It is slim pickings in the budget goalkeeper category of Fantasy Premier League this season.
Ahead of the 2020/21 campaign, 31 different shot-stoppers have been priced up at £4.5m or under, but in 2019/20, just two of these scored more than 60 FPL points.
Still, in a season where there is an ominous cluster of premium midfielders priced above £10.5m, as well as some pricey forwards, the £4.5m goalkeepers could be more important than ever.
At the time of writing, three goalkeepers priced £4.5m or below have double-digit ownership, so we’ve looked at the best ones and a few to avoid at first.
£4.0m Bench Fodder
There are just seven goalkeepers in the hallowed £4.0m bracket for the start of 2020/21 and, unfortunately, only a very small selection of them look likely to get minutes this season.
Just three of these shot-stoppers registered any minutes in the Premier League last season, namely David Martin (£4.0m), Ørjan Nyland (£4.0m) and Jed Steer (£4.0m).
It would take a particularly unfortunate injury crisis for West Ham to call on Martin’s services, especially after they re-signed Darren Randolph (£4.5m) in January.
The Republic of Ireland international is now the second-in-line to Lukas Fabianski (£5.0m) at the London Stadium, after Martin and Roberto (£4.5m) struggled to impress during their fleeting appearances during 2019/20.
By contrast, the right sort of injury crisis has already happened at Villa, potentially unlocking one of Nyland or Steer as viable £4.0m options. They certainly have the best chance of anyone else at this price point.
Tom Heaton‘s (£4.5m) long-term anterior cruciate ligament issue, sustained in January, and Pepe Reina’s return to AC Milan, and likely move to Valencia has left Villa’s goalkeeper pecking order wide open.
While the former Burnley man would be first-choice if fit, the latest rumours indicate he is still a little way off match fitness, even if the Birmingham Mail did report a return to training on August 17.
In the likely even that Heaton is not ready for the start of the new campaign, and no new goalkeepers arrive at Villa Park, Dean Smith will have to pick between Nyland and Steer for his initial first-choice. Something to watch out for in any pre-season friendlies.
While Nyland played more Premier League minutes than any other currently priced £4.0m goalkeeper in 2019/20 (537), and is currently in 17.3% of teams, he did not exactly impress during Project Restart.
Meanwhile, when Heaton was first injured, Steer was the man Smith turned to instead of Nyland after he helped Villa to an impressive run of wins and clean sheets en route to the Championship play-off final in 2018/19. The only reason Steer did not feature more often last season was because he himself got injured eight minutes into deputising for Heaton and missed the rest of the campaign. Mostly recovered from that knock now, Steer could be one to consider as bench fodder in the event he features in some pre-season outings.
Last season’s go-to £4.0m option David Button (£4.0m) remains a relatively popular choice at this bracket, although is currently owned by roughly half as many as Nyland.
The Brighton man remains unlikely to start on merit but, unlike many of the other £4.0m options, it would only take an injury to one goalkeeper for him to get in the team, in this case Mat Ryan (£4.5m).
Fantasy managers are unlikely to get anywhere with Kamil Miazek (£4.0m) at Leeds or Fulham’s Fabri (£4.0m), neither one featuring for their respective clubs at all in league games last season.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell (£4.0m) is one of many understudies to Nick Pope (£5.5m), perhaps one to watch if the England international leaves the club but, since releasing Joe Hart (£4.5m), Sean Dyche has brought in Will Norris and Marc Richter as further back-up options.
Ryan has emerged as a front-runner in the £4.5m department, currerntly owned by 25.5% of managers at this current stage.
When sorting goalkeepers priced at £4.5m or under by total points from 2019/20, the Brighton man comes out on top, his score of 135 comfortably ahead of the second-placed Alex McCarthy (£4.5m).
Of these options, Ryan was top for clean sheets (nine), saves (117, compared to McCarthy’s 79) and bonus (14).
It is a mixed start to 2020/21 for the Seagulls but with save potential, there is perhaps little to be afraid of for the home matches against Chelsea and Manchester United while trips to Newcastle, Everton and Crystal Palace carry clean sheet potential too.
McCarthy is the only other £4.5m goalkeeper with more than 60 FPL points from last season and is potentially capable of outscoring Ryan in 2020/21.
Considering that Angus Gunn (£4.5m) was initially Southampton’s first-choice goalkeeper last season, McCarthy’s tally was accumulated in 28 appearances rather than Ryan.
As a result, the former Reading man averaged 3.7 points per game in 2019/20, slightly superior to the 3.5 points per game offered by Ryan.
Seven clean sheets for McCarthy worked out at 0.2 per game, the same as Ryan, while his minutes per save (31.1) was slightly worse than the Australian’s (29.2).
Like Brighton, Southampton have some of the better fixtures from a defensive perspective at the start of the season.
They face Crystal Palace, Burnley and Chelsea on the road while Spurs, West Brom and Everton are all set to come to St Mary’s between now and Gameweek 6.
We also include Heaton in this category because, if he is fit for the start of 2019/20, it is hard not to consider the Villa man in rotation with another budget option to cover the blank in Gameweek 1.
“Actually, (recovering from injury is) going really well if I’m honest. I know it’s, obviously, a difficult time, but for me, the timing of (the pandemic), sort of worked in my favour. I’d just finished the medical point of view, obviously you don’t stop getting the hands on treatment from the physios but it was just coming to a bit less at that point. I was moving into a strength phase, just as we got locked down. I’m pleased with my progress, it’s feeling good. No complaints at all. I’ve been able to maximise the time and with not a lot else to do, I’ve just been blasting the rehab. Getting down to do my gym work at 6.30 in the morning, couple of hours and I’m away.” – Tom Heaton, speaking in May 2020
Newly-Promoted £4.5m Options
As we referenced in our profile of the Leeds defence earlier this summer, there is still some uncertainty over who will hold down the number one jersey at Elland Road this season.
Kiko Casilla (£4.5m) played 36 times last season but missed the end of the campaign due to a racism ban.
Illan Meslier (£4.5m) filled his spot admirably and has since made his loan move from Lorient permanent. But until Casilla’s future at the club is confirmed, now that he has served his ban, it is hard to guarantee which goalkeeper will start for Leeds this season.
While West Bromwich Albion defensive assets have historically been useful to Fantasy managers, this latest squad may not be as reliable as those of yesteryear.
Sam Johnstone (£4.5m) is the nailed-on number one option at the Hawthorns but the Baggies only recorded 14 clean sheets en route to Championship promotion, eight short of Leeds United’s total and seven fewer than Sheffield United managed in 2018/19.
Johnstone hasn’t missed a single league game since joining the Baggies from Manchester United in July 2018.
A total of 111 saves made was 20 higher than Leeds’ two shot-stoppers managed combined but seven fewer than Fulham’s goalkeeping duo recorded.
Saves rather than clean sheets also look to be the most likely source of points for Marek Rodak (£4.5m) at Fulham.
The Cottagers did keep 17 clean sheets in the last season but, alarmingly conceded more goals on their own soil (26) than eight other Championship clubs in 2019/20.
Despite sharing a price point with Rodak, Marcus Bettinelli (£4.5m) played just 13 of a possible 46 league matches last season before Rodak took his spot.
Big-Six Back-Ups and Potential Starters
Emiliano Martínez (£4.5m) is the most likely of the £4.5m goalkeepers at a big-six club to start between the posts in Gameweek 1.
The former Reading loanee was particularly impressive when deputising for the injured Bernd Leno (£5.0m) during Project Restart, registering more saves than anyone else, with a total of 35.
That led to three clean sheets for Arsenal between Gameweeks 30+ and 38+, the same number as Liverpool, while both clubs also conceded 12 goals.
With plenty of encouraging signs in the Gunners’ defence ahead of 2020/21, there could be plenty of interest in Martínez if he can hold onto that starting berth. Thankfully, we will get to see a competitive Arsenal line-up in the Community Shield final later this month.
Adrián (£4.5m) remains the understudy to Alisson (£6.0m) at Liverpool so Fantasy managers will need the Brazilian to suffer another injury if a cheaper option is to open up in the Reds’ defence.
That said, the former West Ham man hardly lived up to his hype in 2019/20, scoring just 27 points across his 11 Premier League appearances last season, keeping just two clean sheets and averaging just 1.6 saves per game.
Paulo Gazzaniga (£4.5m) and Joe Hart (£4.5m) are the back-ups at Spurs and, with the latter only joining the club in the last week, bringing a wealth of experience, it is hard to know which of them would step up to the plate if Hugo Lloris (£5.5m) were to pick up an injury.
While still listed in the game, Claudio Bravo (£4.5m) is to be avoided, his red flag indicating the fact that his Manchester City contract has now expired.
There is very little to offer in this section of the goalkeeper pool this season.
Jonas Lössl (£4.5m) and Virgínia (£4.5m) are firmly behind Jordan Pickford (£5.0m) at Everton, while
Danny Ward (£4.5m) is unlikely to depose Kasper Schmeichel (£5.5m) at Leicester any time soon.
The arrival of Aaron Ramsdale (£5.0m) at Sheffield United probably rules out Simon Moore (£4.5m) and Wes Foderingham (£4.5m) and Rui Patrício (£5.5m) retains a stronghold on the Wolves goalkeeper slot ahead of John Ruddy (£4.5m) and Matija Sarkic (£4.5m).
The same is also true of Randolph and Roberto at West Ham, while Wayne Hennessey (£4.5m) started just three games last season; Vicente Guaita (£5.0m) making 35 appearances for Crystal Palace.