Last Wednesday’s launch of the Fantasy Premier League game kick starts our series of Player List articles for 2017/18.
As you’d expect, the goalkeepers are first up for analysis. We’ll assess their prospects of clean sheets and save points, while also checking out some of the budget rotation options on offer.
As with the rest of our Player List articles, this will be structured by cost as we consider the prospects right across the price brackets.
At present, Newcastle United’s Rob Elliot could potentially be the only active 4.0-priced player in FPL.
Stricken with injury for the vast majority of last term, he was listed on the teamsheet for his side’s final three Championship matches and conceded a single goal.
Ideally, we’d want Elliot to cement that role and help free up funds for us to spend elsewhere, though his security of starts is by no means certain, with Rafa Benitez continuing to be linked with a new keeper.
After their Gameweek 1 clash with Spurs has passed, Elliot clearly has the potential to prove exceptional value. By sorting our members’ ticker and focusing on the Defence filter, Newcastle’s schedule is regarded as the third most favourable across the opening 11 Gameweeks.
West Brom’s Ben Foster and Swansea City’s Lukasz Fabianski are our standout options at 4.5.
The pair managed just six and eight clean sheets respectively last season, though Foster, in particular, is expected to improve that haul after a poor defensive year from Tony Pulis’ team.
Nailed-on, kindly priced and – crucially – cheaper than any current West Brom defensive regular, Foster is our preferred budget pick from the off.
And that opinion is matched by FPL managers – he boasts an ownership close to 21% and is the second most popular keeper in the game.
As highlighted by our recent article on rotation, West Brom and Swansea rotate home/away over the entire season. Between now and Gameweek 20 – ie, prior to the second Wildcard being available – you would be handed the following run: (BOU MUN/bur STK NEW WHU WAT WAT HUD LEI MCI BHA CHE/bur BOU NEW CRY WBA MCI MUN CRY EVE).
Should you opt for one as a “fire and forget” option, their respective deputies Boaz Myhill and Kristoffer Nordfeldt are priced at just 4.0 apiece and could appeal as a second keeper to come in when Foster or Fabianski are injured or suspended.
On the downside, Fabianski – unlike Foster – has defensive team-mates (Federico Fernandez and Kyle Naughton) available at 4.5.
For just 0.5 extra, though, you could opt for the goal threat of Craig Dawson or Gareth McAuley for the Baggies, while the Swans’ Alfie Mawson and Martin Olsson are also listed at 5.0.
Pairing Fabianski up with Elliot is another combination that has caught our eye.
Priced at a total of 8.5, they offer a decent opening run (sot hud WHU NEW STO WAT whu HUD CPL bur) over the first 10 Gameweeks.
Along with Newcastle, fellow promoted sides Brighton and Huddersfield Town have also been handed strong opening fixtures, with their respective stoppers Mat Ryan and Jonas Lossl both valued at 4.5.
Of the two, we’d back Ryan to make the stronger impact.
The Seagulls were far more resilient in last season’s Championship, chalking up 21 clean sheets, with 12 collected at home, whereas Huddersfield managed just 12 shutouts in total, recording just six in front of their own supporters.
The promoted pair also rotate home/away over the entire season – a run from now until Gameweek 20 would consist of the following:
(MCI/cry NEW SOT WBA LEI NEW TOT EVE MUN/swa SOT WBA STK MCI CRY LIV/eve BHA CHE BUR WAT STO)
However, there are similarly priced routes into those defences that also boast an attacking threat.
Brighton’s towering centre-half Lewis Dunk is our preferred pick – he fired 38 efforts on goal, scoring twice, and is their number one for Clearances, Blocks and Interceptions (CBI).
The Terriers’ Chris Lowe benefits from Martin Wagner’s penchant for raiding full-backs and registered two goals and three assists in last season’s Championship. But with the German perhaps under pressure from Scott Malone for the left-back berth, centre-half Michael Hefele boasts a solid goal threat and is also 4.5.
As a result, the appeal of Ryan and Lossl is slightly dented.
Asmir Begovic’s arrival at Bournemouth will surely help address a record of 67 goals against in 2016/17. The Bosnian is kind on the budget at 4.5 but with Steve Cook, Charlie Daniels, Nathan Ake and Adam Smith all priced at 5.0 and offering a significant attacking threat, he could struggle to offer the same sort of value.
If you’re considering Brighton’s Ryan, though, then pairing him with Begovic hands you a favourable opening run (wba WAT wat WBA BHA NEW LEI EVE stk SOT) for the first 10 Gameweeks.
A change of manager could also bring Watford’s Heurelho Gomes and Crystal Palace’s Wayne Hennessey into contention at 4.5 apiece. While question marks still hang over Hennessey’s pitch time, the Hornets will be hoping that Marco Silva’s impressive home record can be replicated at Vicarage Road.
Over at West Ham, we’re optimistic that potential new arrival Joe Hart will be priced at 4.5 – the same as Adrian and Darren Randolph, who started 16 and 22 matches respectively for the Hammers last term. Aside from Gameweek 2 and 32, West Ham rotate with Watford to offer a home fixture over the full season.
Above the budget bracket, few – if any – Fantasy managers are looking for rotation options and instead seeking out a “one stop shop” option between the posts.
Looking at the opening schedule, Southampton’s Fraser Forster (5.0) has the matches to play his way into consideration and boost his 7% ownership levels – he faces up to only one of last year’s top eight, Manchester United in Gameweek 6, in the first 11 fixtures.
We anticipate that the Saints’ resilience will be boosted by the arrival of manager Mauricio Pellegrino, whose former club Alaves conceded just 43 goals in La Liga last time out – a record bettered only by Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal.
On the downside, though, the attack-minded Cedric Soares is identically priced at 5.0 and offers more upside from right-back, which dents Forster’s appeal. Meanwhile, the future of Virgil van Dijk may also determine our assessment of their defensive prospects.
Burnley’s Tom Heaton, – last term’s top-scoring keeper – earns a slight price hike from last season’s initial 4.5 to 5.0 this time around.
As evidenced last term, Heaton could still prove exceptional value for money as a fixture-proof pick between the posts – he collected more bonus points (21) and made more saves (142) than any stopper in the previous campaign.
Yet the departure of centre-back Michael Keane to Everton will surely hinder the Clarets’ ability to keep out opponents – Sean Dyche’s side claimed 10 shutouts in 2016/17.
The appeal of Everton’s new boy Jordan Pickford (5.0) has been hampered by a tough opening run that hands him clashes with Manchester City, Chelsea, Spurs and Man United in the first five Gameweeks.
The Toffees’ schedule brightens significantly from Gameweek 6, though, and Pickford – who made just one less save than Heaton in 540 less minutes at Sunderland last term – could be considered at that point. Ronald Koeman’s men delivered 13 clean sheets in 2016/17 and the arrival of the aforementioned Keane could also improve that form.
Elsewhere on Merseyside, Simon Mignolet will look to build on a fine end to 2016/17 that saw Liverpool register five clean sheets in the final six Gameweeks. Priced the same as team-mate Loris Karius at 5.0 apiece, the Belgian started every match from Gameweek 16 onwards and looks to have secured the number one spot under Jurgen Klopp.
Although Liverpool rotate home/away with Everton over the full season, splashing out 10.0 on a pair of keepers isn’t really a viable tactic for those seeking to free up cash.
Elsewhere, Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel (5.0) rotates home/away with Newcastle for the full 38 Gameweeks and could be one to consider should the budget-priced Elliot manage to nail down a spot on Benitez’ teamsheet.
Subject to a recent Great Expectations article,Stoke City’s Jack Butland averaged 4.3 ppm in his breakout season in 2015/16 before injury struck. Butland earned at least one save point in 18 of his 31 outings that year in addition to 14 bonus points, though he faces a tough opening run of fixtures, facing seven of last year’s top ten in the first eight Gameweeks. As a result, he currently sits in just 2% of squads.
Once again, FPL have set a ceiling of 5.5 for the most expensive keepers on offer.
As evidenced by the budget heroics of Butland in 2015/16 and Heaton last time out, though, a big spend in this position has little appeal.
For those prepared to invest heavily in their keepers, Man United’s David de Gea is surely the preferred route. He offers the most favourable defensive schedule of any premium-priced stopper across the first few rounds of fixtures (WHU swa LEI sto EVE sot CRY liv hud).
Indeed, the Spaniard has emerged as the most popular keeper in the FPL game and is owned by over 26% of managers.
We still fancy Antonio Valencia as the most appealing route into the Red Devils’ rearguard, particularly if Mourinho decides on retaining the three-man defence trialled against LA Galaxy on Sunday. However, the Ecuadorian and team-mate Eric Bailly are most expensive at 6.5 and 6.0 respectively.
Spurs and Man United supplied 17 clean sheets apiece in the previous campaign and boasted the most resilient defences, with just 26 and 29 goals against respectively.
Spurs’ 3-4-2-1 wing-back system is likely to keep Hugo Lloris in the shade again, though, particularly if Kieran Trippier can nail down a regular role following Kyle Walker’s departure to Man City.
Petr Cech will be hoping to benefit from the late-season switch to 3-4-2-1 that saw Arsenal win eight of their final nine matches in all competitions.
He’s also the most likely to return save points from our premium-priced keepers – the Gunners’ custodian made 115 saves, while De Gea, Lloris and Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois failed to produce more than 80.
Man City’s new arrival Ederson is expected to usurp Claudio Bravo on Pep Guardiola’s teamsheet and improve a return of 12 clean sheets. City allowed their opponents fewer shots than any side last season, which indicates that there’s less likelihood of save points for the Portuguese. He’s the least popular pick of the premium-priced stoppers and resides in only 4% of teams to date.