It's a really tough choice this week and your final decision is ultimately going to come down whether you want to play the man (Van Persie or Rooney) or the fixture (Balotelli, Bale, Adebayor, Dempsey etc). One of my off season projects is going to be to look back over the past few seasons to try and pin down which of these factors is more important, but until then we need to just use common sense. I would venture (though I'd be open to opposing opinions) that at the top end of the spectrum, the player is more important, regardless of who they are playing. Within reason then, you would captain Van Persie against virtually any opponent rather than a very good, but not world class player like Dempsey against a weaker one. This won't always hold up of course, but I think that's the way I'm leaning, at least when Van Persie/Rooney's fixture is still pretty promising.
[It isn't important here, but at the mid-low end of the price range I would generally rather have the player with the easier fixture than the better performances to date, so long at the two were somewhat comparable. I might, for instance, in a one week vacuum prefer Matt Jarvis at home to Bolton rather than Sigurdsson on the road at Spurs, despite the Icelandic midfielder's heroics so far].
With that in mind then, we're probably left with the same old duo of Rooney and Van Persie. On paper Rooney enjoys the slightly better fixture with Blackburn surrendering 27 goals at home to QPR's 24. However, if you place more stock in recent form, you will see that Blackburn have reduced their home GPG conceded from 2.1 over the first 7 home games to 1.5 over the last 8, while QPR's numbers are trending in the wrong direction, going from 1.4 over the first 7 to 1.8 over the last 8. I'm not sure there's enough here to suggest that Blackburn are now a much better defence than QPR, but it's probably enough to essentially make the strength of the fixture this week a tie.
Van Persie has the edge in terms of his performances on the road, though his last 5 games haven't quite been as spectacular as we had grown accustomed (5-13-2-2-6-2). Rooney has enjoyed a nice run over the last games but overall has fairly similar numbers to Van Persie over a comparable period. (5-8-12-2-2-7). Members at Fantasy Football Scout will also note that the pair are neck-and-neck in the ICT Index, which incorporates all elements which generally lead to fantasy success.
Van Persie is more likely to get a portion of any Arsenal goals scored (50% vs Rooney's 46%) though that too is a close race. I would venture that United are probably more likely to score more than Arsenal based on their better road attack (2.3 GPG vs 1.8 for Arsenal) along with their recent performances at Wolves, Tottenham and Chelsea, so Rooney probably gives you more chances of success. So again, we face a choice: do you want a bigger piece of a smaller pie or a smaller piece of a bigger pie? (Anyone else getting hungry now?)
If you've made it this far (well done), you are probably going to be mad that I am now going to totally sit on the fence and suggest this one is just too close to call. I think Van Persie has a higher upside and has delivered elite form on a more consistent basis this year, but Rooney plays on the stronger side who generate a lot of chances against all opponents and generally avoid the kind of off-days which have cursed Arsenal over the past few seasons. There isn't a hint of either player being rested, though in that category I'd say Van Persie has the slight edge given the quality behind Rooney (Hernandez, Welbeck, Berbatov) ready to come in for the odd game.
I will be handing Van Persie the armband once again but it's an incredibly close call, and to honest, one you shouldn't agonize over. Both are excellent plays this week and whatever happens, the decision to captain either will be a good choice.
As a final note, a couple of you may be wondering where the likes of Cisse and Pogrebnyak are in the above listings. My spreadsheet has a minimum number of minutes needed to qualify for captain consideration and neither player has yet met the mark. For reference, if they were included, Pogrebnyak would be the first choice player for the week with a 100 rating, while Cisse would come in with a very impressive 94, tied with Van Persie (whose number would be depressed by Pog's presence).
I considered reducing the requirements to allow these two players in, but the fact that Pogrebnyak would then be number one overall, confirms my hesitancy to include them. He's had a fine start to his Fulham career but I just don't see this form as being sustainable, given that he has scored on every single shot he's had on target. The best players in the world don't touch a goal every two shots so after the sample size increases you're going to see his production decline. Granted, that may not be in the next week but I'd prefer to avoid the perverse scenario where people quickly check the rankings and think I like these guys over the Van Persies of the world, hence their exclusion from the rankings until we understand their sustainable returns a bit more.
I've been a bit slow (at best) with responding to questions these past few weeks, but post them below or @plfantasy and I will get a reader questions post knocked out tonight, hopefully before the east coasters go to bed, and before the GMTers wake up in the morning. Thanks for your loyalty while the service has been down a bit, my task for the next year is to find a job whose busy period is outside the football season!