As we're currently mired in the misery of an internationally broken weekend, it seems like a good time to look forward to next week to help those looking to use transfers in the coming days. Note that all the notes in the captain picks are subject to change with any injuries this weekend and will be updated as required after we know if anyone major picked up an injury.
Van Persie is quickly becoming the focal point of this early season but there's no controversy about his status this week. The 30% of owners who have scrambled to bring the Dutchman in will be very satisfied to hand him the armband this week and hope for a repeat of last week's hattrick. Though my reservations about his cost have been well discussed I wouldn't contemplate captaining anyone else this week if I owned van Persie.
Van Persie isn't of course a one man team so who else can we expect to have some success this week against Wigan? The Latics played well against Chelsea and Southampton and were a touch unlucky to lose that game in gameweek one (they only surrendered 3 shots on target but lost 2-0). One trend which might start to concern Martinez is that in the last two games they have surrendered a lot of chances to their opponents with a large portion coming from the opponents left channel. United don't have anyone who will naturally expose that space but with Wigan sticking with the 5-3-2 I do wonder if United may opt for Young to play wide this week, though he too does tend to drift in (though not as much as Nani or Welbeck).
Kagawa is my first thought for captain after van Persie but he was underwhelming last week (zero chances created) and has been withdrawn after just over an hour in both of the last two games making his a risky proposition. Kagawa isn't guaranteed a spot in this lineup and having travelled to Japan this week I am worried he might be kept out for what could be regarded as an easy fixture. He's worth monitoring as the week progresses as an immediate replacements isn't obvious (Anderson?) but there's a lot of risk here, particularly given his unproven upside.
Valencia is himself stuck in a rotation battle with Nani, Young and Welbeck but of all the United wide men he seems to be the safest and could expose the Wigan system more than anyone else. At 8.9m I am still scared to own him given Ferguson's penchant for deploying the former Wigan man at right back but if you're already on board this looks like a good week to double down on the Ecuadorian. Though it doesn't necessarily tie that well to assists, his 28 crosses lead the league and his 6 chances created are solid. Limited upside here but his floor is probably the highest of the United midfielders.
Nani is a player I have been higher on than most in previous years and to date he's delivered with excellent goal and assist numbers. I had him atop my United midfield rankings to open the season but I am wavering slightly with the arrival of van Persie. If United want a true wide player they can look to Valencia or Young while Kagawa can be used in a central 'pulling the strings' Xavi-esque position and then they have van Persie or Welbeck who could play in a inside left forward position is so required. This all leaves me a bit more down on Nani, though I'm not ready to jump ship yet. Like Valencia, I wouldn't personally own him and he's probably an even riskier prospect but if he's your only United midfielder he deserves a thought.
Santi Cazorla has been simply outstanding through three games to a point where I might suggest he's been even more impressive than Hazard (who readers will clearly know I love). If you have any faith at all in the science of looking at underlying stats you can't help but be impressed with Santi as he's leading all midfielders in chances created, through balls, successful passes in the final third, total shots and shots on target. Yeh, he's been good (and added a goal and assist for Spain just for good measure). Arsenal don't have the hype of the Manchester teams and it can't be ignored that they did fail to score in the two opening games, but the stats and the old eyeball test both tell me that this side will score plenty of goals this year and Santi should be in the middle of a lot of them. After van Persie he looks like the best captain play of the week for me. On a side (and pointless) note, I have decided to call Cazorla 'Santi'. Apologies if this is over familiar but like my penchant for 'Yaya' I believe it sounds better.
Lukas Podolski is a tough man for me to talk about as while I'm high on him for the season, his stats to date have only been okay. He's only managed 6 shots for the season, scoring with the only effort that hit the target which puts him alongside the likes of Lambert and Crouch rather than the elite players in the league. However, he's had plenty of touches in the final third of the field (71) and his 6 chances created (ranking 4th among forwards) hint of a player who can contribute assists as well as goals which I believe can help him get up into the higher end of the fantasy scoring charts. For this week I prefer Santi and I wouldn't push Podolski hard given the availability of other solid options for a slightly lower price (Ba, Fletcher etc) but he's certainly a player whose upside is among the highest at the position and should be considered for those looking for a longer term solution up top.
Carlos Tevez is always an option and Stoke haven't been quite as good this year at the back as in year's past, but this is still a much tougher fixture than United and Arsenal enjoy this week so Tevez (and Silva, Yaya etc) represents a risky play. I'd be okay handing Tevez the armband pretty much any week and if you don't have van Persie and are still unconvinced by Arsenal he's probably the safest option here but the chance of huge returns are diminished. In 7 away appearances last year Tevez was held in check 6 times registering just a couple of shots per appearance, but then of course exploded against Norwich for a hattrick. I'm working on some stats for the future captain rankings to try and determine how much impact a fixture has on a player's performance but until then we'll just have to have an educated guess and this week that would lead me to like, but not love, Tevez.
Eden Hazard will likely get some attention after his early season heroics and it's well deserved given the mess QPR are currently in. Chelsea's low ranking is as much to do with their struggles on the road last season as it is QPR's relative strength. If you believe Chelsea have turned a corner under Di Matteo then you can bump them up the rankings and Hazard comes into play but if (like me) you are nervous about captaining players on the road if they don't play for City or United then Hazard is a big risk for this one.