Selecting a budget goalkeeper for the return of Fantasy Premier League could prove as challenging now as it did at the beginning of the season.
As we start a series of articles assessing the best FPL options by position and price, this first piece will focus on which cheap goalkeepers could be used as set-and-forget options and who could be put together in a budget rotation pairing. We’ll be assessing these assets for their points potential over the first three Gameweeks of the Premier League’s return.
It must be said that cheap and reliable shot-stoppers have become almost an endangered species in recent years, with many of the best options leaving the budget category behind.
This far into the campaign, it is unavoidable that the best goalkeeping options are now closer to £5.0m than they are to £4.5m. In fact, the list of top 10 scoring goalkeepers after the first 29 Gameweeks contains just three priced below £5.0m (the threshold we’re going with for budget).
These are Nick Pope (£4.9m), Ben Foster (£4.9m) and Mathew Ryan (£4.7m), each on 128, 111 and 102 points respectively.
Many of the other cheaper (likely) starting options all find themselves below 100 points at this of the campaign too:
- Aaron Ramsdale (£4.5m) – 96 points
- Tim Krul (£4.6m) – 91 points
- Alex McCarthy (£4.5m) – 68 points
- Lukasz Fabianski (£4.9m) – 59 points
- Tom Heaton (£4.3m) – 59 points
- Pepe Reina (£4.5m) – 19 points
Meanwhile, those who have slipped into the ultra-budget section of the bargain bin are no longer safe-starters since their club’s number one returned from injury or reasserted themselves in the team:
- Paulo Gazzaniga (£4.2m)
- Angus Gunn (£4.2m)
- Adrian (£4.0m)
- David Martin (£3.9m)
The teams with the best fixtures in the first three Gameweeks after the Premier League’s return are Arsenal, Wolves, Chelsea, Norwich, Newcastle and Leicester, which also presents another issue.
From those clubs, Tim Krul (£4.6m) is the only goalkeeper who still qualifies as ‘budget’ but Norwich’s defence has been well-documented as one of the worst in the Premier League this season (52 goals conceded, joint-second-worst).
Meanwhile, Willy Caballero (£4.8m) could be the route into Chelsea’s defence for those aforementioned appealing fixtures, although it is hard to argue he is completely nailed on. The former Manchester City man started every match from Gameweeks 25 to 28, but missed out on the 4-0 win over Everton in Gameweek 29 – and it has been some time since Frank Lampard had to pick a starting line-up.
However, despite these setbacks, there is still some value to be found in the goalkeeper department.
- Price: £4.9m
- Ownership: 18.8%
- Next three fixtures: mci | WAT | cry
- Potential next four fixtures: mci | WAT | cry | SHU
There will be plenty of interest in Pope ahead of the return of Fantasy Premier League.
In the six matches before the coronavirus suspension, Burnley’s goalkeeper played a huge part in his team’s impressive defensive performances.
The Clarets conceded just twice during this period, the best in the Premier League, and were also joint-top in the division for their four clean sheets, level with Manchester United and Wolves.
While Pope’s 19 saves in the last six matches was only the 11th-best in the league, his percentage of stops made compared to shots on target faced was exceptional.
During this period, Burnley allowed 21 accurate efforts, the sixth-fewest in the Premier League, with Pope successfully stopping 19 of these.
That works out at a save ratio of 90.5%, the best during this period.
With that sort of protection, the Burnley defence could be in good shape for their next three matches.
Even if Manchester City have a formidable attack, Pope’s saving abilities could see him rack up a massive score in the first Gameweek back, while Watford, Crystal Palace are both sides that Burnley will fancy a chance of a clean sheet against. Also, if the fixtures do line-up to follow the previous schedule, it could be a home match against Sheffield United after the Palace game.
- Price: £4.5m
- Ownership: 3.5%
- Next three fixtures: CRY | wol | NEW
- Next three fixtures: CRY | wol | NEW | mun
While Bournemouth’s defence is never particularly trust-worthy, Ramsdale could offer some value in the coming weeks.
The Cherries have two nice home fixtures in the first three Gameweeks back, even if they cannot benefit from the backing of their own supporters.
Crystal Palace and Newcastle are the two sides set to visit the Vitality Stadium in that time, both of which are in the bottom three for goals scored this season.
The Magpies are joint-worst with Norwich for their 25 strikes in 2019/20, while the Eagles are only one better on 26.
Meanwhile, Ramsdale has proved himself to be a viable source of save points this season, largely on account of the number of shots Bournemouth have conceded.
Across the whole season, he is third for saves (102), behind only Martin Dubravka (£5.1m) and Bernd Leno (£5.0m) who have registered 116 and 104 respectively.
However, in the last six matches before the coronavirus suspension, Ramsdale topped the league for this statistic, producing 29 saves, four more than second-best Vicente Guaita (£5.1m).
- Price: £4.8m
- Ownership: 0.3%
- Next three fixtures: avl | MCI | whu
- Potential next four fixtures: avl | MCI | whu | WAT
As we mentioned above, Chelsea’s fixtures in the first three matches look mostly positive – and if their fourth match is confirmed to be a home meeting with Watford, they are arguably even more appealing.
The Blues did not necessarily come into the coronavirus suspension in the best defensive form and they have generally been clean sheet underachievers all season.
While they conceded nine goals between Gameweeks 24 and 29 (joint-fifth-worst) and kept just one clean sheet, Chelsea were in the top three for fewest shots conceded in the box, fewest big chances conceded and fewest shots on target allowed.
If they were able to go into the Premier League with a similar ability to keep things tight, then their clean sheet credentials against Aston Villa, West Ham and potentially Watford, would be strong indeed – even if they have to face Manchester City during that run.
The question, of course, is whether Cabellero can secure himself as the number one goalkeeper. He made four starts from a possible five between Gameweeks 25 and 28 and Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.4m) has arguably been having a poor season. The Spaniard did return to the Chelsea net in Gameweek 29, so there is enough uncertainty about the goalkeeping jersey to perhaps put Fantasy managers off. Unless, of course, Lampard is prepared to provide any kind of update before the next deadline.
- Price: £4.6m
- Ownership: 2.6%
- Next three fixtures: SOU | EVE | ars | BHA
- Potential next four fixtures: SOU | EVE | ars | BHA
Krul gets a mention here for a combination of his price, save-making ability and appealing fixtures.
Norwich’s defence has been poor this season but it had made some improvements before the coronavirus suspension.
Conceding 52 times in the first 29 Gameweeks, the final six of those saw the Canaries breached on just seven occasions.
Still second-bottom of the goals conceded column across the whole campaign, their total between Gameweeks 24 and 29 decidedly mid-table. In fact, it was only one more than Liverpool and Manchester City, who both shipped six goals during this period.
While that was nearly three months ago, there will still some cause for optimism at this end of the pitch for Daniel Farke, especially when we consider the relative appeal of their upcoming fixtures.
Meanwhile, Krul’s role is usually always key whenever Norwich manage to keep things tight in a game. His total of 95 saves is fourth-best in the Premier League this season, while no goalkeeper has accrued more bonus points for pass completion in 2019/20. If Norwich do manage to keep clean sheets in the short-term, expect Krul to pick up some additional points.
Dean Henderson (£5.3m) gets his inclusion in this article in the ‘Honourable Mentions’ section as he arguably straddles the fence between budget and mid-price.
To those who don’t own him, the Sheffield United shot-stopper falls into the latter category, but for anyone who signed him up early enough, Henderson only takes up somewhere around £4.9m of their budget.
Sheffield United’s first three Gameweeks back are somewhat mixed. After their Double Gameweek, they face a trip to Manchester United before hosting Spurs. Remember also that the visit to Old Trafford will be without Henderson, who is ineligible to face his parent club.
However, in the immediate short-term, a Double Gameweek against Aston Villa and Newcastle, even though both matches are away, is certainly a very appealing prospect for Henderson owners. They could also face Burnley in the fourth Gameweek of the restart if the fixtures pan out the way we expect.
It is a well-documented fact that Sheffield United have defended well this season, conceding only 25 times (second-fewest) and securing 10 clean sheets (second-best).
Foster also compares well in that department, recording nine clean sheets this season. In fact, no other Premier League goalkeeper has managed to secure as many of these at home as the Watford man (seven).
It, therefore, might help that the Hornets play at Vicarage Road twice in the next three matches, although without their partisan crowd.
Those games pit them against Leicester and Southampton, either side of a trip to Burnley.
While the Foxes and Saints are not necessarily known for their goal-shy nature, it helps that Foster is joint-third for saves made at home this season (48).
Meanwhile, it is somewhat more difficult to truly consider Ryan against some of the other options mentioned above.
Brighton’s fixtures straight out of the Premier League restart are very tough indeed, as they host Arsenal and Manchester United either side of a trip to Leicester.
Meanwhile, in the six matches before the coronavirus suspension, the Seagulls kept just one clean sheet and conceded nine times. In that period, Ryan had a very poor percentage of 55.6% too, bettered by a total of 19 Premier League goalkeepers.
Finally, Alex McCarthy (£4.5m) starts off with an appealing trip to Norwich up first and after hosting Arsenal travels to Watford.
However, despite some improvements made at the back by Ralph Hasenhüttl around the turn of the year, the Saints’ defence was not in exceptional shape just before the coronavirus suspension.
Between Gameweeks 24 and 29, they conceded the joint-highest number of big chances in the Premier League (20), behind only Aston Villa (25).
We will finish this article by examining some potential goalkeeper rotation pairings.
To give this section a bit more to sink our teeth into, we will do this over a four Gameweek period, on the assumption that the final match of each quartet will be the one originally scheduled for Gameweek 33.
- BUR: mci | WAT | cry | SHU
- SHU: avl + new | mun | TOT | bur
As already mentioned, this is only classed as a budget goalkeeper rotation pairing by those already in possession of Henderson – and it certainly looks effective.
Sheffield United’s two fixtures up-front can cover Pope’s trip to Manchester City, although managers favouring the Burnley man’s shot-stopping abilities could even consider a Double Gameweek Bench Boost.
Henderson’s blank against Manchester United is nicely offset by Burnley’s hosting of Watford and the Clarets’ trip to Palace the following week is also helpful when Sheffield United host Spurs.
- BUR: mci | WAT | cry | SHU
- CHE: avl | MCI | whu | WAT
Those willing to take the risk on Caballero could find a Burnley/Chelsea rotation useful.
The crunch points are the first two Gameweeks, with Chelsea covering Burnley’s trip to Villa and Pope covering off Caballero meeting his former club.
It would then give managers a nice set of choices for the third and fourth games of this period.
- BUR: mci | WAT | cry | SHU
- SOU: nor | ARS | wat | MCI
There is not much to add on this rotation compared to the Chelsea one.
Southampton don’t particularly form a big part of this, covering Burnley’s Manchester City meeting with Norwich in the first Gameweek, while the final three matches arguably favour the Clarets.
- SHU: avl + new | mun | TOT | bur
- BOU: CRY | wol | NEW | mun
This is another rotation that has the potential for a strong Bench Boost opportunity in the upcoming Double Gameweek.
As Henderson looks like a good option with his meetings with Villa and Newcastle, combining them with Ramsdale’s hosting of Palace could prove fruitful.
The biggest drawback with this pairing is the second round of games when Henderson is ineligible and Bournemouth travel to a ruthless Wolves outfit.
Ramsdale could cover Sheffield United’s meeting with Spurs the following week though, as the Cherries host Newcastle.
- SHU: avl + new | mun | TOT | bur
- WAT: LEI | bur | SOU | che
Watford’s Foster arguably does a better job of plugging the gaps in Henderson’s schedule.
When the Sheffield United man is unavailable against the Red Devils, he can offer a meeting with Burnley.
After that, the Hornets host Southampton when the Blades host Spurs.
Nominated for ‘Best in Fantasy Football – Editorial’ at the Football Content Awards 2020
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