As yet another painstakingly long international break is set to come to a close, it’s time to pick our captains for Gameweek 8. I take a look and analyze my top 3 contenders for the armband.
1. Harry Kane (vs BOU H)
It seems impossible to look past Kane for this week, if you own him. This is the perfect storm of the ideal form, fixture, pedigree and past record, if there was ever one. With an effortless brace against Huddersfield in Gameweek 7, Kane continued making a mockery of his August form. He finished September with 3 braces in 4 games, and was just recently awarded the Premier League Player of the Month award for his efforts. Kane hasn’t done too badly outside of the league either. He has scored 5 goals in 2 games in the Champions League, capping off a September where he scored 11 in 6 games. The striker has begun October scoring a goal each in England’s two 1-0 wins over Slovenia and Lithuania.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room – the so-called Wembley curse. By some cruel twist of fate, all 6 of Kane’s goals in the league this season have come away from home. Not only for the player, the adopted home has seen misery for the club too. Spurs have scored 10 goals in their 4 away games so far, but only 2 in their 3 at home. But this is just a mere twist of fate. It hasn’t been that Kane has been playing poorly at home. It hasn’t been that it’s a different Kane that turns out at the Wembley. In fact, per game, he’s taken 7.3 shots, 5 in the box and 2.3 on target at home. Away, it’s 5.5, 3.8 and 2.3 respectively. He’s also scored a brace against current Bundesliga runaway toppers, Dortmund, at the same Wembley. It’s not a different story for Spurs either. Per game, they’ve taken a league highest 24 shots at home, with 6.3 on target. Away, it’s 15.5 and 6. Somehow, the ball has just stayed out of the net. But the thing about luck is, it can change through persistence. And all signs point towards that it will.
The fixture could hardly be better either. Bournemouth have started this season in poor vein, with only 4 points so far. Away from home, they’ve picked up none, and their defensive problems have kept on mounting. Both Spurs and Kane have a phenomenal record against the Cherries as well. While Spurs’ results in their 4 Premier League era encounters against the south coast club read 5-1, 0-0, 3-0 and 4-0, Kane has scored 6 goals in the 3 games he has played against them. And funnily, the 0-0 result came when Kane was missing.
This might be just the easiest captain pick all season.
2. Gabriel Jesus (vs STK H)
In second place, I go for Gabriel Jesus. With 22 goals in 7 games, Man City have been slicing through opponents like a hot knife through butter. An almost surreal 17 of them have come in the last 4. And one person who’s quietly been going about his business, amidst the Aguero brouhaha, is Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian has 4 goals and 1 assist in his last 4 league games, despite being substituted off early in two of them. And with the Argentinean striker almost certain not to feature against Stoke, Jesus will take the spotlight again.
Although recently playing off Aguero might have brought out the best of the duo, the youngster certainly doesn’t mind when he has to lead the line himself. In the 6 league games he has started without Aguero for Man City, he has scored 5 goals, failing to score only in two. The two he failed to score in – one, he broke his metatarsal in the 15th minute, the other, last Gameweek against Chelsea where he got an assist. He’s warmed up well for this one too, with a brace against Chile for Brazil a couple days back.
The fixture, too, does look favorable. Stoke, much like Bournemouth, have struggled to get their season going on the road, only getting 1 point in their 3 away games thus far. Their injury problems haven’t helped matters either. Talismanic skipper Ryan Shawcross as well as Bruno Martins Indi are out in defense, and Joe Allen has picked up a suspected concussion in the international break. With even Kevin Wimmer only recovering from a hamstring, it might be troubled times for Stoke. The last time they faced a big side, their chinks were thoroughly exposed, as Chelsea smashed them 4-0 with effortless ease.
5-0 and 5-0 in the last two home games. If you don’t own Kane, hopping aboard the City bandwagon looks like the safest alternative. After buying an extra set of finger nails, because you really should own him.
3. Eden Hazard (vs CRY A) – Differential Punt
If safe choices aren’t your thing, perhaps the 4.0% owned Eden Hazard could be more to your liking. The Belgian has come back strongly from his injury. In his first start back, he impressed against the best in Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, notching up an assist. It was less than promising against Man City as Chelsea were out-tacticed by Pep Guardiola’s men. But, Hazard served up another reminder of his capabilities with a sizzling brace against Lithuania in the international break on Tuesday. With Alvaro Morata unlikely to feature, Hazard will be the main man. And perhaps with Antonio Conte’s lack of trust in Michy Batshuayi, Hazard could even start up top.
What makes it a scarier prospect is that the Belgian faces this season’s whipping boys Crystal Palace. I’m sure we all know it by now, but I’ll state it again. 7 games, 0 wins, 0 goals. And the defense has been crumbling too of late, with 5-0 and 4-0 defeats in the last two Gameweeks to the Manchester clubs. If Marouane Fellaini can score a brace against this lot, who can’t?