For fantasy managers, picking a goalkeeper is about as much fun as going to the dentist. But hey, like any task, it’s a necessity, and doing it wholeheartedly can bring you a beautiful smile. So jump into the chair and show us your pearly whites!
The Basic Strategy
Most FPL managers (as well as NMA-17 and NMA-sub Fantrax managers) will chose between two strategies for their two keepers:
- Set and forget. Pay up for a premium #1 goalkeeper, and save money with a dirt cheap #2 keeper. You will start your #1 keeper regularly, while turning to your back-up only on the rarest of occasions. If you pay £6.0 along with a £4.0 handcuff, it will cost you £10.0 total and you can probably count on around 160-175 points. If you save a bit by matching £5.5m & £4.0m keepers (£9.5m total), you could realistically get anywhere from 130-165 points, so paying the extra £0.5m will leave you feeling more comfortable.
- Rotation, rotation, rotation. Pay in the medium range for your #1 and #2 goalkeepers, and rotate heavily, picking the starter each week based on which one has the more favorable match-up. If you pay £5.0 and £4.5 (£9.5 total), you may get a return of around 155-160 points if you get your rotations right, but you risk a lower return if you don’t. If you want to save as much moolah for field players as possible, a pair of £4.5 keepers (£9.0 total) could probably net you about 145-155 points with wise rotation, but again that would be dependent on your match-up savvy.
Which is the right avenue? Read on, then you can decide which works better for you... and be sure to let us know if you’re like Captain Kirk going with a THIRD option. Maybe you reckon that starting your £5.5 #1 keeper two-thirds of the time and your £4.5 #2 the other portion offers the magic in-between formula for the best ROI?
The Grand Matrix
For the glory boys on offense, success is all about goals and assists, which is pretty simple. For keepers, success and failure are a bit more complicated, which I could argue actually makes the position more fun. In Official FPL, you’re looking for that perfect balance of player price, clean sheets, saves, and minimizing goals conceded (avoiding painful point reductions when a team allows 2+, or 4+, or even 6+ goals).
Let’s look at how the top 10 FPL keepers (actually 11, due to a tie at #10) accumulated their points last season, and which categories proved most valuable:
Top 10 Fantasy Keepers in 2018-19
|D. De Gea
What are the key takeaways?
- Being attached to a great defense is extremely helpful. Liverpool and Manchester City had by far the most clean sheets in the league, and comfortably conceded the fewest goals. Not surprisingly, Alisson and Ederson were the top two keepers in FPL. Going a bit further, the top five keepers in clean sheets — Alisson (21), Ederson (20), Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga (14), Everton’s Jordan Pickford (14), and Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris (12) — all finished in FPL’s top seven at the position.
- Making a lot of saves in front of mediocre or bad defenses is also a solid way to find success. The top four keepers in saves last season — West Ham’s Lucasz Fabianski (148), Cardiff’s Neil Etheridge (141), Watford’s Ben Foster (127), and Manchester United’s David De Sea (122) — all ranked in the top 10 among at the position in fantasy points.
- Picking the right keeper from the three promoted sides can pay off nicely at a cheap entry price. In Cardiff City’s one-and-done season, Etheridge ranked a remarkable #4 in fantasy among keepers, rewarding managers who took the chance on him in FPL. Wolverhampton’s Rui Patricio (#12) and Fulham’s Sergio Rico (#16) did not pan out as nicely, but Patricio was a decent option as part of a rotating set.
The top drawer starts and ends with Alisson and Ederson (£6.0m each), who battled it out for supremacy at the position last season. While I do fear that the introduction of VAR will cost keepers a clean sheet or two (or three) over the course of the season, there is no reason to believe that the dynamic pair of stars from the Brazil national team will not end atop the fantasy leader board at keeper again.
The Caveat with Alisson & Ederson: Opportunity Cost
If you think that Liverpool and Manchester City are going to beat up on the rest of the league again as they did last season, you will certainly have no shortage of field players in consideration for your fantasy team such as Sergio Aguero, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kevin De Bruyne, Aymeric Laporte, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Andrew Robertson, Mohamed Salah, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Virgil van Dijk, and Kyle Walker... and I might even be leaving out someone else whom you fancy.
The problem is that you can only have three players each from Liverpool and Manchester City — or six total — in your fantasy side. If you want to go with the full half dozen, do you really want to handcuff yourself by including a goalkeeper? Or are you better served stocking up on Citizens’ and Reds’ field players, and then looking elsewhere to fill the keeper position?
My Premium Pick: If you really do want the security of an ultra-top-tier keeper, I recommend Ederson. I am having a very difficult time imagining my fantasy squad without three Liverpool field players, while I reckon more easily being able to make do with two (or even fewer) from Manchester City.
If you can see past Alisson and Ederson but still want to pay for a fair amount of comfort, you can save £0.5m by trying any of four options: Chelsea’s Kepa, Everton’s Jordan Pickford, Manchester United’s David De Gea, or Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris. David De Gea was otherworldly in 2017-18 with 172 points, but he has never exceeded 142 otherwise. Meanwhile, Kepa was solid in his first campaign in London, but Chelsea is a risk to suffer a down season due to Eden Hazard’s departure, the two-window transfer ban covering all of 2019-20, and injuries to key players. Thus, I’m staying clear of those two.
That leaves Pickford and Lloris. Both are strong save makers, but each has question marks as well. Jordan Pickford and the Everton defense perked up in the second half of last season with a flurry of clean sheets, turning a horrible fantasy season suddenly into a wonderful one for the keeper. But which is the real Toffees’ defense, the one from the first half, or that of the second part? It’s always tempting to say that the brilliant late momentum will carry over, but often that is not the case.
As for Hugo Lloris, the captain of World Cup champions France has been remarkably consistent in London town, scoring 140-145 points each of the past four seasons. The Spurs’ defense is usually strong, although there is the worry that it could suffer with Kieran Trippier having left for Atletico Madrid, along with the rumors surrounding the possible exits of Toby Alderweireld and/or Danny Rose.
My High-Priced Pick: To be honest, I’m a bit wary that Pickford can repeat his heroics of last season, and 140-145 points from Lloris isn’t quite enough to justify his price tag. But if I had to pick one? If I’m not paying absolute top dollar, I’d rather roll the dice and hope for getting 155+ points than make the safe play for 145, which I can probably get at a lower price tag. That means Jordan Pickford. Interestingly, with the addition of VAR, Pickford — who saved three PKs last season, joint league high with Etheridge — could be well-primed to take advantage, rather than suffering.
We have a bevy of options in the mid-price range. Let’s leave out likely back-ups such as Chelsea’s Willy Caballero, Manchester City’s Claudio Bravo, and Manchester United’s Lee Grant, and focus on the other options:
- Arsenal’s Bernd Leno is a talented young keeper, but he managed only six clean sheets last season for a “Big Six” side, which is frankly pathetic. The defense doesn’t look like it’s solidified in front of him, at least at present. If Arsenal doesn’t make any moves to do so before the transfer window closes, going with Leno is way too speculative for my taste.
- Crystal Palace’s Vicente Guaita alternated back and forth with Wayne Hennessey, splitting minutes almost evenly last season. The pair combined for 148 points, which was more than Hugo Lloris. If you are sure that Guaita has the full-time job, he’s not a bad choice. But wouldn’t you rather be more certain? In the range of Captain Kirk 3rd strategies, if you feel like buying both Guaita and Hennessey, then maybe you can be.
- Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel could be an interesting punt, given the spark that the Foxes received when Brendan Rodgers was hired. And Schmeichel did score 147 points once. But that was in the magical 2015-16 season when the Foxes won the EPL title, so it would be asking a lot to approach that level again.
- Watford’s Ben Foster has scored 113, 123, and 129 points in his three seasons with 3,000+ minutes. I’d rather take a chance on something more.
- I had high hopes for Newcastle’s Martin Dubravka in a full season with the Magpies last year, but he disappointed a bit with only 131 points. I really like his talent, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him improve to somewhere in the 140-150 range, but I also wouldn’t be shocked to see him remain in the 130s or even dip into the 120s.
- Wolves’ Rui Patricio simply should have scored more points last season. The team had a great year, particularly on defense, allowing the joint fifth-fewest goals in the league with Everton (notably fewer than Arsenal or Manchester United), but the Portugal international somehow only secured seven clean sheets, tying for 9th most. So he should theoretically score more points this season, but will it be enough of a boost to justify his price rise? I might instead prefer to roll the dice and take a chance on a keeper from this year’s crop of promoted teams at £4.5m.
My Mid-Tier Pick: Did your eagle eyes notice somebody priced at £5.0m missing from the above list? Well, there’s a reason for that! The option I like best at is actually West Ham’s Lucasz Fabianski. He was #6 among keepers last season with 143 points, and twice in the prior four campaigns he notched 150+ points. Ranking in the top three in saves each of the past five seasons and averaging a remarkable 131 stops per campaign in that stretch, the Fab Man epitomizes the rule that you don’t need to be attached to a stellar defense to be a strong fantasy keeper.
THE RETURNING TEAMS
When Official FPL saddles a starting keeper from a returning team with the budget £4.5m price tag, it’s a wet-fish-across-the-face sign of disrespect. Naturally, that means it will be difficult to find joy. I’m not giving up, though, so let’s dig in and see if there’s a diamond or two in the rough.
- Bournemouth’s Asmir Begovic, Artur Boruc and Mark Travers are all serviceable options, but you want a keeper who you can rotate in your fantasy team when he has a good match-up, not one who is on a merry-go-round for his actual team. You also would ideally prefer a better defensive set-up than Eddie Howe’s attack-minded (open at the back) Bournemouth...
- In one sense, it’s a similar situation in Burnley, where Tom Heaton, Nick Pope, and Joe Hart are all priced the same. But the Clarets actually play defense under Sean Dyche! Hart seems to be a near-lock as the odd man out, so the starting role is really between Heaton and Pope, and the favorite could become clear very shortly. Whomever gets the call from Dyche is an outstanding option at this price. Heaton scored 149 and 150 points in his two full seasons, while Pope delivered 152 in 2017-18 before missing last year with injury. Keep watch!
- Brighton’s Mat Ryan enjoyed an outstanding debut season with 146 points before plummeting to 104 last year. Again, a reminder that you may be better served going with a newly-promoted keeper on the cheap than one whose previous success resulted in a price rise. As for Ryan, perhaps it was just a sophomore slump, and his junior season will see a return to form.
- Crystal Palace’s Wayne Hennessey actually has a half-decent chance of being the #1 keeper at his team ahead of the more expensive Vicente Guaita, which theoretically is very enticing. In actuality, though, it’s tough to get too excited about a seasoned keeper who has never cracked 100 points, especially when the team’s ace defender, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, was just shipped out to Manchester United.
- Southampton’s Fraser Forster, Angus Gunn, and Alex McCarthy are all priced at £4.5m. Forster delivered 134 points in 2016-17, and I do like the team’s direction under Ralph Hasenhuttl, but the trio combined for only 122 points last season, leaving me reticent.
THE TRIO OF PROMOTED SIDES
As mentioned earlier, picking the right keeper from one of the three new teams can pay off extremely nicely. Going with the wrong one, though, will cause a painful bout of gut-ache.
- I’m going to start with Sheffield United, which boasted the stoutest defense by far of the three promoted teams (41 goals conceded for an average of 0.89 per game, tied for fewest in the Championship). With Jake Eastwood having been sent out on loan to Scunthorpe, Simon Moore is the only active Sheffield United keeper currently available in the system. But if the Blades can renew the loan of Dean Henderson from Manchester United, I would feel much more comfortable with the continuity.
- For Norwich, Tim Krul boasts EPL experience, but I expect newcomer Ralf Fahrmann instead to get the call, given his solid Bundesliga pedigree coming over from Schalke 04 on loan. However, the Canaries conceded 57 goals last season, 8th most in the Championship, which does not bode well for their defensive proficiency in stepping up a major level.
- Even more amazingly, Aston Villa somehow earned promotion despite allowing 61 goals, 11th most in the Championship. I’m going to avoid Orjan Nyland and Jed Steer like the plague (while favoring attackers scheduled to face them).
My Budget Pick: From the returning teams, it’s worth going with whomever looks to be the starter at Burnley between Nick Pope and Tom Heaton (right now, I expect Nick Pope to start, but I wouldn’t put money on it). From the promoted sides, I like Dean Henderson (again, if he returns). If I were going with two £4.5 keepers, I’d simply go with Pope and Henderson. If I had to pick one, it’s a tough call, but I’d lean toward the proven track record of Nick Pope (again, or Tom Heaton).
The Bare Minimum (£4.0m)
In the recent past, we have seen instances where World Cup or Champions League fantasy carelessly (and thankfully) gifts us with a dirt cheap starter, sometimes even for a strong team. However, such fortune usually is much more difficult to come by in FPL. Using one of these £4.0m guys — Brighton’s David Button, Everton’s Maarten Stekelenburg, Newcastle’s Frederick Woodman, Norwich’s David McGovern, or Wolves’ Will Norris — as a pairing for a £6.0 keeper is fine, but it would take a tremendous leap of faith to count on him to score you regular (or even occasional) points.
It may take an injury as the season progresses, an unlikely demotion, or an unexpected addition to the system before the summer deadline closes, so keep your eyes and ears open, and if a golden opportunity arises, pounce!
My Bare Minimum Pick: N/A or TBD; don’t hold your breath, as it’s more likely than not that nobody useful will emerge.
Who Enjoys a Favorable Early Schedule?
Many of you will have a mind to loading up on players with attractive early schedules, and that naturally is a very fine idea, particularly if you are planning on using your first half wildcard once those tasty match-ups turn sour. Stall took a helpful look at the early fixture list covering the first half-dozen games, so we can rate favorable starting gates for the following keepers:
Liverpool (Alisson): v. Norwich, at Aston Villa, v. Arsenal, at Burnley, v. Newcastle United, at Chelsea
Everton (Jordan Pickford): at Crystal Palace, v. Watford, at Aston Villa, v. Wolverhampton, at Bournemouth, v. Sheffield United
Brighton (Matt Ryan): at Watford, v. West Ham, v, Southampton, at Manchester City, v. Burnley, at Newcastle
Bournemouth (Asmir Begovic, Artur Boruc, Mark Travers, or other): v. Sheffield United, at Aston Villa, v. Manchester City, at Leicester City, v. Everton, at Southampton
However, if you would like to keep the option of holding onto your first wildcard longer (say, 10+ weeks into the season), it may be more prudent to take a longer view. Nobody wants to burn a precious transfer on a goalkeeper, unless an injury, benching or other bad scenario happens.
As mentioned, there are always some question marks regarding the security of the #1 position ahead of the season start, and the transfer window is still wide open. So if you really want to go with a side where there is some uncertainty, be sure to keep an eye on team news as the week 1 approaches.
How to Join the Never Manage Alone League
You will want to join the Never Manage Alone “Beat the Bloggers” league and test your mettle against our crack staff as well as our veteran community members. To join the league, first you need to pick a team name and fill out your team with all 15 players. Once you have created your team, simply click on this link to join our league (“Leagues,” and then “Private Leagues”) and enter the code below.
League Name: Never Manage Alone “BTB”
League Code: osvy55
[Note: Statistics used in this article came via the official Premier League and fantasy Premier League websites.]
Which keeper pair plan are you implementing, and who are your #1 and #2 keepers at the moment? Are there any tough choices you are mulling over? Take the poll below and then let us know your thoughts in the comments!
How much are you paying for your #1 keeper?
This poll is closed
£6.0 - Only the absolute premium for me, baby!
£5.5 - Hey, I’m not afraid to spend for quality
£5.0 - Gotta go with the middle ground approach
£4.5 - I like to save money for field players
£4.0 - Keepers are only worth the bare minimum!