It’s normal for EPL fantasy teams to rely on two or three primary penalty kick takers, and it isn’t unusual to stock up with four or five. This season, VAR comes to the Premier League, and I see a strong likelihood that the share of penalty kick scores as a component of overall goals will increase significantly. (For further reasoning, read about the projected impact of VAR.) Naturally, this has my mind angling toward an extreme edge: Why not go crazy and supercharge my fantasy team with as many primary PK takers as possible?
First things first, let’s start at forward, where we will have no difficulty whatsoever finding spot kick masters.
Harry Kane, Tottenham (£11.0m)
EPL PK stats: 4 out of 4 in 2018-19; 18 out of 21 career
I could go with Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero (£12.0m), but Kane saves me money and hopefully can approximate Kun’s production. (Also, in case you didn’t know, I’m a Spurs fan, and fantasy sports is also about having fun!) I could save more money with Leicester’s Jamie Vardy (£9.0m), whom I think will also do very well, but I’ll be greedy for now. Let’s leave the Vardy option for a rainy day if I need to shed funds sometime later.
Even in a down year when Kane missed time with injury, he still tied for 4th in the league with his disappointing tally of only four penalty kick goals. On top of that, with Kieran Trippier having already transferred to Atletico Madrid, and rumors running rampant surrounding the possible exit of Christian Eriksen to a bigger club, Kane could be left with the undisputed #1 responsibility for all free kicks in his pocket, not just pens.
Joshua King, Bournemouth (£6.5m)
EPL PK stats: 5 out of 6 in 2018-19; 9 out of 11 career
I originally had Wolves’ Raul Jimenez penciled in, but a la the Kane/Aguero decision, I’m opting to save a little money here. We all saw what Bournemouth fantasy assets did last year when they enjoyed a favorable start to the schedule, and while it may not last as long this time around, it looks like another attractive beginning is in order. I can’t argue with anyone selecting forward Callum Wilson and/or midfielder Ryan Fraser for their fantasy teams, but neither of them has the top PK designation, so my pick has to be King.
Who ranked #3 in the EPL in PKs scored last season? You may not have guessed the right answer if I hadn’t asked this in the “Joshua King” section, but yes indeed, it was Mr. King himself. Amazingly, the Bournemouth striker’s five scores from the spot were more than big stars such as Aguero, Kane, Vardy, Eden Hazard, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, or Mo Salah.
David McGoldrick, Sheffield United (£5.5m)
EPL PK stats: N/A
Championship PK stats: 3 out of 4 last season; 11 out of 16 career
As of now, it looks like £5.5m is the cheapest striker with the primary PK designation. The choice is between Sheffield United’s David McGoldrick and Aston Villa’s Jonathan Kodija. Sheffield United scored 93 goals (#1 in the Championship) and finished in first place last season, while Villa made 82 (3rd most) and were 5th place, so let’s go with the more potent offense and better team.
However, I’m not looking to start my 3rd striker often, so when the season gets closer, I will likely look to free up money to use elsewhere by trading McGoldrick down to someone who costs the bare minimum at £4.5m.
With strikers out of the way, let’s get into the midfield. Unfortunately Eden Hazard is gone, but there are still plenty of midfielders to choose from who will have primary (or near-primary) PK responsibility.
Mo Salah, Liverpool (£12.5m)
EPL PK stats: 3 out of 3 in 2018-19; 4 out of 5 career
Fellow midfielder James Milner is Liverpool’s official #1 penalty taker, and deservedly so given his outstanding track record from the spot. However, Milner is getting up in years, with plenty of wear and tear. The grizzled veteran has not been a regular EPL starter in the past two seasons, the Reds’ midfield is awfully crowded (and will be even more now that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is healthy), and Milner will likely continue to have his domestic minutes managed by Jurgen Klopp with an eye toward him featuring more in Champions League.
Thus, Liverpool’s #2 PK taker Mo Salah should continue to get plenty of opportunities from the spot. Milner and Salah were each 3-for-3 in the EPL last season. With the addition of VAR added to the hope for further reduced minutes for Milner, Salah’s impact from 12 yards away should increase, leaving the Egypt superstar to become the #1 PK taker in essence. And with Hazard having migrated to Real Madrid, Salah is the only premium-priced midfield option left who takes pens. Easy choice!
Paul Pogba, Manchester United (£8.5m)
EPL PK stats: 7 out of 10 in 2018-19; 7 out of 10 career
Pogba’s penalty kick form is atrocious; watching the slow-as-molasses-in-January walk-up is pure torture. And his 7/10 mark is Wayne Rooney-esque, or in other words, mediocre at best. Aesthetically displeasing and otherwise unimpressive from the spot, it doesn’t really matter, though, as long as fantasy production is there. Pogba ranked #2 in the league in penalty kick goals scored last season, while tying for 10th overall with 13 goals scored; plus, he added 10 fantasy assists. When it comes to the age of VAR, I simply can’t say no to having Pogba in my fantasy team.
However, it doesn’t seem that Pogba wants to remain with his actual Premier League team, Manchester United, as the rumor mill has him off to La Liga or Serie A. If the France international World Cup-winning superstar waves au revoir, Pogba would leave a huge hole in my line-up, and — gulp — I may look to fill it with someone who doesn’t take pens.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Everton (£8.0m)
EPL PK stats: 2 out of 5 in 2018-19; 8 out of 11 career
It was a strange season for Siggy, who only converted two out of five PKs for Everton after having been a perfect six for six earlier with Swansea City. As it was, the Iceland international returned 182 fantasy points, his best ever; just think of how much better things would have been if he’d made one or two more of those pens!
Many fantasy managers will choose Richarlison, and with good reason. For me, though, Siggy wins the tie-breaker thanks to his PK duty. Of course, if he misses another one or two out of the gate and Marco Silva turns elsewhere with the vital designation, I’ll drop him like a bad habit.
Luka Milijovevic, Crystal Palace (£7.0m)
EPL PK stats: 10 out of 11 in 2018-19; 19 out of 21 career
7 for 8 pens in 2017-18, and 10 for 11 in 2018-19, my eyes are bugging out! And Mili Vanili can chip in with the occasional goal from free kicks outside the box and in open play, too, as he’s tallied 22 times overall plus 4 fantasy assists in the past two campaigns with Palace. Let Wilfried Zaha & Co. keep on drawing the whistle, and enjoy Milivojevic burying them in the side netting.
Jorginho, Chelsea (£5.0m)
EPL PK stats: 1 out of 1 in 2018-19; 1 out of 1 career
Hazard’s departure leaves a huge hole in Chelsea’s line-up, but in a rosier way of looking at things, it’s an enormous opportunity for whoever takes over the primary PK designation. If Maurizio Sarri had remained the manager, we could be fairly certain that it would fall to Jorginho, who converted his opportunity early last season when Hazard was resting on the bench with post-World Cup fatigue.
However, Sarri has departed for Juventus, and now Frank Lampard comes in. It is not clear what Lampard’s preferred XI is as of yet, so it will bear monitoring whether Jorginho will be part of those plans or not... and thus if he will be the primary PK taker, or whether someone else will receive that honor. (For more about Lampard’s turn toward youth, read Ali’s article.) If it turns out that Jorginho is on the outs, I could drop him for a cheaper 5th midfielder to free up a bit of funds, much in the way of my thinking at 3rd forward. Additionally, I would consider adding in whoever does become the Blues’ #1 pen man, though it may be at a different position than midfield.
Sadly, the days of Everton’s Leighton Baines as a regular starter and PK-powered fantasy force as wing defender seem over. But while options seem extremely limited, that does not mean that the defender position is entirely bereft of penalty appeal.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool (£7.0m)
Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool (£6.5m)
Unless you’re rousing from a coma, I don’t think I need to ruminate about the on-pitch or fantasy prowess of TAA and VvD.
Matt Ritchie, Newcastle (£5.5m)
EPL PK stats: 1 out of 2 in 2018-19; 1 out of 2 career
Ah, here’s where the Leighton Baines reference comes in! Following last season under manager Rafa Benitez, Ritchie’s FPL positional designation changed from midfielder to defender. However, Benitez is gone, so there is hope that Ritchie will push up the pitch more under Graham Potter. Whether he does or not, Ritchie — who has converted 7 of 9 pen attempts across all competitions in his career — should likely remain the Magpies’ designated PK specialist, while also continuing to take free kicks from elsewhere. With the position change, he gets one more point (6 instead of 5) for each goal and three added points (4 rather than 1) per clean sheet.
Unfortunately, Newcastle only drew three penalties last season, and Ritchie failed to convert one of his two attempts (Kenedy missed the other). But it’s slim pickin’s in defense when it comes to PK takers, so I’ll take what I can get!
Martin Kelly, Crystal Palace (£4.0m)
With Aaron Wan-Bissaka having departed to Manchester United, Kelly should hopefully crack into Roy Hodgson’s XI. MK cannot approach the fantasy production of AWB, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Sergio Rico, Bournemouth (£4.0m)
With Charlie Daniels injured, summer 2018 transfer Rico should hopefully be able to lock down the left wing back spot. Daniels has always been a solid fantasy producer, and Rico even just being Daniels-lite would make me happy at the price.
I’m going to need to keep an eye on team news as the season approaches for both Kelly and Rico. If neither dirt cheap defender pans out, I may need to upgrade at least one of them. Sacrificing a PK taker or two from further up the pitch to improve my defense could prove a necessity, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
Nick Pope, Burnley (£4.5m)
Mat Ryan, Brighton (£4.5m)
I’d like to leave as much money as reasonably possible for my field players, so I’m budgeting only £9.0m for my pair of keepers and planning to use the rotation strategy based on opponent strength. In my recent Goalkeeper Picks article, I espoused my preferences at the £4.5m price tag for the Burnley keeper (whether it turns out to be Nick Pope or Tom Heaton) and Dean Henderson if Manchester United re-loans him to Sheffield United as expected. But for now, Henderson is not in the FPL system, so I’m going with Brighton’s Mat Ryan as a place holder.
BANK: £0.0m (of course!)
All in all, at least at the moment, this is what my PK-heavy experiment looks like, with a whopping NINE primary PK takers (or near-primary, including Salah) in my team, and eight in the XI. What do you think?
(NOTE: Penalty kick statistics came via www.transfermarkt.com. Penalty kick ranks came via the official Premier League website. Fantasy prices and scores came via the official fantasy Premier League site. A list of expected primary PK takers was consulted at www.benchboost.com)
What do you think of my PK overload experiment with VAR on the way? Do you view others such as Aguero, Aubameyang, or Vardy as more essential than those I’ve picked in my side? Which non-penalty taking alternatives do you have valued higher than my PK picks? Answer the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments!
How many primary PK takers do you plan on having in your FPL team?
This poll is closed
None, going with the opposite approach
One or two
Three or four
Five or six
Seven or eight
Nine or more, really taking it to the limit!