A common draft strategy voiced during pre-season was to not waste a pick on a goalkeeper. Or at least not to waste a high/moderate pick (i.e. first ten rounds). This is something I strongly believe in. Goalkeepers for the big teams often face few shots and are therefore very reliant on clean sheets for their points, whilst goalkeepers for the small teams are, clearly, at risk of conceding a lot and therefore actually ending with negative points. Finding the happy medium is an almost impossible task and one that is most effectively achieved on a week-by-week (“streaming”) basis by looking at EPL Points Against.
EPL Points Against…What is it?
EPL Points Against calculates how many points a position, in general, is averaging against a particular team. For instance, if the first 10 goalkeepers that have faced Arsenal so far this season have scored 2.25 points, 0, 16.25, 8, 0, 0.25, 6, 0, 11, and 4, then the EPL Points Against at that point would have been 4.78. It is essentially putting objective values to things that we already think of when making defensive decisions: “Liverpool are scoring goals for fun at home…but that could also mean a lot of saves…do I go with Foster this week?” (spoiler: no).
But who to get? A buddy in my league, despite spending the whole summer admitting that I was right and that he would go for the streaming strategy, took Alisson in the 7th round. His explanation was that he didn’t want the hassle of having to research who to get each week. The hassle of having to dig into the numbers; looking at the opposition, past scores, trends, and many of the other things that could influence a goalkeeper’s points potential. It was a fair response. But he didn’t bank on these articles being written…
Last Time Out in the EPL Points Against: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
As mentioned in a previous article, rather than just giving out advice without any sort of accountability, I will be instead, taking a brief looking back at my predictions each week to assess how I fared. Here is who I predicted to produce the goods in Gameweeks 14, 15, and 16, based on EPL Points Against:
Gameweek 14 Targets
Kepa Arrizabalaga (5 points at home to West Ham) and Ben Foster (2.25 points away at Southampton)
I said that Kepa would be a solid choice for Gameweeks 14 to 16, and improve on his FP/G, and he sure did! Unfortunately, that’s because his FP/G was so low that even the 9 points he accumulated in three games were enough. The ever-present Chelsea keeper is having a nightmare fantasy season, ranking 20th of all goalkeepers with just 41 points – that’s less than Lloris, Fabianski, and Roberto, who have each only played 7 games! Having said all that, the 5 points against West Ham is only marginally under-par.
The second option in Gameweek 14 was difficult to find, and so it proved, with Foster picking up just 2.25 points. The Watford keeper has been up and down all season with his scoring, registering negative points four times and double-digit points on five occasions.
Gameweek 15 Targets
Alex McCarthy (2 points at home to Norwich) and Rui Patricio (15.25 points at home to West Ham)
Norwich at home should have been a banker, so it’s very disappointing to see McCarthy just grab the 2 points. The Canaries have blanked in 5 of their 8 road games, which goes some way to explaining the high EPL Points Against of 8.69 for Norwich when facing them at home. Without a clean sheet, Norwich doesn’t shoot enough for a goalkeeper to accumulate points.
Finally a success story! Rui Patricio to the rescue! A great score for the Wolves keeper as he did what Kepa couldn’t and kept the Hammers from scoring (with a few saves just for good measure). West Ham are poor, and a sneaky win over Chelsea doesn’t change that, so targeting them for your goalkeeper’s opponent still makes sense.
Gameweek 16 Targets
Vicente Guaita (14 points away at Watford) and Martin Dubravka (4 points at home to Southampton)
Another big score, this time for the Palace man. Watford continues to fail in front of goal, and opposition keepers continue to score big because of it. How long this will continue now they have a new manager (and a fully fit Troy Deeney) remains to be seen.
Newcastle’s defensive record at home is excellent – they have conceded equal second-fewest in the league (though it should be noted, they have the 7th worst xga). The 4 point haul from Dubravka, then, is a little disappointing, particularly given the keepers great scoring in recent weeks (he has the second-most fantasy points and an FP/G of 9.35 over the last 5 games). Still, it isn’t that much lower than the average goalkeeper score of 5.80, so your fantasy team is unlikely to have been damaged too much.
EPL Points Against – Pre Gameweek 17
Watford, West Ham, and Everton continue to be very good targets based on their EPL Points Against. Manchester United’s is also very high, but interestingly, unlike for the other three teams, the home-away split here is huge. Facing Ole’s men at home yields an EPL Points Against of 12.16, whilst facing them at Old Trafford produces just 4.56 points. This split is by far the largest in the league.
Stat-busters Leicester City has the lowest EPL Points Against, which isn’t surprising given their clinical attacking nature. Jose’s arrival has seen Tottenham’s EPL Points Against drop from 3.60 to 2.97 – second-best in the league. Who says he’s a defense-minded manager, ay?! Liverpool, Man City, Wolves, and Arsenal also join the “avoid-at-all-costs” group when it comes to deciding on your goalkeeper.
Previously I’ve given you two targets per gameweek, but given that it’s the busy Christmas period – and remembering who to waiver in and out may get a little difficult – let’s try this: a short-stint target. This is a goalkeeper who may not be the number one option for each of the next three matches but should provide very good value each time, at least according to EPL Points Against. Don’t worry I’ll still add one target specifically for each gameweek though.
Tom Heaton (21% ownership, FP/G = 5.57)
Villa may sit dangerously close to the relegation zone, but they’ve looked okay this season. They’ve lost to the big teams but by and large, got the results against the teams they would hope to get results from. This might, then, bode well for their upcoming fixtures. Sheffield United away will be tough (they were actually hammered there last season in the Championship, 4-1), but home matches against Southampton and Norwich are ones where maximum points will be expected. All three, though, look good from an EPL Points Against perspective. Sheffield United’s may only be 5.05 points, but at Bramall Lane, keepers are averaging 7.44.
It should be noted that this number is skewed by big scores from Dubravka and Gunn, so this is a risky one. Less risky should be the home games. Norwich and Southampton have high EPL Points Against that rise even further when facing them at home (Norwich’s becomes 8.69, Southampton’s 7.59). Neither team score many goals, whilst Villa lead the league – by a large margin – in shots against, so this could point towards a good few scores for Tom Heaton.
Gameweek 17 Target
Aaron Ramsdale (36% ownership, FP/G = 6.44)
Henderson (home vs Villa) and Ryan (away at Crystal Palace) are tempting options, but I’m going to opt for perhaps a strange choice here: Bournemouth’s Aaron Ramsdale, who has a daunting trip to Chelsea coming up. Even without David Martin’s heroics in Gameweek 14, the Bridge has been surprisingly kind to opposition goalkeepers, with an EPL Points Against of 7.21. Bournemouth might be in the middle of a torrid run, but this may not necessarily be a bad thing for a goalkeeper from a fantasy perspective. WhoScored has Ramsdale as the 6th best performing goalkeeper in the league (minimum 8 appearances), whilst he sits 7th among goalkeepers for total fantasy points. It’s a far smaller risk than it looks.
Gameweek 18 Targets
Ben Foster (39% ownership, FP/G = 5.25)
Using EPL Points Against gives us very little choice in Gameweek 18. Aside from Heaton, it pretty much comes down to Foster or Dubravka. Newcastle faces Palace at home, and this matchup so far this season has been very hit or miss for goalkeepers. Of the 8 teams to have hosted Hodgson’s men, four goalkeepers have scored 8 or more points and four goalkeepers have scored less than 2 points. I’m not a big fan of this “all or nothing” approach, so I think I would opt for Foster. As mentioned earlier, facing Manchester United at home (which Watford do) is actually the most lucrative scenario for a goalkeeper, with a massive EPL Points Against of 12.16. Only once this season has a goalkeeper failed to score at least 6 points against United at home, whilst five have scored double-digits. I wouldn’t bet against Foster making it six.
Gameweek 19 Targets
Dean Henderson (70% ownership, FP/G = 6.92)
Going three weeks without backing a goalkeeper facing Watford would be ridiculous…so we won’t. Sheffield United and Henderson are the fortunate ones facing (insert manager’s name) men in Gameweek 19, and fantasy owners should expect a late Christmas present of points from this matchup. If you want another reason why you should pick Henderson, check out the FFChaps’ awesome “Saves Minus Goals Against” table, where he sits a very nice 7th in the league.
(Note, targets only include goalkeepers owned in less than 75% of leagues. This removes Alisson, Ederson, Schmeichel, de Gea, Leno, and Pope from selection).
The Final Whistle
So that’s it for gameweeks 17 to 19. The EPL Points Against suggest that Villa’s Heaton could be a nice one to see you through Christmas, though if you do want to keep switching around, look for Ramsdale, Foster, and Henderson. Remember, next week we go back to the underlying numbers and check out which players are reliant on the main three (goals, assists, and clean sheets), and which ones rack up the ghost points.
There are many ways to win or lose in Fantrax EPL. Some are more cliched than others. Which of the 12 Types of Gameweek have you experienced?
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