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How important are penalties in FPL and which Premier League players take them?

The spate of penalty awards in the opening three Gameweeks of the 2020/21 campaign has not just had a seismic effect on the Premier League, it has also started to influence thinking in the Fantasy world.

Four of Jamie Vardy‘s (£10.0m) five strikes this season have come from 12 yards, for instance, while 17.5% of all goals scored in the English top flight have been spot-kicks.

So how much attention do we Fantasy managers pay to those on penalty-taking duties and what effect might this week’s developments have?

We will run down the most asked questions in our article below.

HOW DOES THE CURRENT RATE OF PENALTIES COMPARE WITH PREVIOUS SEASONS?

There have been 20 penalties given in the Premier League so far this season – as many as we witnessed in the opening nine Gameweeks of 2019/20.

Unsurprisingly, that average of 0.71 penalties per match is much higher than we’ve seen in any other Premier League season.

Six of those 20 spot-kick awards were for handballs and it’s this particular type of offence that has been causing consternation in the footballing world over the last month.

We only saw a half-dozen handball offences penalised with penalties in the whole of 2017/18, to provide some context, and we’d be on course for a ludicrous 81 spot-kicks in 2020/21 for handball alone if they were to continue being awarded at the current rate.

Part of the reason for the early-season spike has been the Premier League’s adoption of the International Football Association Board’s (IFAB) stricter handball law.

This isn’t a new rule as such, as it has been in operation on the continent and in international football for some time, but the Premier League had been put under pressure ahead of this season to toe the party line.

The introduction of VAR has generally led to even more handballs being penalised, with the video assistants able to spot offences that an on-field official might have missed.

ESPN’s Dale Johnson has done some excellent work on this, highlighting how the combination of the IFAB’s interpretation of handball and the rolling out of VAR (which became widespread after the 2018 World Cup) affected the penalty statistics – the 2019/20 Bundesliga campaign being something of an anomaly:

*calculated to 380 games for comparison

WHAT DEVELOPMENTS HAVE THERE BEEN THIS WEEK?

An exclusive report from The Athletic’s David Ornstein and Matt Slater this week has revealed that we could see greater leniency being shown in handball decisions from as soon as this weekend.

An agreement was struck at a Premier League meeting on Tuesday to allow referees to apply “greater subjectivity within the existing rules”, even if they don’t have the power to alter IFAB’s law itself.

Ornstein and Slater report that “proximity and arm position are the key factors in the change” but it should be noted that anything that hits a hand above head-height would still be a penalty.

So the controversial decision against Eric Dier (£5.0m) would still have stood but, as Johnson outlines below, half of the six penalties that came about through handball might not have been given – although “subjectivity” is a key word above.

So, we might see a reduction in the frequency of penalties given for handball but still enough for the total number of spot-kicks to increase on previous campaigns.

WHICH TEAMS ARE MOST LIKELY TO WIN PENALTIES?

The million-dollar question – and one that unfortunately doesn’t come with a convincing answer.

Far greater minds than ours have attempted to solve that riddle using different factors, with mixed results.

One would assume that penalty box touches and fouls won would be a decent barometer but Simon from Analytic FPL crunched the numbers recently, coming to the conclusion that, while there was some significance, spot-kicks were “mostly random”.

Certain players and teams do seem to be more predisposed to win penalties (Manchester United have been top for spot-kick awards in each of the last two years) but figures veer wildly from season to season.

Crystal Palace (in no small part thanks to Wilfried Zaha (£7.2m)) hit double figures for penalty awards in 2017/18 and 2018/19 but that figure fell to three last season.

Manchester City are a team we might expect to win a lot of spot-kicks given their pace and possession and they did indeed get 11 of them in 2019/20.

Only four were forthcoming in the season before that, however.

WHO TAKES PENALTIES FOR THEIR CLUBS?

A total of 14 players from 13 different clubs have already taken penalties this season but not all of them are first in line at their respective clubs.

Youri Tielemans (£6.4m) took Leicester City’s fifth spot-kick of 2020/21 with Vardy off the field, while Richarlison (£8.0m) was given the nod in Gameweek 3 with last season’s spot-kick taker Gylfi Sigurdsson (£6.9m) not on the pitch.

John Lundstram (£5.4m) and Wilfried Zaha (£7.2m) also both benefitted from teammates either being unavailable or benched.

Oliver Norwood (£4.9m), Billy Sharp (£5.9m) and David McGoldrick (£5.4m), all of whom have taken penalties in the previous two seasons, weren’t involved when Lundstram missed from 12 yards against Aston Villa, while Luka Milivojevic (£5.9m) and Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m) were similarly not on the pitch when Zaha scored against Manchester United – and even then, Jordan Ayew (£5.9m) had the first stab.

There is a degree of uncertainty amongst a few clubs, particularly those where new signings could have a say.

With Willian (£8.0m) and Ross Barkley (£5.9m) departing for pastures new and Jorginho (£5.1m) not guaranteed to be playing every week, who is next in line for Chelsea?

Kai Havertz (£8.4m), Hakim Ziyech (£7.9m) and Timo Werner (£9.4m) had all taken spot-kicks for club and/or country before their summer moves, while Tammy Abraham (£7.3m) had been a regular for Aston Villa in the Championship and had stepped up in pre-season ahead of 2019/20 – for what that is worth.

The three players who were responsible for all seven of West Brom’s penalties in the Championship last season are no longer regulars, while Mark Noble (£4.9m) being the sacrificial lamb when West Ham moved to a 3-4-3 has also opened up a void from 12 yards in east London. Michail Antonio (£6.3m) assumed responsibility towards the end of 2019/20 when he was reportedly chasing a 10-goal bonus but Tomas Soucek (£5.0m) was a regular taker for Slavia Prague before his move to England.

Wesley‘s (£6.0m) injury and Anwar El Ghazi‘s (£5.9m) recent omissions leaves a window of opportunity at Aston Villa, too, with Jack Grealish (£7.0m) potentially next in line despite missing from the spot in 2019/20.

As ever, the list above and on our Set Pieces tab is an evolving one and will be refreshed throughout the campaign.

What Threat Do the Penalty Takers Offer From Elsewhere?

While Fantasy managers may stop short of building a “pen-plate” FPL squad consisting purely of spot-kick takers, being first in line from 12 yards doesn’t do any harm.

Ideally, though, we’d like our penalty-takers to also offer threat from elsewhere.

The table below looks at expected goals (xG) without penalties and expected assist (xA) statistics from 2019/20, excluding bit-part players and levelling the playing field by calculating all numbers “per 90 minutes”.


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309 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Dannyb
    • 3 Years
    1 month, 23 days ago

    Werner and Son to Vardy and Barnes/Zaha -4?

  2. Noah’s Ark
    • 7 Years
    1 month, 23 days ago

    Here goes the WC team. How’s she looking?

    Martinez
    Trent, Robertson, Castagne
    Manè, Kdb, Foden, Pereira, Trossard
    Jimenez, Dcl

    Forster, Holding, Dunne, Delap

    1. Dannyb
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 23 days ago

      Yeah nice team

    2. Stupendous
      • 8 Years
      1 month, 23 days ago

      Lovely

    3. Jordan.
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 10 Years
      1 month, 23 days ago

      jolly good

    4. Camzy
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 10 Years
      1 month, 23 days ago

      Not a fan.

      Mane over Salah really doesn't appeal this year with penalties on crack. Delap and Holding are not good picks. Delap blocks a City slot, Holding is not nailed and doesn't have attacking threat with poor fixtures.

      I'd also get a Wolves defender. One poor game against West Ham does not get rid of their incredible fixtures. They are top of clean sheet odds for this week just as an example.

      1. Noah’s Ark
        • 7 Years
        1 month, 23 days ago

        Hi Camzy thanks for your thoughts.Mane had more penalty box touches and shots last game and seems to always do better away unlike Salah. I understand people are losing on PK takers with the new rule but if I get Salah over Manè I have to change my 4.5 def to a cheapie.

        Who would you replace from that back 3 for a wolves defender? Delap can be Davis, I’d have got Brewster if he had moved club already.

        1. Camzy
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 10 Years
          1 month, 23 days ago

          Can you afford Cooper? He starts for Leeds and is 4.4m.

          Wolves is hard to get in the team admittedly. Castagne is hard to sacrifice. Maybe get Semedo over Pereira or Trossard?

          1. Noah’s Ark
            • 7 Years
            1 month, 23 days ago

            When I had the DCL, Ings, Jimenez front 3 I had Cooper. With the current set up it is a .2 difference between Manè and Salah so I’d need a 4.3def. Unfortunately can’t go Cooper.

    5. KAPTAIN KANE
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 23 days ago

      Brilliant

    6. Bobby's Teeth
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 4 Years
      1 month, 22 days ago

      Solid team, mate! I would maybe downgrade Castagne to a 4.5 and upgrade Pereira to Barnes/Zaha.

      Thoughts about my WC team? Similar spine as yours.

      Martinez Nyland
      TAA Robbo Masuaku Dunne Mitchell
      Mane KdB Barnes Zaha Burke
      Jimi DCL Bamford

      ITB: 0.2M (for Mane upgrade to Salah if reqd)

  3. KAPTAIN KANE
    • 3 Years
    1 month, 23 days ago

    Just been reminiscing about one of my guilty pleasure fantasy players from a long time ago.....Steed Malbranque 🙂

  4. NateDogsCats
      1 month, 23 days ago

      Cuisance to Leeds has fallen through due to failed medical

      1. Twisted Saltergater
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 11 Years
        1 month, 23 days ago

        What a nuisance.

      2. Amey
        • 2 Years
        1 month, 23 days ago

        WTF

    • GloryManUnited
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      1 month, 23 days ago

      Ben Godfrey to Everton for 25m

    • Andy_Social
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 8 Years
      1 month, 23 days ago

      Late to this article, sorry. A ton of data re. pens but for me the issues are fairly simple. I write as someone who has 8 penalty-takers in my squad.

      The new interpretation of the handball rule: this should affect on average, one handball decision per GW, i.e. 1 in 20 penalty-takers. This does not affect my policy re. owning penalty-takers.
      None of my picks have been chosen solely or primarily because they are on pens. I do not have the likes of Norwood, Noble of Jorginho.
      I believe that despite the new interpretation of the handball rule, there will still be far more penalties given than in previous seasons and that therefore it still makes sense to load up on penalty-takers - who are otherwise, good picks anyway. In practical terms it means choosing Klich over Podence, ot Zaha/Grealish over Foden. It means keeping Bruno when I might otherwise sell him. I would choose KDB over Sterling, Salah over Mane anyway.

      1. Pieterke30
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 4 Years
        1 month, 23 days ago

        Imagine you had both KDB and Sterling. Youd never cap Sterling instead of KDB bc redhead is on pens?

        1. Andy_Social
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 8 Years
          1 month, 23 days ago

          Not really. Fact is O only have KDB, but in your scenario, I think I'd captain Raz this GW. He's more likely to haul over vulnerable defences - a hattrick whilst Kev comes away with a goal and an assist, for example.

    • Over The Mounié
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 23 days ago

      In the members area for creating your own stats tables, there is no team stat for penalties won. But there are two identical stats for penalties conceded. I assume this is a mistake. Can it be fixed please?

    • Bobby's Teeth
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 4 Years
      1 month, 22 days ago

      Afternoon legends, what do you think of this WC draft?

      Martinez Nyland
      TAA Robbo Masuaku Dunne Mitchell
      Mane KdB Barnes Zaha Burke
      Jimi DCL Bamford

      ITB: 0.2M (for Mane upgrade to Salah if reqd)