We pick out the best £4.0m and £4.5m Fantasy Premier League (FPL) goalkeepers as we begin our trawl through the price list.
Can anyone emulate the heroics of Emi Martinez in 2020/21? Can Dean Henderson recapture the FPL form of 2019/20 after a move to Nottingham Forest? And who are the bench fodder back-ups in the £4.0m bracket?
With unlimited transfers allowed during the World Cup downtime, we needn’t look further than Gameweek 16. And, of course, we also have a Wildcard to use before then, so we’re focusing mostly on Gameweeks 1-8 here as an international break – a popular window for chip deployment – precedes Gameweek 9.
Opta stats on the players featured in these articles are available in our Premium Members Area, where you can now get a full year’s subscription for just £2.49 a month.
David Raya (£4.5m) is many FPL managers’ budget goalkeeper of choice. He’s currently the third-most-selected goalkeeper in the game, sitting in 14.4% of embryonic squads.
Raya boasted the joint-fourth-best points-per-match average (4.0) among first-choice shotstoppers last season, with a mid-season injury restricting his game-time.
Brentford don’t meet one of last season’s top four until Gameweek 12, while Manchester City, Spurs and Liverpool aren’t encountered until Gameweek 16 onwards. All five fixtures from Gameweeks 3-7 are against clubs who finished in the bottom half of the Premier League or came up from the Championship last season.
So even if you’re playing a Wildcard beyond Gameweek 9, a representative of the Bees backline still has decent fixtures on their side.
As for the all-important underlying stats, Brentford were comfortably and reassuringly mid-table for everything from clean sheets (nine, enough to rank them 10th v other Premier League sides) to expected goals conceded (xGC, 55.14/8th).
Save points are also a boon for an FPL goalkeeper and ideally we want our ‘keepers to be making lots of ‘easy’ stops, rather than performing unsustainable heroics from point-blank efforts. Of the £4.5m-and-under goalkeepers who got 10 or more starts in the Premier League last season, Raya boasted the highest percentage of saved shots from distance.
There are two possible downsides, one of which is the imminent arrival of Thomas Strakosha. The consensus seems to be that Raya will remain number one for now but with doubts remaining over the Spaniard’s long-term future amid a contractual stand-off, Strakosha may be being groomed as his eventual replacement.
The other caveat is the springtime change to a 4-3-3 system, a more attacking formation that Thomas Frank turned to in winnable-on-paper games. There hasn’t been a significant deterioration in defensive numbers so far, at least, with clean sheets being kept in three of their nine fixtures in this system.
There was a sense that Robert Sanchez (£4.5m) underwhelmed in 2021/22 and yet, of the goalkeepers priced up at £4.5m or less this season, no-one scored more FPL points.
That achievement is slightly tainted when looking at his points-per-match average (3.4), which was inferior to those of Raya and others.
Brighton boasted an even better xGC than Brentford last season (the sixth-best in the division) and only five clubs conceded fewer goals. They were also joint-seventh for clean sheets.
Where Sanchez fell down was a relative shortage of save points, which were kept in just 17 of his 37 appearances. In fact, on only three occasions did the Spain international supplement a clean sheet with a save point, meaning that he frequently missed out on those big hauls that Jose Sa (£5.0m) bagged.
Fixtures-wise, Brighton are definitely a team to jump off after Gameweek 8 as matches against Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs and Man City follow after the September international break.
That does mean that, up until that point, the Seagulls face no team who finished higher than sixth last season. Newly promoted Fulham and Bournemouth are among their opponents during that initial run.
Saves have never been a problem for Illan Meslier (£4.5m), who made more stops than any other Premier League goalkeeper in 2021/22.
Clean sheets were a major issue, however, with only relegated Watford recording fewer shut-outs than Leeds (five) last season.
Meslier did wed save points with clean sheets to great effect in 2020/21, finishing as the third highest-scoring goalkeeper in FPL on 154 points.
It’s a very small sample size but Jesse Marsch began to move Leeds in the right direction upon his appointment, with defensive numbers generally improving:
Above: Leeds’ defensive numbers in 2021/22 before (left) and after (right) Marsch’s appointment
The acquisition of the tough-tackling Tyler Adams (£5.0m) is also hopefully a positive, as the Whites were short a real defensive-minded ‘number six’ last season.
The real draw is the fixture list, with Leeds top of our Season Ticker for ease of fixture from Gameweeks 1-10. Eight of those matches are against sides who finished ninth or below in the Premier League last season or came up from the Championship.
There will be detractors, and with good cause: in Opta’s eyes, Meslier was the worst Premier League goalkeeper last season for conceding more goals than was expected (actual goals conceded: 79, xGC: 62.2). Meslier still managed to post 154 FPL points in 2020/21 despite a negative ‘expected goals prevented (xGP)’ figure, at least (a more modest -4.00 compared to last year’s -16.8), so xGP isn’t the be-all and end-all.
THE OTHER £4.5M GOALKEEPERS: THE PROS AND CONS
The three newly-promoted clubs and Crystal Palace all have fairly awful starts in terms of fixtures, so with many of us FPL managers looking at attacking smaller chunks of matches, we can perhaps afford to overlook these sides for now and revisit them come Wildcard time.
Dean Henderson (£4.5m) has FPL pedigree after a barnstorming 2019/20 with Sheffield United and it could be a match made in heaven with Nottingham Forest, who conceded only 28 goals in Steve Cooper’s 38 Championship fixtures in charge. Their fixtures improve from Gameweek 6 onwards.
Palace probably aren’t worth looking at until Gameweek 10, which will give us time to assess which of Sam Johnstone (£4.5m) or Vicente Guaita (£4.5m) is Patrick Vieira’s preferred option. Only five clubs kept more clean sheets than the Eagles (12) in 2021/22, while it was just the top four who posted fewer expected goals conceded (xGC).
With Southampton similarly a no-go thanks to poor early fixtures and disastrous defensive form at the back-end of 2021/22, Everton’s Jordan Pickford (£4.5m) is the last starting goalkeeper of note in the budget pool.
The Toffees have a pesky opening run in which they meet six of last season’s top seven from Gameweeks 1-11, so they don’t really get a chance at a sustained block of good fixtures until the autumn. There are question marks over their defence in any case, with Everton among the worst clubs for xGC, big chances conceded and shots allowed even after Frank Lampard took over.
ASSESSING THE £4.0M GOALKEEPERS
There are 22 goalkeepers priced at £4.0m but not one of them, unsurprisingly, would be a Gameweek 1 starter without an injury or two to a teammate.
The back-up custodians of Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, Man Utd and Man City are all listed at this price, curiously, so we’re only a fitness issue away from a Champions League contender having a £4.0m option between the posts.
For FPL managers looking to spend as little as possible on goalkeepers, these are the only £4.5m/£4.0m first-choice/reserve combinations at the time of writing:
|Team||£4.5m first-choice goalkeeper||£4.0m reserve goalkeeper|
We’ve omitted Brentford from the above list, as the arrival of the as-yet-unpriced Strakosha will push Ellery Balcombe (£4.0m) down into third in the pecking order.
Forest haven’t yet got a reserve goalkeeper priced up but whoever that is will also surely come in at £4.0m.
Remi Matthews, Mateusz Lis and Willy Caballero (all £4.0m) are likely to be third or fourth choices at their respective teams, meanwhile.
Again, pre-season and any injuries could change the situation ahead of Gameweek 1.
FPL POINTS PREDICTIONS
Our algorithm-generated FPL points projections for the 2022/23 campaign have been refreshed for the first time.
These will be updated as pre-season continues and more team news information becomes apparent.