Fantasy Premier League: Evaluating the Goalie Options
We are less than two weeks away from the start of the Premier League season, which means drafts for season-long fantasy leagues are in full swing.
Let's take an in-depth look at the goalie position and see how things shake out for the upcoming campaign.
While keepers generally score the least amount of points, getting a clean sheet can go a long way toward climbing the leaderboard.
Kasper Schmeichel, the man in net for defending champions Leicester City, will be among the most highly coveted goalies in season-long fantasy leagues and for good reason. It is always a good play to go with the top teams who have strong defenses. On the other hand, sometimes goalies behind bad defenses can rack up points by virtue of seeing more shot attempts.
Schmeichel offers the best of both worlds. Leicester has a good defense, but their style of play -- typically sitting back and playing on the counter -- leads to Schmeichel seeing plenty of action.
Schmeichel was one of four keepers with at least 15 clean sheets last year and all four of these keepers should get full consideration for your squad. Peter Cech, David de Gea and Joe Hart complete the quartet of keepers that put up the most shutouts.
According to the odds of winning the league, there is a chance that Leicester will regress from their miraculous 2015-16 season as the schedule becomes more daunting with the addition of Champions League play. Schmeichel will have familiar personnel in front of him again this season. With the second-best defense from last season, according to WhoScored.com, remaining largely intact, Schmeichel should find success in net.
However, the loss of N'Golo Kante will create a different feel as the former Foxes midfielder was a box-to-box force for Leicester, leading the league in tackles last season with 4.7 per game. Regardless, Schmeichel's 99 saves and 38 appearances from last season will drive his ownership in season-long leagues.
VIDEO: Fans flocked to Niky's Sports Store in LA, here's what @kschmeichel1 & @FuchsOfficial made of it. #ICC2016https://t.co/JMyYpRnpjH
— Leicester City (@LCFC) July 28, 2016
Cech's 101 saves last year were fourth-best in the league. He led the Premier League in save percentage by keeping out 76.6% of the shots that came his way. His performance last year seemingly quieted any critics of the 34-year old Czech keeper.
Cech is solely focused on Arsenal as he retired from international football this summer, and the stats show his reflexes are as strong as ever. He should have another strong year this season. The bigger concern is how the Arsenal back line will look after Per Mertesacker's preseason injury.
De Gea is currently the highest-owned keeper in the Premier League's official fantasy game at 41%. His had 15 clean sheets last year despite Manchester United being a middle of the road defensive team. Luke Shaw has returned from a broken leg to bolster the defense while the other fullback, Antonio Valencia, has impressed in the preseason. New boss Jose Mourinho may still be seeking center back help, but the strength at outside back bodes well for de Gea.
Joe Hart didn't start making gaffe after gaffe until Bale playing around with him during #EURO2016 .... #mentality pic.twitter.com/0ysftImyjX
— Remo (@JohnRemoBrown) June 16, 2016
Hart was not at the top of his game at the European Championships this summer. With that said, he is still the clear top keeper at Manchester City, so playing time is not an issue. Hart's 40% shutout rate was the best in the Premier League last season among goalies with at least 35 appearances. Pep Guardiola's tactics will allow Hart to be more involved with possession, and while Guardiola's team are renown for their passing and possession, they are typically very strong defensively.
One more keeper to mention in this category is Hugo Lloris, who allowed one goal every 122.4 minutes last season. In total, Tottenham allowed only 35 goals last season due in part to Eric Dier's move to central midfield and Toby Alderweireld playing every minute of the season in the back four. The addition of Victor Wanyama gives Tottenham more flexibility and depth in defense. The Spurs should feature one of the top defenses in England, making Lloris attractive.
Heurelho Gomes is a solid option as a bargain keeper. His Watford side finished eight points clear of the relegation zone last season and have remained largely intact on the back end to this point in the transfer window. Gomes has a new contract and stated his backing of new boss Walter Mazzarri. Watford opens up with five games against teams that finished ahead of them last season, so Gomes could be tested early on. That could be good or bad, depending on how he plays.
Jack Butland has returned from injury for Stoke City and is being considered a new signing for the club. His return has not gone unnoticed as he is around 10% owned in the official Premier League fantasy game. Butland is being considered by many as the next in line to take over keeper duties for England, so he has plenty of potential.
Excluding friendlies, Stoke earned just 12 clean sheets across all competitions last season. That record will have to improve for Butland's stock to rise. However, the return of Butland and infusion of other youthful players could make the Potters a surprise team this year.
Thibaut Courtois lands in the solid category after Chelsea finished in the middle of the pack last season. Even Courtois admitted he was not comfortable behind the Chelsea back four from a year ago. The addition of Kante should help the back line, but Kurt Zouma is still out and the team is shopping for defensive help. Baba Rahman was too attack-minded for new boss Antonio Conte, so he was shipped to Schalke on loan. Obviously, there are still some questions in defense for Chelsea, which could end up making Courtois a nice bargain this season.
Best of the Rest
Adrian, Fraser Forster and Lukasz Fabianski are other keepers to consider for your season-long league and are probably best used as streamers. These keepers can work well to offset tough weeks by the aforementioned keepers. Adrian is being pushed by Darren Randolph. Alex McCarthy was just brought in to challenge Forster while Swansea signed Australian keeper Mark Birighitti as competition for Fabianski. It's worth monitoring how these competitions shake out over the next two weeks, especially if you plan on streaming the position throughout the campaign.