally they don't look likely to return to last season's conservative side who often settled for clean sheets and the odd goal on the road. Aguero played just 8 minutes in midweek and will surely get a start here for Mancini's men. For all Van Persie's heroics of late, the Argentine has been as good for most the year and his goals at Old Trafford and White Hart Lane suggest he isn't going to be phased by a trip to Anfield. Silva did feature in midweek but he was given the week off last week so you'd like to think he'll back in the side here. I love Silva this year, and have been on the record before the season as listing him as my number one player to own, but his (and City's upside) is surely limited this week
Chelsea look great this based on current and prior year data but who would you back to even start, never mind have success? Lampard is enjoying a very good (and surprisingly unheralded) fantasy season and the 5% of managers who own him should at least consider Lampard for the armband this week. Ultimately though, Lampard has dropped 5 games with 2 or less points and Chelsea just don't look very good right now. I thought they had turned the corner after the big wins against Swansea and Bolton but until they settle on how, and who, they want to play, this team appears doomed to inconsistency this year: not good for your captain option.
Sorry there isn't more to say on the captain picks but in essence it comes down to the logical pick (Van Persie) or a risky (but justifiable) option from Manchester. You can't go wrong with any of the above picks but for me it's too hard to resist Van Persie at the moment.
As always, post your thoughts or comments below or @plfantasy and I'll try to address as many as I can before the weekly deadline (you've probably got a better chance on Twitter).