How to pick a captain in FPL?

Who to captain in FPL? That is the question that milions of Fantasy Premier League managers ask themselves 38 times in one season.

They all know that captaincy is one of the most important things for success in this competitions.

We have a lot in our minds about this topic, so we decided to present our own system – our own decision-making process – of selecting a captain in FPL.

Here it is. 

System for deciding who to captain in FPL

Let’s look at what we consider to be the most important factors when deciding who to captain in FPL.

For us, picking the right captain is about:

  • 60 % Fixture
  • 30 % Player’s historical reliability
  • 10 % Stats

The fixture (60 %)

The fixture is far the most important factor for us when picking the captain.

Because the fixture is the only thing we can predict with 100 % certainty.

We do not know who will score in the next gameweek, or who will continue in his form etc. We can only guess these things with probabilities. 

But every gameweek, we know the fixtures. We know who plays against who. With 100 % certainty. That is the ONLY thing we can really predict in FPL. 

Stats (and form) (10 %)

We do not really consider form and stats to be important factors for captaincy. Because stats measure past performance. We can use them for predicting (guessing) the future, but only to some distinct. Stats will NEVER tell us something about the future gameweeks with 100 % certainty (only fixture list will!). Stats are mainly useful for ex-post analysis. Not ex-ante!

So, because of this reason, there is only little room for stats and form in our process of deciding who to captain in FPL.

Stats are helpful for evaluating player performance in the recent matches. But they measure the past. We can only evaluate player’s past performance with stats and not the future performance. It is an ex-post analysis. Although stats are great for gaining an insight about the player, their use for predicting the output of just a single match is questionable. It is similar to financial investing, where we often come across the label: “Past performance is no guarante of future results.”

The only thing we can analyze and evaluate ex-ante (froward looking analysis) is the fixture.

However, here comes the tricky part. You can not look just at the opponent when evaluating the fixture. You also must look at the team your captain contender plays for.

Then, to eliminate short term variance and noise that we are seeing in short term stats (for example in stats from five or six gameweeks), we consider the long-term history of the player. We are picking players who have long term history of scoring, and stability of scoring behind them. And only then we look at the stats.

Players reliability (30 %)

We like to captain a player who is a proven FPL asset – a reliable pick based on his historical performance in last seasons. 

With a reliable player – we mean a player that is able to score 200+ points in a season. Usually (but not always), a midfielder, because he has a higher points ceiling due to the extra point for a goal and extra point for a clean sheet.

So, at the end of the day…

Our captain is usually a reliable premium midfielder with a 9+ million price tag that has very easy fixture.

Tips for picking FPL captain

So, now you know what factors matter when deciding who to captain in FPL. However, selecting the right captain is a process. So, let’s put these ideas into 4 steps you should take every gameweek.

1. Set standout fixtures in current gameweek

For us, the captaincy starts with fixtures (not form or player’s reliability).

Before every gameweek, we select three standout captaincy fixtures – usually easy fixtures, where a strong team from the top half of Premier League faces a team from the bottom half of the table. 

Now, this is where we use stats a bit (that 10% mentioned). You must be able to identify which teams are strong and which teams are the “whipping boys”. We usually decide about that based on xG data from Understat.  

2. Do your due diligence

Now when we have the fixtures, we look for the most reliable players from those strong teams based on their points from previous seasons.

We are looking for players that managed to score 200+ points in previous campaigns. (However, it is not always that easy – Salah was an amazing captain in all games during his first Liverpool season).

Then we pick the captain that we think has the highest chance of scoring 7+ points. That is our aim. 7 extra points every gameweek, that is 266 extra points in a season.

Now, this part is always up to you. You must do your own due diligence, look at the team stats, the fixtures, the history of players, and come up with the winner – the one you will put the armband on.

But, there is one more thing to that… You must avoid information overload. 

3. Avoid information overload

Many times, when we have so many good captaincy options in one gameweek, we, FPL managers, face an information overload, we overthink it and cause ourselves a headache. 

However, at the end of the gameweek, it may not matter, because all of those players may end up with a similar amount of points.

Information overload is something that you want to avoid in the FPL. So do not put too much time into switching the captaincy from one player to another and so on.

If you expect the same output from two or three players then it does not matter who you pick, because…

YOU CANNOT PREDICT THE FUTURE.

So, when the expected output of players is the same, just pick one, and let the variance handle the future.

4. Stick to captain you picked and "do not worry about it"

Once you picked a captain (after well-thought process we described) stick to him and do not worry about the captaincy anymore UNLESS there is some change in the initial conditions. 

It will save you a lot of time that you can spend on solving other FPL issues or to forget about FPL for a little bit until next gameweek starts

However…

If there is a change to initial conditions (some players get injured etc), you must do it all over again.

Bonus point: Never pick a captain based on your feelings

There is one more thing I would like to mention regarding the captain selection.

But you will hate me for it…

Some people say that when picking the right captain, you should “go with your guts”. In my opinion, that is the WORST you could do.

Let me explain.

Imagine that you want to invest in stocks, and your financial advisor tells you, that you should buy the one stock that he has a good feeling about.

He does not do his research, no fundamental and technical analysis, but he has the feeling that this is THE stock and that this time it will work out. Would you buy it? Would you trust him? Of course not.

“Guts” and feelings will never bring you success in the financial market and neither in the FPL.

Regarding investing in stocks and trading, doing emotional decisions only leads to blowing up your account and losing money. Unfortunately, I know what I am talking about…

That is why having a stone disciplinestrategy and system in place will always pay off in the long run when deciding who to captain in FPL (and in other areas of life as well).

And in the long run, it also helps you to beat all those FPL managers who do decisions based on their guts. Sometimes they are correct when they captain Calumn Wilson for his 16 pts hall. But this decision – that brought them these 16 points – is the same kind of a decision that will bring them 1 or 2 points return in some other gameweeks. Let them have their small wins.

Consistency is what really counts.

You want to focus on stable 7+ points captain returns every gameweek rather than shooting for the moon.

Good luck.

Matej

Fantasy Football enthusiast with two top 1k finishes in FPL. Best FPL overall rank: 119th in 2019/20 season. Four top 500 finishes in UCL Fantasy, best overall rank: 23rd in 2018/19 season. Founder of Fantasy Football Reports.

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