Considering the way Fantasy Premier League (FPL) tend to price players in accordance to position, you’d expect forwards -and one or two certain midfielders- to outscore defenders by a comfortable distance over any given campaign. This season, despite a decrease in clean sheets across the board, Leighton Baines proved a notable exception.
Fifth-highest scorer in FPL, only one forward -Carlos Tevez- managed to score more than Baines, despite Everton picking up just 9 clean sheets all season. Baines only managed double figures on two of the thirty-eight gameweeks but his consistency throughout the season saw him steadily rack up the points on his way to a total of 178.
His set-pieces and crosses from the left flank are a crucial part of Everton’s game and Baines’ Fantasy returns ultimately saw him resemble more of a cut-price midfielder than costly defender, in the end making a mockery of his 7.0 starting price.
Initially, that starting price did seem relatively high for a player with 11 clean sheets the previous season. Given that Nemanja Vidic was available for the same price -and Man United had 19 clean sheets, in comparison- he wasn’t a real stand-out option. Baines had also scored just two goals in his last three seasons, which hardly increased the appeal, either.
Also coming into the equation early on was Seamus Coleman; with the young Irishman available as a 4.5 defender in FPL despite being fielded at right midfield by David Moyes, Baines’ price subsequently dropped to 6.8 by gameweek 6.
As the season progressed, however, Baines’ attacking quality prevailed and he finished with 5 goals and 11 assists to his name. In comparison, only Nani, Cesc Fabregas and Didier Drogba managed more assists, with Ashley Cole second best defender with five.
Everton’s clean sheets dropped slightly from 11 to 9 this term (5 at Goodison, 4 on the road) following the pattern for the vast majority of teams, with clubs finding it harder to keep their opponents out.
Baines’ best haul came in gameweek 33, where a goal, clean sheet and two Bonus Points in a 2-0 home win over Birmingham saw him pick up 13 points for his performance.
Such a high score this season could see him come in at the 7.5 mark next time round, though unlike many high-priced players, Baines is pretty much a guaranteed starter in every game; he played every single minute of his club’s 38 games and with Everton not having to bother with European football next term, won’t be prone to rotation.
The absence of Mikel Arteta through injury undoubtedly helped the left-back’s score, with Everton’s set-piece and penalty duties left to Baines with the Spaniard sidelined. Ironically, having failed to win a penalty all season, once Baines took over duties, the Toffees won three in a short spell. If Arteta is fit and stays at the club, there could well be a drop in returns for Baines – retaining spot-kick duties will be critical to his potential.