It’s a question that haunted me every week when I used to manage a Sunday league team, and now it’s a question that haunts me every week when I set my fantasy EPL line-up. Who is in goal? I pick goalkeepers on a week-by-week basis; a tactic which many people use, and which I think is fairly justified. Yes you could use a draft pick to select De Gea or Lloris, but selecting the Man United or Tottenham goalkeeper isn’t the same as selecting the Man United or Tottenham forward – their productivity is more unpredictable. De Gea may have the 2nd best PPM amongst regular goalkeepers, but Lloris is down in 10th place. These were the 3rd and 4th selected goalkeepers in my draft (9th round), just behind Courtois and Pickford, who have the 9th and 13th highest PPMs, respectively. Clearly these picks could have been used better, but to be fair, the selections are pretty low – in another league I’m in Heaton went in the 3rd round, Lloris in the 4th, and Pickford in the 6th!
So far though my strategy hasn’t worked. Only twice in 7 weeks has my goalkeeper scored above average (for goalkeepers). I’ve picked up Rob Elliot (5 points), Lukasz Fabianski (0), Jonas Lossl (13 & 1.25), Wayne Hennessey (4.25), and Ben Foster (10.25 & -1.75). The second Lossl performance was particularly chastening given that I lost the matchup by 1.25 points!
Consequently I’ve decided that it’s now time to let the data pick my goalkeeper for me. The below analysis compares the fantasy points that the goalkeeper for each Premier League club earns in certain scenarios – hopefully this will help out any other Togga managers frustrated by their goalkeeping crisis!
Top 6 refers to Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur. Rest refers to the remaining 14 teams. Bottom 4 refers to Leicester City, Swansea City, Bournemouth, and Crystal Palace. Future, updated versions of this article may use different teams in a “bottom” category, though the top 6 will always refer to the same clubs, regardless of league position.
3 separate scenarios were examined: match result, match venue, and opponent category. As expected, goalkeepers who win their matches score much higher than goalkeepers that lose – almost 8 points more. This also helps to explain why goalkeepers facing a top 6 team score lower than goalkeepers facing a bottom 4 team, though the differences here are considerably smaller. Interestingly, a goalkeeper who draws a match also scores a lot higher than goalkeepers that lose, but perhaps most surprising is the fact that goalkeepers playing away from home score higher than goalkeepers playing at home.
Again, given that every goalkeeper who has faced Crystal Palace has kept a clean sheet so far, it should come as no surprise that having the Eagles as your opponent is a perfect scenario. It should be noted, though, that goalkeepers facing Palace score just over 12 points, so if Hodgson does find a way to get the team scoring, the removal of that 8-point clean sheet bonus makes the reward just over 4 – less than the average goalkeeper’s score. By contrast, Arsenal have scored 11 goals past their opponents so far, yet goalkeepers facing them still average over 10 points, suggesting that a lot of saves are being made to counter the lack of clean sheets.
At the other end of the scale, goalkeepers facing both Manchester clubs tend to struggle. Again, given that City have scored 22 and United 21, this is no surprise. What is interesting though, is that goalkeepers facing Watford have the hardest time of all – averaging just over 2 points. This is likely due to the clinical nature of Watford’s forwards – the club have had only the 13th most shots per game in the Premier League, but have scored the (joint) 6th most. A similar pattern is found with Burnley, who have had the 19th most shots per game, but have scored the (joint) 9th most in the league.
The final graph shows the variability in fantasy points scored. Importantly, the clubs along the x-axis are those of the goalkeepers themselves – NOT the opponents, as in the previous graph. That is, the variance in De Gea and Ederson’s points from week to week is the smallest in the league, whilst the variance in Butland’s points is the highest. This data is useful for essentially showing which goalkeepers are the “high risk-high reward” ones. Stoke’s Butland could get you 21.75 points (like he did against Arsenal) and he could get you -8.00 points (like he did against Chelsea). This sort of information might come in useful in week 12 when Stoke play on a Monday against Brighton: if you need 8 points for the win, the more consistent scoring Mat Ryan might be your man, but if you need twice that amount, it may be better to go with the hit-or-miss Jack Butland.
- Thibaut Courtois should, according to the data, have a great week given that Chelsea are playing Crystal Palace, away from home, and are favourites to win. But unfortunately he’s owned in 94% of leagues, so that doesn’t help us week-by-week pickers.
- In fact, week 8 might prove a tough one, with the goalkeepers playing Newcastle (Forster), Bournemouth (Lloris), and Huddersfield (Fabianski) all owned in more than 78% of leagues. Huerelho Gomes may be an option due to Watford playing Arsenal, though they do so at home and are favourites to lose that matchup. It’s a similar scenario with Brighton’s Mat Ryan. Finally, a third choice could be Newcastle’s Rob Elliot who is away at Southampton.
- The variability data doesn’t help matters this week either, with none of the high risk-high reward teams playing on the Sunday/Monday. All in all, week 8 looks like it may prove just as tricky as the first 7 weeks. But the data will come good eventually. It always does.
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