I am generally keen on a rotation pairing of 4.5m goalkeepers, preferring to spend the extra money elsewhere whilst having some flexibility and choice. So I started to look at what the season long fixture runs would be for ‘keepers in this price bracket. For the study I only looked at the following 4.5m keepers on the basis they will have number 1 status.
Tom Heaton (AVL)
Matt Ryan (BHA)
Nick Pope (BUR)
Dean Henderson (SHU)
Angus Gunn (SOU)
What we’re looking for of course are dovetailing fixtures that avoid the top 6, but for this analysis I extended that to last season’s top 9 to include avoiding Everton, Leicester and Wolves, who have more potential to ruin clean sheets albeit potentially offering save points.
I recognise that Wolves are a bit of an outlier in that 6 teams finishing below them last season actually scored more goals. As the upcoming FPL season is somewhat theoretical at this point, I’ve included them based upon their perceived potential as an attacking side. Also, the results of this analysis are remarkable with respect to this very point and the best combinations that can be achieved.
Below are the number of unfavourable gameweeks each season-long pairing with these keepers would yield (where both keepers would face a top 9 side in a gameweek). Throughout this analysis I have ignored whether fixtures are Home or Away.
Heaton & Ryan: 10
Heaton & Pope: 8
Heaton & Henderson: 8
Heaton & Gunn: 6
Ryan & Pope: 11
Ryan & Henderson: 11
Ryan & Gunn: 12
Pope & Henderson: 10
Pope & Gunn: 11
Henderson & Gunn: 11
The clear winner here would be a Heaton and Gunn pairing for the season with one of them having a “favourable” fixture for 32 out of 38 gameweeks. Those unfavourable fixture choices are: mci/LEI, LIV/mci, wol/EVE, MCI/lei, liv/MCI, MUN/eve.
If you’re happy with the relatively unknown season long performance of Angus Gunn and his number 1 status, plus the relatively known season long performance of Tom Heaton (when he was at Burnley) and don’t want to spend another minute thinking about goalkeeper transfers, then you can probably stop reading now.
Now most of us will indeed want to spend as little of our FTs on our keepers as possible, if any at all, but I assume most of us will use both wildcards and hence there are opportunities either within those gameweeks you pull the trigger or around those gameweeks. So looking at further combinations involving 2 transfers across the season there is the possibility of reducing the number of unfavourable fixture clashes to just 3, as shown below.
GW1-9 Heaton & Pope: 0
GW10-31 Heaton & Henderson: 2 (mun/wol, wol/tot)
GW32-38 Heaton & Pope: 1 (eve/WOL)
TOTAL: 3 unfavourable gameweeks
This is the best combination I have found and bizarrely leads to Wolves being involved in all unfavourable clashes. If you believe Man. Utd are better than Wolves and Everton away is harder than Wolves at home, then all 3 games would be against Wolves.
There are other combinations but they lead to unfavourable games against top 6 sides. An example below.
GW1-13 Heaton & Pope: 1 (mci/CHE)
GW14-32 Heaton & Gunn: 1 (MCI/lei)
GW33-38 Heaton & Pope: 1 (eve/WOL)
I don’t believe there are any other combinations of these 5 keepers that can offer 3 or less unfavourable fixture clashes that only involve 2 transfers. If you spent a lot more transfers you could avoid any of last seasons top 9, but this is very unlikely to be worth it.
Of course, we don’t know whether Aston Villa’s backline will be able to offer the same level of protection to Tom Heaton as Burnley were able to, so this may all be null and void if they have a torrid time on their return to the top flight. I’m also aware that the data sample for Heaton is 2 and a half seasons at another team, Pope just 1 season at Burnely and Henderson has 0 seasons in the PL, so although the general consensus seems to be relative confidence in their abilities (as 4.5 GKs) it does feel untested and a little risky.
I plan to roll with the Heaton, Pope and Henderson combination across the season, because Heaton and Pope have served me well in the past and Henderson/SHU have the best defensive record of the promoted sides.
I hope that the two transfers is all I need and the first fits with my current plan to wildcard in GW9. The second will probably be around wildcard time but I may have some more pressing matters to deal with if it doesn’t make sense in GW32. Interestingly if you continued with Heaton and Henderson up to GW35 there are two further unfavourable fixture clashes and the best option on each of those weeks would (on paper) be two further games against Wolves at home (WOL/TOT and MUN/WOL), one for each keeper.
So fingers crossed Heaton is solid and Wolves display a similar level of competence against bottom half teams as last season. Hope this helps someone out, albeit late in the day!
Good luck everyone.