Whether we wanted it or not – goalkeepers are here to stay.
Whilst in my opinion it is a dull position and most football fans want to be counting the goals rather than the saves there will be profit available in this area.
So personal feelings don’t matter all that much – if there is value there we should find it!
The payouts look small at 1p/2p/3p on Bronze/Silver/Gold days respectively. But compared to the other positions there are so few keepers competing for them.
It’s possible we could find some really consistent keepers capable of constantly trickling in some solid dividends.
Spending a lot of time analysing keepers for FI is a new thing for anyone who isn’t completely insane.
So I won’t pretend to be a keeper expert this is new and everyone will be learning here.
I’m going to start by sharing my raw first impressions. Then I’ll crunch the numbers and do the analysis. And at the conclusion at the end I’ll see if I still agree with my initial views!
In this article I’ll look in detail at the quirks of goalkeepers, try to find a rational valuation for them and then think about which keepers are most likely to benefit.
My instinct before having crunched the numbers is that goalkeepers aren’t all that much different despite their quirks – we still need players who perform a lot of actions like passing, win lots of games, keep lots of clean sheets and don’t concede many.
That’s likely to be more important than counting punches and high claims and smothers although that will be a thing. But if you see anyone tweet “This keeper at Bologna is top 1% percentile for high claims he’s a steal!” just tell them to get in the sea and save yourself some time.
So that probably leads us towards the predictable keepers from big hitting teams.
I suspect cheap keepers can be a thing but mainly for grubbing up extra profit for very active traders in the same way you might take punts on a single game or play for some IPD.
In this scoring system winning and clean sheets are always going to be king – especially in the absence of those key differentials – goals or assists.
They should also be more predictable and I suspect the keeper market may become a bit stale before too long.
But take this all with a pinch of salt for now. In the conclusion I’ll see if I still agree with my initial impressions!
Let’s quickly look at the ways keepers are different and consider how important each aspect is.
If you don’t care much for the nerdy stuff.. you can probably get away with skipping to the players and conclusion. Because it’s about to get nerdy.
Things Keepers Just Don’t Do
The first thing to do is think about this bucket of actions that just don’t happen for keepers, or happen so infrequently we can just forget about them.
Obviously – goals. Extremely rare. This removes the primary way players of differentiating themselves and it means that who wins the GK category will be decided by very fine margins. High baseline averages are much more important than with outfield players.
Assists – more feasible but rarely. A keeper might get 1 or 2 a season and can we realistically predict that? Not really. It will be a feature of keepers we are inevitably going to be looking for anyway – those with great distribution. So it will get factored in and if they actually assist? Bonus. But I’m not going to worry about these much.
Shooting/Dribbling/Corners. No. Actually some keepers do dribble but so infrequently it’s not worth worrying about.
Things Keepers Do That Others Don’t
Blocked Shot. This is a bit of a muddle. You might think that blocked shot from a keeper is something like a save. Not according to OPTA. A blocked shot is when you TAKE a shot and someone blocks it, a bit like an attempt.
So this is not relevant at all for keepers. But FI’s scoring matrix awards Keepers quadruple points for the action. So either FI have confused blocked shot with a shot blocked which is when you block a shot from someone else OR FI think that if a keeper takes a shot and someone blocks it the keeper deserves more points for that. Which seems ridiculous.
Confused? Yeah you should be. I think this is a mistake that has set there in plain sight on the matrix for a long time. But nobody noticed until now because nobody cared about keepers!
Anyway. I am yet to find a keeper in the last year who has ever earned points for a blocked shot. Which leads me to think FI have just overlooked this and whoever made the matrix confused block shot with shot blocked. How could they.
The end result: ignore this for keepers it doesn’t matter. But it’s good to know as you can see it on the matrix and it’s confusing.
The stat we are looking for is Save which is important and awards a healthy 10 points.
If you are playing for a small club who are being peppered you might make 3-4 saves in a match. But you are also almost definitely conceding plenty too. A big team keeper may only make 1-2 saves in a match, but they will also keep more clean sheets generally too.
Are the extra 20 or so points for additional saves (and generally increased involvement) from a small team keeper going to make up for losing 40 points for a clean sheet and -15 for losing the game (plus not getting +18 for winning!) and -5 per goal conceded?
Hell no is the answer.
Smothers. Claims. Punches. Sweeper Keeper. These things can add that extra 10-40 points per game combined but are generally infrequent actions. They are unlikely to be the major matchwinning factor – just some background factors in the keepers baseline.
Penalty Save. The hero moment. 45 points for this which is a big deal. And you could run some numbers on who concedes the most penalties and for a really cheap keeper who was decent otherwise you could say “I’ll buy this guy because he’s a) cheap and b) has a reasonable baseline and c) tends to concede a lot of penalties and one day he might save one and win.”
That’s not wrong but put the emphasis on needing them to be cheap. In normal circumstances you wouldn’t be punting on a penalty save specifically it’s just too random.
This huge score for penalty saves was originally designed to help keepers compete with defenders. Then it wasn’t an issue.
Now? It may end up being a big spoiler for premium keepers. On a Gold Day it’s plausible that someone somewhere will save a penalty, smashing up statistical models of average baselines and making it harder for big club keepers to walk the win with just a high baseline.
Think of this a bit like how good ball playing centre backs struggle because whilst they may get 180 every week one of the hundreds of Johnny McNoname defenders will often turn up with a matchwinner and beat them anyway.
A bad element for better keepers but introduces a bit of a lottery some may find fun.
Things that aren’t any different from other players.
Recoveries. Significant stat, sort of. Your average EPL keeper might make 6-10 recoveries a game, potentially 15 in a good game. And they count for 3 points per time – that’s up to 45 points potentially. Most of them will make some though. So even a keeper “known” for recoveries is probably only getting 9-15 points more than anyone else out of this. On average.
It’s one of the more important stats but it’s not going to be our key differential.
Same for interceptions – they will add max 10 points or so per game on average.
Passing. This will be an important stat and ball playing keepers, often fashionable at big clubs these days, are going to profit from passing with high accuracy much the same as any other player.
Accurate Long Balls. A factor but not a huge one. At the real top end a keeper might play 10-12 long balls a game and 70% will be accurate if lucky. So at 2 points per accurate long ball… we’re talking 15-20 points best case. But if you do this a lot you also tend to play fewer short passes… hurting you on passing/giveaways. Swings and roundabouts – again not going to be our key differential.
Team Win/Loss. As for every player this is huge. Be as good as you like but play for a losing team and you are at a -78 point disadvantage minimum versus a winning keeper with a clean sheet.
With Goalkeepers scoring fewer points on average – the need to be on a winning team is even more pronounced. Thinking about it – a small club keeper may need to save that penalty just to be able to compete with a big club keeper who wins, which is a conflicting force to what I said above about penalties being a potential spoiler.
They are – but that small club player will likely have to win the game AND save a penalty so it reduces the odds of David beating Goliath a little.
What does a keeper need to do to win?
With less competition keepers don’t need to score anything like as highly to win as other categories.
I ran through numbers from 2020 on Gold/Silver/Bronze days to get us ball park figures. As readers will know when it comes to judging individual performance I do not rate historic performance scores but when you are trying to learn something about goalkeepers in general these averages are useful.
Two health warnings.
2020 is not a normal year. We should probably add at least 10-20 points onto these average scores to account for there being more matches and more competition (and the moving the Gold Posts promotion which made Silver Days into Gold etc).
Second of all we hardly saw any CL/Europa in 2020 compared to what we would normally get particularly in the group stages. So analysing 2020 numbers is likely to undersell big hitting team keepers. Not just for Gold/Silver/Bronze days but also with TOTM in mind.
So here’s how it stacks up:
Gold Day: For a realistic chance of winning our keeper wants 150. He might get lucky with a 140. Anything less than that would be very lucky.
To be likely to win our keeper will want 180 at least, with “monster” scores topping out at 220. Anything over 200+ is exceptional and you’d be within your rights to feel hard by done by if you don’t win with that.
Silver Day: For a realistic chance of winning we’d want 125, possibly 130. Lucky would be 115 less. 150+ very likely to win.
Bronze Day: We’d likely need at least 110 but on very quiet days you can win with as little as 70-80. 120+ is very competitive and if you can get towards 140+ you are very likely to win it.
Big Hitters vs Underdogs
I also paid attention to whether the winners are coming from big teams or small. I defined big teams as CL/Europa teams and included recognisable big teams like AC Milan who missed out last year but may be in it next year.
As expected – big hitters take the lions share despite there being fewer of them. But they do not go unchallenged.
Think of it like this. Big team keepers are elite and obviously better for a lot of reasons but the smaller team keepers make up for it because there are more of them.
I think it was the TV series Rome which said “Even a pack of dogs can take down a lion”. It’s a good way to think of it.
We can expect big hitting keepers to win consistently for sure. But that spoiler effect is a thing – small club keepers are going to make sure the big hitters do not have it all their own way.
So is there huge value in small club keepers? Maybe but we would have to find an exceptional one. Because whilst we know on a Gold Day a small club keeper is likely to put up a big score – it is going to be very hard to specify exactly which one! So how do you bet on that? Tricky.
Based on 2020 performance small club keepers are actually winning almost as many gold days as big club keepers. And small club keepers actually won considerably more Silver Days in 2020. I can’t think of a logical reason for that though – it could just be the relatively small sample size skewing that.
Big club keepers did however dominate the Bronze Days and there is a good reason for that I can think of. Small keepers are only beating the big hitters because there are so many of them. So when there are only 2-3 games and one of them is from a big team – the quality of the big hitter is shining through.
This could be important because the relative payout for Bronze for Goalkeepers is actually quite good versus other positions – just because of the quirk that FI do not want to pay out less than 1p in dividends for anything. A Bronze Day win for a keeper is nothing to sniff at.
Bear in mind two other things.
Team of the Month. This is going to reward the consistency of the big hitters and big club keepers should be dominating TOTM, particularly when they have CL and Europa games (just like any other player). Especially because only one keeper can win TOTM and the 5p payout is quite generous.
And we can expect more CL/Europa games than we have seen in 2020 – so this is another thing that will tip the balance a bit more in favour of big hitters that is not reflected when analysing raw 2020 numbers.
What price can a rational trader pay for a keeper?
True value on FI is about dividend potential and nothing else. We can lean into silly trends when it suits us but we should never lose sight of what really makes a player valuable.
So how much can we sensibly pay for a keeper and expect a reasonable return?
I generally consider 10% return a year to be a minimum anyone will be willing to hold out for. 20% is likely more of a reasonable expectation. That’s a high yield but with so much capital appreciation available patience is generally low.
So has this immediate keeper buying surge already brought keepers beyond a rational value or is there still room to buy them without losing 95% of your braincells? Let’s see.
If we look at the top 5 most expensive keepers today you can pin £1.50 as a rough average value on them. A £1.50 keeper has to return 30p in dividends in a season to return 20% of their price.
How feasible is that?
Well, 30p for a keeper looks something like this in a season:
1x TOTM wins – 5p. 3x Gold Wins – 9p. 5x Silver Wins – 10p. 6x Bronze wins – 6p.
14 match day wins plus a team of the month out of maybe 45 games. So he’d have to win about 30% of the time he played.
Is any one keeper likely to acheive that in a category decided by extremely fine margins? Not impossible. But it’s unlikely.
There are keepers out there who get enough potentially winning scores in a season to have a shot at being close to that with luck on their side. But this will be a big lottery depending largely on the fixture calendar.
I would put even less stock in “historic charts” that highlight which keepers are going to win than for outfield players. With no major differential like goals and wins being heavily dependant on how many games there are that day we are going to see a big lottery effect with keepers.
My conclusion is that a £1.50 or thereabouts price tag leaves even the best keepers with too much to do.
However. Only the top 5 have that big price tag. Lots of big team keepers can still be picked up around £1 or less and this is where it could get interesting.
At £1 I only need 20p in dividends to get myself a 20% return per season and that is much more realistic for a big team keeper.
In the next section let’s look at individuals and see whether people’s assumption that a player like Alisson will be far superior to someone like Sommer at Gladbach or De Gea at Manchester United or Szczesny at Juventus is right.
If we look at the stats, it’s pretty obvious straight away that there is nothing in terms of performance potential that particularly makes the top 5 most expensive keepers Alisson, Ederson, Donnarumma, Ederson or ter Stegen so much better than other good keepers available closer to £1.
And I mean nothing. Unless you entertain vague hope of media for some keepers which I’ll cover at the end of the article.
Our key considerations are 1) Playing a lot of matches including the CL/Europa. 2) Winning a lot of games 3) Keeping a lot of clean sheets.
If we’ve nailed those basics then the opportunity for one strong keeper to differentiate themselves significantly and reliably from another is fairly limited compared to in the outfield.
Interesting aside, once you strip out clean sheets and win/loss some of the small club keepers come out very well indeed – they are busier than the big hitters after all. But this will rarely matter unless you are also winning the game and keeping clean sheets. Something busy keepers rarely do.
I don’t have time today to do full star ratings for Keepers as I want to get this article out quickly. Although keeper star ratings are coming.
But here are some early thoughts:
Expected to push in my ratings or close to it:
– Neuer – Bayern Munich (probably closer to )
– ter Stegen – Barcelona
– Alisson – Liverpool
– Ederson – Manchester City
Expected to push in my ratings or close to it:
– Sommer – Gladbach
– Navas – PSG
– Courtois – Real Madrid
– Hradecky – Leverkusen
– Szczesny – Juventus
Expected to push in my ratings or close to it:
– Rui Patricio – Wolves
– Oblak – Atletico
– Musso – Udinese
– Gluacsi – Leipzig
– Strakosha – Lazio
– Lloris – Tottenham
Capable Underdogs in my ratings or close to it
– Soria – Getafe
– Pope – Burnley
– Casteels – Wolfsburg
And some perhaps surprisingly average looking keepers:
Burki – Dortmund
Arrizabalaga – Chelsea
Donnarumma – Milan
De Gea – Manchester United
Pickford – Everton
Dean Henderson – Sheffield United
Bernd Leno – Arsenal
A Mixed Report Card for the Knee Jerk Buying
Traders have been right to make Ederson, ter Stegen and Alisson amongst the most expensive keepers.
However, there is nothing to say that they should be this much more expensive than many other strong keepers that are available much cheaper.
That classic mistake crops up again – paying too much for good/popular players.
With Donarumma and Henderson they actually look fairly poor in themselves for FI purposes. As they often do with outfield players – people are overpaying because of hype for a transfer or over optimism on youth.
This can be fine if you are playing to exploit that hype and you know when to take your profit. It’s potentially dangerous if you are the true believer in that hype.
A price tag of around £1.50 gives these elite keepers a lot to do to create rational returns.
But for a good keeper closer to £1 there is some strong value there for the taking and it is likely the market is still undervaluing many of them.
Keepers from Big Hitting Teams Will Dominate. But there will be upsets.
Just as you might expect from basic common sense – big hitters are best if you want to hold them for any length of time. They are going to dominate when it comes to consistency.
However. We will see plenty of small club keepers win the dividends and this may happen as much as 50% of the time.
This could appear to create a ton of value in cheap keepers however it is going to be very hard for a small club keeper to show consistency.
Small club keepers may win around 50% of the time but picking exactly who that will be is not going to be easy.
With some short term/active and smart trading, small club keepers can be viable if you target kind runs of fixtures on soft days with little competition from big hitters.
And that may well become a fun part time hobby for some because a Bronze Day win for a cheap keeper may well be a good % return. Whether you can sell them after in the Matching Engine? More questionable.
Wins only real drive prices if people believe they will happen again soon.
What else factors into the value?
Keepers have a longer shelf life. So you can say that an elite keeper is a sound long term investment.
And this may lead you to giving them a higher valuation provided you are happy to be very patient and hold for a long time.
This is one reason you can rationally talk yourself into a ter Stegen or an Alisson even though they are a bit overpriced.
Media for keepers. Some keepers may pick up a bit of this. Alisson comes to mind. Maybe if there is a big penalty save in a big game for example.
But by and large it’s the same as with defenders. For example one of the main reasons people try to justify Alexander-Arnold’s price way beyond any other defender is that he is going to get consistent media because he’s “young and English”. He will a bit. Enough to justify £3-4? Not a chance.
It’s ludicrous to suggest this will do the same for him in the same way it could for an attacking player like Foden or Sancho one day.
The media covers goalscorers unless there is a very specific reason not to. That won’t be any different for the vast majority of keepers unless one comes along with a very very big personality.
So I wouldn’t be banking on media to justify much of a keepers value.
Is £1.50 too much for an elite keeper?
You could still just about justify buying an Alisson or Ederson for this price without being totally crazy – with a long term view. They are good and have settled futures as far as we know.
You’d have to be factoring in future dividend increases rather than expecting immediate big returns and adopt a very patient mindset.
My main worry about that is you do risk a drop after any surge – a player like Alisson is at this point a slow burn pick for patient people. And how many of those who piled into them immediately after the announcement fit that personality type? Mmm.
Pick the team first, keeper second.
I’m not saying if Bayern fielded a scarecrow wearing a hat and gloves in goal you should consider them but it’s pretty close. It’s the team factors rather than the keeper that is going to make the biggest difference.
So say we find one of these keepers who had great stats this season. Neuer for example looks the best keeper to me by some distance.
But if Bayern were to have a bad season next year then the keepers stats will plummet. True for all players but this will hit keepers particularly hard.
As another example if Liverpool aren’t quite this dominant this year then Alisson drops from to very quickly.
Because it’s not so much him as the team that makes him good for FI.
Would I buy keepers now?
Yes. After some time analysing them I am feeling more enthusiastic about them than at the start of the article!
But I’d shop in the £1 and below range where there is currently a sweet spot between quality/price.
It may also be smart to just wait and let it all settle down. They’ve gone up so fast and really… very few people have any idea how good they really are or not at this point. There could be lots of quick flips and sales in the shorter term.
Neuer is the keeper I am most optimistic on in terms of performance. He’s 34 years old which is a drag but if I looked into his future and thought he had another 2-3 seasons left? That’s good value there.
Szczesny. Good value and should be competitive.
Sommer is a smart pick at just 80-90p. Can easily be a consistent challenger and has a value price.
Hradecky at Leverkusen is another strong value option for just 61p. I’d expect him to punch above his weight.
ter Stegen… pricey but with so long to go in his career and his likely strength… you could stretch to it if you are really keen on a long term elite keeper.
There will be some good underdogs if you can match a decent one to a good fixture calendar (both their own fixtures and on days with little competition).
Someone like Soria at Getafe or Pope at Burnley might be capable there. But this is for those who enjoy a short term punt – I don’t expect to be bothering with this a great deal personally but some people might enjoy it.
That’s it for this first run through keepers! I’ll be adding them to the player ratings tables and featuring the notable ones in scouting from now on as and when value/quality appears.