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Player Analysis

Fantasy Hall of Fame: Goalkeepers

by Neal Thurman
Updated On: March 23, 2020, 7:01 pm ET

The Premier League has announced that they will be opening a Hall of Fame. While the reality of that occurrence may have to wait until the world has returned to something approaching normalcy, that doesn't mean we shouldn't take up the theme and apply it to the wonderful world of Fantasy Premier League.

Over the next week or two, we will be looking at our choices for a hypothetical Fantasy Hall of Fame. Understanding that the guys on the Rotoworld team favor different games and have different frames of reference when it comes to how long they've been playing, we'll keep the criteria pretty open and we'll discuss both career achievement as well as single season dominance. It's not like we have actual match coverage to get in the way of our writing. 

We'll start the process off with the position some would argue doesn't matter because of the relative lack of difference between the best and worst in any given season, the Goalkeepers.

 

 

Neal Thurman

Without archival fantasy scores available, it isn't easy to come up with a career achievement award but my first thought goes to some long-forgotten namesi. Goalkeepers for the "big teams" are typically expensive and don't get much in the way of saves which makes them fairly useless when they don't keep clean sheets. There are a few Goalkeepers who have routinely played for midtable (at best) sides that play a conservative style (yielding clean sheets) while churning out the saves. 

You could probably talk me into any of Ben Foster, Mark Schwarzer, or Jussi Jaaskelainen but given Sam Allardyce's close association with the style of play and Bolton's success at executing it, I'll go with Jaaskelainen for career achievement. 902 career saves and 108 clean sheets at what was typically a bargain price makes him the prototype for guys like Foster in today's game. 

One caveat I'll have to make is that I didn't pay too much attention to the PL.com game during the Jaaskelainen/Schwarzer era so I can't say how either would have held up under that pricing/scoring system.

 

Steve Rothgeb

Much like Neal, I too have typically stayed away from keepers that play for the “big clubs”. In my early days of FPL, it did not take long to realize that budget-priced keepers were just as capable as the premium ones, and most seasons I have gone with a 4.5m option.

There are a few budget names that have served me well over the years but the HOF award has to go to Asmir Begovic. Let me be more precise - Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic. In the first half of the 2010’s, Begovic was a pretty reliable budget option for a club that needed heroics between the sticks to help compensate for what was usually a rather dormant attack. Begovic had a long run in my 2012/2013 side. He finished second among keepers in scoring that season, with only Manchester City’s Joe Hart, Chelsea’s Petr Cech and Liverpool’s Pepe Reina collecting more clean sheets. So, it was not a stretch to start the next season, 2013/2014, with the Stoke keeper.

Cut to November 2, 2013. Stoke are taking on Southampton. The match kicks off with the Saints quickly giving up possession and a pass from a Stoke defender to Begovic is set up to send a long ball forward. The Bosnian international sent the ball sailing across the pitch a good 75 yards or so, Southampton’s keeper Artur Boruc was caught in no man’s land and the ball bounced over him and into the net to put the Potters up a goal on thirteen seconds. Imagine the elation of owning a keeper that scores a goal moments after a game starts. Begovic would see a dip in points and clean sheets that season, but his goal against Southampton, along with several seasons of providing solid value at his position gives him the honors.

[Editor's Note: Begovic also gets bonus points, pun intended, for being a FEPL player himself and engaging with the FPL media and players]

 

FPL Stag - Anthony O’Shea

When someone mentions goalkeepers in FPL, I don’t need to reach too far into the past to come up with a legend of the genre. In the 2017/18 season, one goalkeeper in particular confounded the expected goals conceded (xGC) metrics even though he played for a side who kicked off the season expecting to contend for the title.

The first was shot-stopper David De Gea, featuring for the last full-season iteration of José Mourinho’s Manchester United. This was a team which struggled against the league’s small teams and revelled in being faux underdogs against any team north of mid-table, yet regardless of the opposition, they invited pressure upon themselves by sitting back in spite of the riches at their disposal. Aside from the champions that season, noisy neighbours Manchester City, United’s defence was the tightest in the division, conceding just 28 times in 38 outings but from an FPL perspective, “Dave” was the standout premium price ‘keeper thanks to a league leading 18 clean sheets which was supplemented by 116 saves. In all, de Gea saved 82.1% of all shots on target he faced, more than any ‘keeper who played more than 90 minutes that year. xGC models would have expected a mere mortal PL GK to concede 11.7 more goals than he did - miles ahead of all but Burnley’s Nick Pope. Simply stunning returns; the ultimate set-and-forget option.

Plenty of other “cheap” options also come to mind. In 2014/15, Fraser Forster’s heroics for three quarters of the season were a huge part of the reason why he and the Saints defence were justifiably regarded as “essential” by FPL managers. A triple up was genuinely a good tactic - hard to believe now given their relegation scraps since. Forster kept 13 clean sheets in 30 appearances, a tally which was league-leading at the point he suffered a season-ending injury on 21 March 2015. Honourable mentions to the Ben Foster, to whom my FPL fortunes have been umbilically tethered far too often over the last decade, Tim Krul at Newcastle, and Michel Vorm under Brendan Rodgers at Swansea.

 

Andrew Gastelum

With the exception of David De Gea during that insane 2017/18 season, I’ve always been partial to cost-efficient keepers. After all, just look at this season where, in a down year mostly due to Alisson’s injury, the top eight keepers in FPL.com started the season at £5.0 or below. I fondly remember my first season-long keeper pick with Tim Howard in 2013/14, where he led FPL goalkeepers with 161 points—a figure only topped in recent years by De Gea in 2017/18 and Alisson last year.. For once, the bias of blinding patriotism won out, and the joy of waking up to see a Tim Howard assist will never leave me.  

But there’s only one keeper to whom I owe my HOF vote. To me, the best FPL keepers don’t just put up points, but provide value for their price so that you can spend more elsewhere. Since he became a full-time starter in 2014/15, where he led FPL goalkeepers  in points, Lukasz Fabianski has been the best keeper in Fantasy Premier League for his value and it’s not even close. The Polish international has averaged 138 points a year for the last five seasons despite playing for under-resourced, mid-table sides like Swansea City and West Ham. Yet during this time, he’s never started the season valued higher than £5.0. To me, there’s no better keeper option in the last five years: Fabianski gives you everything you can want in an FPL keeper, and somehow still surprises us every season. 

 

Chuck Booth

One position that is always overlooked in both FPL and draft formats of the game is keeper. While they’re not sexy, keepers always become the last addition to your team, or the first position to be downgraded to keep your team under budget. So with that, it’s only fitting that keepers lead off the FPL hall of fame introduction.

But while we’re looking at this, what’s the criteria? If we’re looking at one specific year, I’m inclined to lean to Tom Heaton’s 2014/15 season with Burnley. Heck, if I could name the Burnley keeper to the hall of fame, that would be my all-time vote to be honest. But one year doesn’t make a hall of fame keeper. Consistent excellence does. And while I am considering the cost of said keeper, if a consistent Allison type years are coming from your high priced keepers, it is money well spent.

For me, longevity is key. And when it came to that, two names stick out. Joe Hart and Petr Cech. While these are hardly surprises, as they are two of the best keepers to grace the Premier League (even with Hart’s downfall near the end) but they were also some of the most consistent. Everyone loves a set and forget keeper and drafting Hart or Cech into your side meant you were good for the long haul. Historical data isn’t the easiest to find but at the back end of his illustrious career, Peter Cech finished top five in total keeper points in four out of five years from 2012-2017. This is also with two different teams which includes an Arsenal defense that allowed 70+ goals each year that he was in net. If that’s not Fantasy hall of fame worthy, I’m not sure what is. 

Other names who came close to consideration for me are Asmir Begovic, Hugo Lloris (not just because of being a Spurs fan, the dude is ultra-consistent), and Heurelho Gomes. Going by peak seasons it’s either Allison or David De Gea but I haven’t seen enough from either to unseat Cech from his rightful perch.

 

Conclusion

It was interesting to me that while David De Gea was called out by two of our panelists for individual seasons, a man who comes in 6th on the all-time Premier League saves list (one spot behind Jussi Jaaskaleinen) and 13th overall in clean sheets didn’t get a mention for the quality of his career.  There is no perfect way to settle this debate given the proliferation of scoring systems and the various prices (in salary cap leagues) and draft positions that it would have taken to acquire these goalkeepers over the years.  

Name Matches Clean Sheets Saves Goals Conceded Points/Match
Cech 443 202 1005 333 2.07  
Schwarzer 541 151 836 318 1.37  
Jaaskaleinen 436 108 902 377 1.20  
De Gea 304 108 848 308 2.17  
Foster 355 88 1150 501 1.21  
Howard 399 132 992 385 0.84  

One way we might agree on, and it actually ends with me arguing against my own nomination, is calculating the points/match that each goalkeeper created in the Premier League Official scoring format over the course of their career. It is easy to find appearances, career clean sheets, career saves, and career goals conceded for each on the PL.com web site. Multiplying clean sheets by the four points earned, dividing saves by 3, and goals conceded by two and then dividing the sum of the above by number of appearances, you get the (approximate) average points generated per appearance over the two gained for starting and playing 60+ minutes (nearly a given for goalkeepers). Here’s how that table looks: 

The numbers aren’t perfect since goalkeepers aren’t given partial credit for matches where they made, for instance, two saves nor partial penalty for conceding a single goal.  Bonus points are also not included. Still, the numbers point to there being a pretty clear case for David De Gea and Petr Cech being on a different level than the bargain options that were nominated. The cost difference within a constrained salary cap environment means that total points scored isn’t the end-all and be-all but it is hard to argue against De Gea or Cech as the appropriate top goalkeeping nominee to our fantasy Hall of Fame.

Neal Thurman
Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.