There have been a dozen Fantasy Watchlist posts so far this season, comprised of six strikers, two midfielders and four defenders. Hmm, I've got this strange feeling like something's missing. Isn't there another position? Let's see...we need a goalkeeper! Let's give the all-too-neglected position some love, huh?
Who is Wayne Hennessey?
28-year old Hennessey is probably best known for amassing 50-plus caps for the Wales national squad which recently qualified for the 2016 European Championship, although he has probably been slightly overshadowed by some guys named Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. As for his club career, Hennessey made over 150 appearances across eight seasons for Wolverhampton, including three campaigns in the Premier League from 2009-10 through 2011-12 which you may remember. Then again, Wolves were pretty forgettable, so more likely you have completely blocked that out.
In January 2014 Hennessey returned to the EPL with a midseason transfer to Crystal Palace, rescuing him from League One. However, he only appeared in four games in his first two seasons with the Eagles, as Julian Speroni was firmly entrenched as the squad's top keeper from 2007-08 through 2014-15.
What's the Deal with the Crystal Palace Goalkeeping Situation?
At the beginning of the season, Speroni and Hennessey were both out with injury, leaving third-choice option Alex McCarthy to fill in ably for the first six games. With Speroni still out, Hennessey took over upon his return to fitness. Everybody kept waiting for Speroni to get healthy, and he finally did. Then we waited for Speroni to take back his starting spot, only instead Alan Pardew has kept faith in Hennessey.
Why Should we be Interested in a Crystal Palace Keeper?
Well if Speroni were the starter, you shouldn't. He's been around a while and you'd only get him at cost. But with Hennessey having unexpectedly seemingly solidified his hold on the #1 spot only recently, you can grab him for a nice discount. Of course, a cheap price only goes so far. But with Crystal Palace, you are also getting one of the stingiest defenses in the Premier League, which can take you a long way.
Crystal Palace has given up only 14 goals in the season's 14 games, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that's an average of only one goal per game. As you know, that's really impressive! In fact, only three teams have allowed fewer goals: Manchester United (10), Tottenham (11) and Arsenal (12). Two teams, Manchester City and Stoke, are tied with Palace for fourth fewest.
How Much of a Value is Hennessey?
The other top defensive teams' #1 keepers (Jack Butland, Petr Cech, David De Gea, Joe Hart and Hugo Lloris) all cost between 4.8 and 5.7 in Official BPL and range from 10,404 to 13,978 in Fantrax. Meanwhile, Hennessey will set you back just a mere 4.0 and 3,645, respectively. That's peanuts! Admittedly, Hennessey isn't scoring at quite as high a clip as the other keepers, but then again, his comparatively minuscule price makes him much more cost effective. That also leaves you with more money, enabling you to afford higher-priced stars at other positions.
There are two starting goalkeepers in Official BPL who are at or around the bargain basement price of 4.0, Hennessey and Robert Elliot who took over as Newcastle's #1 when Tim Krul got injured. Amazingly, Elliot has scored more fantasy points per game than Hennessey, but that's been derived from a fluky return of two clean sheets in six games. Clean sheets, as we know, are a huge part of a keeper's fantasy return. Do you think Newcastle getting a clean sheet in one-third of its games for Elliot seems sustainable from here on out, especially when Elliot has allowed a whopping 13 goals from 30 shots on target (43%), which is 2.17 goals per game? I don't think so either. In comparison, Hennessey has allowed 7 goals on 21 SOTs (33%), which is 0.88 goals per game. Would you rather hitch your keeper's wagon to one of the worst defenses in the league or one of the best?
Meanwhile in Fantrax, Hennessey is delivering 4.25 points per game at a cost of 3,646. The two other similarly priced starting keepers are returning nowhere near that production, with Brad Guzan (4,588) and John Ruddy (3,073) each offering only 0.79 points per game.
Can Crystal Palace's Defense Hold up its Form the Rest of the Season?
In 2014-15 Crystal Palace allowed 51 goals (1.34 per game), which tied for 11th fewest. In 2013-14, it gave up 48 (1.26 per game), good for 7th least. Naturally, it may be expected to slip a couple/few notches from its current tie for 4th. And it will almost assuredly fall off from its average of 1.0 per game. Then again, so will most of the others. Only five teams allowed 1.0 goals per game or fewer in 2014-15, and just two squads turned that trick in 2013-14.
Notably, one important area where Crystal Palace should actually improve with respect to other teams lies in its clean sheet output, which would be a big boon for Hennessey's fantasy scoring. The other aforementioned top defensive teams have each notched between five and seven clean sheets. Meanwhile, Crystal Palace has only three to its credit. Amazingly, the Eagles have given up three goals in one game, two goals another time, and one goal a whopping nine times.
Palace should allow more goals per game the rest of the season due to natural regression, but it will also be expected to convert a higher percentage of clean sheets because of sheer improved luck; a team that holds the opposition to one goal or less anywhere near 86% of the time as it has thus far is bound to deliver a clean sheet considerably more than at just a 21% clip. If you were pulling for the Crystal Palace defense in the Sunderland game, you know what I'm talking about.
What do Things Look Like for Crystal Palace in the Near Future?
The next handful of games gets off to a tough start at Everton, which has scored the third-most goals in the league. But the fixture list eases up nicely after that: vs. Southampton (#7), at Stoke (#20, or last), at Bournemouth (#11T) and vs. Swansea (#16T). Not too bad, eh?
So, what do you think? Are you adding Wayne Hennessey to your watchlist? Are you putting him straight into your squad? Is he already there?