David De Gea has been named the Fantasy Football Scout goalkeeper of the season after winning our recent poll.
The Manchester United man finished 2017/18 with the highest total score among shot stoppers (172 points), while also claiming the Premier League Golden Glove for the first time in his career.
He topped our poll with 49.6% of the votes, edging Burnley’s Nick Pope into second on 33.5%.
De Gea took a very different route to success, compared with last term’s top scoring keeper, Tom Heaton.
While the budget Burnley man hit the summit by combining 10 clean sheets with his dominance of the save count (149) and bonus points (21), De Gea did so as a luxury asset whose large number of shutouts and save points ultimately justified a lofty starting price of £5.5m.
The Spaniard’s tally of 18 clean sheets was made all the more impressive considering no other keeper has recorded that many in an FPL season since Joe Hart in 2012/13. It comes as no surprise, then, that De Gea remained the most popular goalkeeper throughout the entire campaign.
On the eve of Gameweek 1 he was in 32.8% of squads thanks to a favourable run of opening fixtures. They faced West Ham, Swansea, Leicester, Stoke, Everton and Crystal Palace in their first seven matches, with De Gea keeping clean sheets in six of them.
He then followed that up by shutting out a ruthless Liverpool attack in Gameweek 8, taking his average points per match for the season thus far to 6.4 – that’s better than Heaton’s most productive run from last season (6.1 points per match between Gameweek 16 and 23).
He earned a first price rise in Gameweek 7 before jumping to £5.7m in Gameweek 11 on the back of shutting out Tottenham Hotspur and an in-form Harry Kane in Gameweek 10. There was no clean sheet for De Gea when United visited Chelsea but an impressive individual display, with Newcastle at home coming up in Gameweek 12, triggered another increase in cost.
A penalty stop and 14 saves in a 3-1 away win at Arsenal in Gameweek 15 – a joint Premier League record – was another highlight in De Gea’s season.
Bizarrely, though, despite such heroics, the Red Devils’ number one failed to make a single appearance in the Dream Team in any Gameweek last season.
Backing up De Gea’s success was an incredible save percentage (82.1%), higher than any other goalkeeper.
Put into perspective, his total of 116 saves – ranked sixth best in the top-flight – was double the number of Man City’s Ederson (58), who was second only to the Spaniard for both clean sheets (16) and FPL points (158) between the posts.
De Gea also ranked highest for expected goals saved with 11.7. Across the season his average of 4.6 points was bettered only by Phil Jones (5.0) among defensive team-mates but the goalkeeper was far more of a mainstay as Jones spent time on the sidelines with injury.
Which gets us to the crux of his appeal this season: consistency. De Gea played every single minute of United’s 2017/18 campaign apart from the final day, when he was rested only after securing the Golden Glove.
De Gea’s success may well force the hands of Fantasy managers when preparing their squads next season.
The conventional wisdom is to start an FPL campaign with two cheaper goalkeepers to rotate and therefore allow greater spending elsewhere. Yet the Spaniard’s consistency, if it can be maintained, may call for FPL managers to give him greater consideration as a “fire and forget” option over the summer.
There’s no doubt, though, that his popularity was helped by the uncertainty surrounding United’s backline regulars. Antonio Valencia – who began at a hefty 6.5 – was the only defensive team-mate to start more than 30 matches, with 31 appearances.
First for clean sheets and second for goals against (28), Jose Mourinho’s defence will again be big targets for the campaign ahead.
Yet if one or two United defenders come in at a similar price to the Spaniard and can offer the same security of pitch-time, the decision around who to invest in may not be quite so straightforward next time around.
In particular, if a hike in price to 6.0 transpires, the value offered in the sub-5.0 category could force a re-think.
In saying that, it should be noted that, despite his premium price tag, De Gea’s value in terms of points per million (29.2) was identical to Heaton’s in 2016/17, when the Clarets’ stopper was the top value player in the game.