FPL Positions | Goalkeepers

With only 20 viable goalkeeper options at any one time, it can prove difficult to decide upon the best strategy. This article will attempt to shed some light on which players to consider and how to go about that decision-making process.

Strategy 1Premium & Fodder

Players
One £5.5m-£6.0m goalkeeper
One £4.0m goalkeeper

Pros

Reliability
As the highest priced players in their position, the likelihood of returns on a week to week basis is evidently much higher. Alisson and Ederson (both £6.0m) provided particular reliability in 2018/19, securing a clean sheet in over half of their league appearances. Arguably just behind those two is Hugo Lloris, as despite missing five matches, was the only goalkeeper to rack up over 100 saves as well as 10 clean sheets, providing two routes of scoring points.

Coverage
Owning Alisson instead of Alexander-Arnold or Robertson is not going to cover Liverpool’s defence, because of the number of assists the pair manage at just £1.0m more. However, this is viable at clubs that rotate heavily or do not possess defenders with the same attacking presence. For example, if Manchester City signed another centre-back, particularly a left-footer, Aymeric Laporte may find his minutes reduced slightly. This would leave Ederson as a cheaper option and a more regular starter, tying back into the reliability point. Similarly, Manchester United have lacked attacking defenders in recent seasons which has often made David De Gea the go-to option when they are on a run of consistent clean sheets.

Cons

Cost
Spending 10% of the available £100.0m budget on one position is relatively poor value for money. This is especially important to consider, given that their ceiling is around 180 points, less than 8% of a season-long target of 2280 points or 60 points per gameweek. Therefore, the longevity of this strategy is questionable and should only be considered during certain periods of the season – very favourable fixtures or when there are a lack of viable cheaper alternatives. Ederson arguably provides both during the early part of the season.

Top 2 Options

  1. Ederson
  2. Hugo Lloris

*Alisson is only omitted due to the plethora of FPL options and Liverpool. The opportunity cost of owning him rather than one of Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Robertson, Mane or Salah has to be considered.

Strategy 2Bargain Basement

Players
One £4.5m-£5.0m goalkeeper
One £4.0m goalkeeper

Pros

Value

Particularly in the case of the £4.5m and £4.0m option, this strategy involves spending the smallest possible amount of money, but with the upside of up to 150 points across the season. Easier said than done, but picking the right cheap goalkeeper at the right time provides unrivalled value within the game, given that goalkeepers are usually at the top of the end of season value table. Nick Pope was the perfect example of this in 2017/18 as Burnley secured eight clean sheets in the space of just 13 matches between September and December.

Cons

Sporadic Clean Sheets

Whilst the Pope example indicates otherwise, clean sheets are usually hard to come by at this price. Picking the wrong goalkeeper between wildcards can always be corrected, but if persisted with, can result in a Sergio Rico-esque run of two clean sheets in 24 games. Having the option of a second playing goalkeeper reduces the chance of being stuck with a dud as they can be left on the bench for just £0.5m more than a non-playing option, until a transfer becomes available.

Competition

Unlike the elite Premier League clubs, there is significant competition for the number one jersey at certain lower ranking sides. Southampton, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace were amongst the clubs who did not stick to a single goalkeeper throughout the season, sometimes even going back and forth between two or three options. Only owning one starting goalkeeper leaves you vulnerable to a situation like this or a late injury. A balance must be struck between the risk of this, the potential upside of rotating two goalkeepers and how far the £0.5m saved will go elsewhere in your team.

Top 2 Options
1. Nick Pope
2. Mat Ryan (£4.0m bench backup in teammate David Button if an injury arises).

Strategy 3 – Rotation

Players
Two £4.5m-£5.0m goalkeepers

Pros

Form

As mentioned in the bargain basement strategy, owning an out of form team’s goalkeeper as your set and forget option will render that spot virtually worthless. Being able to adjust to swings in form like this and potentially start your other goalkeeper for several weeks in a row provides flexibility and removes the need for making a transfer. Flexibility is key in FPL and being able to do so whilst only investing an additional £0.5m is certainly appealing.

Fixtures

Owning two cheap playable options allows for a rotation to avoid very unfavourable fixtures. For example, Nick Pope could be benched for Burnley’s trip to Arsenal (GW2) and home games against Liverpool (GW4) and Everton (GW8) in favour of Norwich’s Tim Krul. He faces Newcastle (H), West Ham (A) and Aston Villa (H) in the corresponding gameweeks. However, such a scenario would be a gamble on being able to maximise clean sheets in favour of saves, which are generally more frequent in tougher fixtures.

Cons

Money well spent?

Rotating two cheap goalkeepers sounds good in practice – Etheridge and Fabianski could have returned 225 points for the goalkeeper position if the highest scorer was fielded every gameweek. But as mentioned, predicting the hauls are difficult, given how infrequent clean sheets arise combined with the effect of rare events like penalty saves. If you are regularly selecting the wrong goalkeeper, it is possible to end up with fewer points than if simply sticking with one every week. It is very much a risk vs reward strategy – the ceiling is higher but the floor is lower.

Best Option
1. To avoid top six fixtures from Gameweek 1-8, Tim Krul + one of Angus Gunn, Mat Ryan or Nick Pope.
2. Based on 2018/19 club totals: Nick Pope and Mat Ryan.

Summary

Deciding upon a goalkeeper strategy is a difficult task with so many unknowns heading into Gameweek 1. Long-term value suggests that opting for the best cheap goalkeeper is the correct strategy. However, two other considerations must be made. Can a second cheap option provide enough additional points through a rotation to justify an additional £0.5m investment? And is it better to start with a premium set and forget and wait until the cheaper value picks emerge? At this stage, and depending on how pressing that additional £1.0-£1.5m is, starting with a premium option pre-wildcard looks like the safest option.

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