I had another FPL itch recently that I needed to scratch. I had an idea for a more nuanced approach to using bonus points system scores to better identify from which teams the goalkeeper was the best pick for our FPL squad defences.
There will be few FPL managers who’d have argued against Pope being the best BUR option last season, for example, but what about other teams? Are goalkeeper always the pick of the crop when it comes to clean sheet bonus points?
It won’t surprise you to know the answer to that last question is an emphatic No! In fact, the results from my subsequent research showed wide variance in BPS points earned by goalkeepers last season when clean sheets were kept.
My idea was to compare the BPS points that defenders and goalkeepers earned whenever their team kept a clean sheet. To my way of thinking, it is more meaningful to analyse how these players fared only when successfully doing so, because for them that’s generally when bonus points are up for grabs. These tight-at-the-back games are also more likely to be a better predictor of future bonus points allocation than when we also include the noise from matches when teams are chasing the game.
As well as filtering for the games players kept clean sheets, I also removed the effects of goals, assists and yellow cards from their BPS scores to establish baseline averages. There are obvious exceptions, but generally speaking it remains the case that goals and assists are rare events for most defenders, and clean sheets are much more predictable than attacking points are. Again, some defenders are known card magnets, so this will still need to be factored in when using the results of this exercise to determine future transfer targets.
So, without further ado, here are the table toppers who banked a minimum of 5 clean sheets last season. Firstly, the 20 players who average a baseline BPS of 27+ per clean sheet:
As you can see, only 4 goalkeepers (highlighted in lime green) feature in this top twenty, which is consistent with most defences’ ratio of defenders to keepers. These were Lloris, Pope, Guaita and Leno.
The players with under 8 clean sheets are also highlighted (light red fill dark red text). Small sample size notwithstanding, Cancelo already looked the best route into the MCI backline, even before 2 recent UCL ties suggested he is now Pep’s preferred choice for the left back position.
Gomez being best for baseline bps for the league champions came as a surprise to be honest, but I don’t see his slight edge over Alexander-Arnold here being enough to change many FPL managers plans!
High BPS scores are all well and good, but they do not in and of themselves count for anything unless accompanied by Bonus Points, so the next table shows the top 20 players for average bonus points collected per clean sheet:
This time there are 6 goalkeepers in the top twenty, with Henderson and Ryan both entering the frame.
I read somewhere recently that in terms of of BPS per 100 mins, Ryan was the best option from the BHA backline, but my method shows that Dunk is actually the standout pick. He averaged over one and a half bonus points on the 9 occsions he was involved in a clean sheet. Intriguingly, there has been speculation linking CHE with Dunk, a boyhood fan, and he could be a real bargain for FPL managers if BHA agree to sell.
Luiz being next best of the defenders will no doubt come as a shock to those who witnessed many of his lamentable performances for ARS last season, but we should be wary of our cognitive biases blinding us to his potential bonus point magnetism, which averaged 1.5 on 8 occasions last season.
Interestingly, EVE have more representation here than any other team with 4 defenders making a fifth of the top twenty. This might merely be a reflection of how little cutting edge they have at the other end of the pitch. Sidibe‘s prominence here probably owes much to him being fielded out of position as a right midfielder on a number of occasions, so Keane might have been the best of the bunch even if the former’s loan contract at EVE had not expired.
I imagine most managers would have expected Dubravka to be the clear choice when it came to NEW assets, but my method points to Fernandez being a better option. Certainly as far as collecting bonus points is concerned.
Chilwell and Digne both average more than a bonus point per clean sheet, and for half a million less, the former could depose Azpilicueta as the primary beneficiary of bonus points when CHE do keep a clean sheet if sealing a move to Stamford Bridge. Unless Dunk transfers there too of course!
Mina and Van Aanholt are the only other defenders in the 1BP+ members club but there are better (and cheaper) bonus point magnets in their respective teams.
Another thing to notice in the second table above is how there are no represantatives from the teams who finished in the top 3 places. This highlights one aspect of owning defenders from top teams, which is that they will struggle for bonus points in the absence of attacking contributions, because these teams score more goals, and BPS generally favours goal scorers and assisters.
Remember though, the purpose of this exercise was to identify the teams where the goalkeepers were the best option. Seemingly, the only teams where this was the case, from the point of view of bonus points at least, were TOT, BUR, CRY, SHU and SOU, in the form of Lloris, Pope, Guaita, Henderson and McCarthy, respectively.
There has been much debate about whether Pope still represents good value at 5.5m, but only Lloris, with a much smaller sample size (6 clean sheets vs 15), is ranked higher than him in the tables above. This remains the case (see below) even if we factor starting price into the equation by using an average Bonus Points per £m metric instead:Pope does drop down to 7th though, with Ryan and McCarthy 1st and 2nd, when ranking keepers by baseline BPS per £m, but as stated previously, BPS are meaningless if not accompanied by bonus points.
The only defender who can better the 6bps per £m of Matt Ryan is another Ryan. Namely, Ryan Fredericks of WHU (see beloe) who manages 6.1, so he is another name to keep in mind if fixtures fall kindly for the Hammers.
Where it matters most though, Dunk is once again the star defender when it comes to average bonus points per clean sheet per £m starting price:
Keane, Fernandez and Mings are the other names to join Dunk and Fredericks in both these top tens, and might be worth keeping in mind when the fixtures are released.
Ultimately though, these metrics I’ve used are only useful if the players under the spotlight here are again involved in clean sheets this season. Furthermore, there are other considerations than just the ones focused on here when it comes to selecting our initial squad, such as team structure and balance.
I am glad I scratched my FPL itch though, because I feel like I have greater clarity now about which goalkeepers and defenders to include in transfer considerations throughout the first half of the upcoming season.
Hopefully, you’ve found the contents of this article interesting food for thought too, and whether it informs your squad selection or not, I wish you all the very best for the season ahead.
Coley (aka FPL P0ker PlAyer)