Battles rage for Fantasy Premier League 2011/12 budget keepers

Budget keepers are a key part of Fantasy Premier League. They allow us to free up cash to spend on big hitters.

Finding a combination early on this season looks tricky. We don’t yet have the price lists but it’s already clear we’ll need to do our research to find our keepers match made in heaven.

The classic combination of Mark Schwarzer and Thomas Sorensen in 2008/09 was the pinnacle of budget keeper combinations.

Schwarzer racked up 175 points at a cost of £4m, while Sorensen cost the same and got 143 points.

Ben Foster and Asmir Begovic were perhaps the most popular pairing last season.

Foster’s £4.5m starting price was a snip for his 153 points, while Begovic offered similar value for around the £4m mark.

I’ve taken a look at some teams offering budget keepers and highlighted some issues we face as these teams don’t have a clear No 1 right now.

Sunderland – Craig Gordon, Simon Mignolet, Kieren Westwood

Sunderland have a three way battle going on for their No 1 jersey.

Gordon was the established No 1 until he suffered a spate of bad injuries last season and allowed Mignolet to claim his place.

Mignolet started the season in goal, then lost his place to Gordon in gameweek 12, before reclaiming the jersey in gameweek 28 when Gordon succumbed to a season-ending knee injury.

Mignolet ended up playing 2070 minutes, while Gordon figured in 1350 minutes. Mignolet racked up 8 clean sheets and Gordon kept 5.

Sunderland’s recent signing of 26 year-old Irish keeper, Kieren Westwood, means we now have a third piece of the puzzle.

Westwood isn’t there to be a bench warmer. The former Coventry keeper, one of the stars of the Championship last season, has vowed to make the No 1 spot his own. Westwood said:

“I’ve come here to play first-team football. I know it’ll be a tough contest with the other lads who are vying for the shirt and it’s all about competition.”

His manager, Steve Bruce, certainly believes he has what it takes. Bruce said:

“Keiren has proven to be an exceptional goalkeeper both in the Championship and at international level and he has certainly been one of the best in this country outside of the Premier League in recent seasons… We are looking forward to working with him and we are delighted to have added further competition in a vital position.”

Mignolet has similar ambitions to be top keeper and recently said:

“It won’t be easy for the gaffer to make that decision, but he’s going to have to do that… Hopefully, I will have made it tough for him with my performances last season… I was ready for a battle with Craig at the start of last season. If Craig is fit, it’s a tough decision for the manager.”

Gordon is returning from injury and looks vulnerable early on to Mignolet and Westwood. We need to carefully monitor pre-season friendlies to get an indication of where the No 1 jersey is headed.

All three of these keepers will likely be priced around the £4 – £4.5m price range, so they will be potential bargains in a Sunderland defence that kept a very impressive 14 clean sheets last season.

My view is that Gordon will be Bruce’s eventual No 1, but Mignolet will start the season as first choice while Gordon is still fighting back to full fitness.

Aaron’s tip for the gloves: Craig Gordon

Newcastle – Steve Harper, Tim Krul, Fraser Forster

The picture isn’t clear at Newcastle either. Harper started off last season as undoubted No 1 but suffered a devastating shoulder injury in gameweek 5.

This allowed 23 year-old Dutch international keeper, Tim Krul, into the first team, where he enjoyed a fairly successful spell until Harper returned in gameweek 21.

Harper sustained another injury late on so Krul played the last 6 games of the season.

Harper, now 36, racked up 2 more clean sheets than Krul despite playing 292 less minutes over the season.

Fraser Forster, also 23, is a third option for Pardew. He excelled on loan at Celtic last season and will fancy his chances of a run in the Newcastle team.

So Harper isn’t guranteed to return to No 1 this season, and he knows it. He recently spoke of his upcoming battle to regain the jersey and a particular quote summed up the clouded situation for us fantasy managers:

“Every season the managers always said nobody’s No1 – it’s up to you to convince me in pre-season who deserves the shirt, and I’m sure it’ll be no different this time.”

Pardew confirmed that all three keepers have a genuine chance of claiming the No 1 spot. He said:

“They have all got a genuine, genuine chance to be No.1… In my mind – and hand on heart, I can say this – I haven’t really got focused on one particularly goalie… Harps was great for me [last season]… He will be important to us this year and he wants the No.1 shirt; Tim wants it – he has just had a brilliant game against Brazil in a full international; and Fraser is coming off a great season… It’s a great situation for me, but I do need to make a call and I will genuinely, genuinely take all into account – Harps’ history, Harps’ experience against Tim’s inexperience, but natural God-given talent, as with Fraser.”

I’m backing Harper to keep his No 1 jersey, but it’s far from certain, and we need to watch what happens in pre-season.

All three keepers are seemingly set for a run-out and all three are sure to be bargains around the £4m – £4.5m price range.

Newcastle tightened up under Pardew, earning 8 clean sheets, so it’s definitely worth considering a budget keeper from Newcastle.

Aaron’s tip for the gloves: Steve Harper

Wolves – Wayne Hennessey, Dorus De Vries, Carl Ikeme

There’s also a three way tussle going on at Wolves. Wayne Hennessey grabbed the No 1 spot from Marcus Hahnemann (who’s now left Wolves) in gameweek 15 and played every game for the rest of the season.

Hennessey has a fight on his hands to keep the jersey, though, especially after the recent signing of Dorus De Vries from Swansea.

The 30 year-old Dutchman was an ever present during Swansea’s promotion campaign and will be expecting to challenge for the No 1 spot.

Carl Ikeme, 25, is perhaps a dark horse for the role, but shouldn’t be disregarded. Ikeme has had his injuries but Mick McCarthy considers him a contender to be first choice.

McCarthy recently spoke about his keeper situation and said:

“Wayne earned his No 1 slot last year and the three of them will be able to battle it out again this season… We are very pleased with the quality we have got and I’m sure they will be competing for that No 1 slot.”

Let’s face it, Wolves hardly scream clean sheet potential (5 clean sheets last season), but all three of these keepers are likely to come in at £4m, and they probably offer more chance of a shut out than keepers from Swansea, QPR and Norwich, who’ll likely cost the same.

So we’ve got more pre-season scouting then. This is a tricky one but I’m tipping Hennessey to start No 1 because he finished No 1 and did a good job. He’s under pressure but it’s his to lose.

Aaron’s tip for the gloves: Wayne Hennessey

Stoke – Asmir Begovic, Thomas Sorensen

The goalkeeper conundrum at Stoke has been rumbling on for some time, but we should pay close attention as Stoke are one of the best sources of budget keeper potential.

Sorensen started last season No 1 but got injured so Begovic grasped the gloves from gameweek 10 and made the position his own with a string of fine performances.

Sorensen failed to regain his position when he returned from injury, just playing in Cup games. He played well in those games and it always looked like he’d return in the league but Begovic held him off.

So this situation rumbles on. I think Begovic is first choice but I’m not certain on that. He’ll likely be priced around £4.5m so great value for a Stoke team who gathered 9 clean sheets last season.

Sorensen is starting to get itchy feet at the prospect of playing second fiddle again and has been linked with a move to West Ham. That would certaintly cement Begovic’s place.

Aaron’s tip for the gloves: Asmir Begovic

Aston Villa, West Brom and Swansea – No first choice keeper

It’s worth mentioning that Aston Villa, West Brom and Swansea are in the market for a new No 1 after selling Brad Friedel, Scott Carson and Dorus De Vries – so we have to wait and see here too.

West Brom have been linked with Newcastle’s Shay Given and Man United’s Thomas Kuszczak, while Villa have also been linked with Given and Birmingham’s Ben Foster.

Good luck if you’re brave enough to consider a budget keeper from one of the promoted sides!