Newcastle haven’t been registering on the radars of many FPL managers recently, but Balders has picked up a signal. Here he is to explain the curious case of Robert Elliot and his bonus points:
Back in October, when Tim Krul picked up a long term injury, there was talk of playing an £8.0m uber-cheap goalkeeper rotation of Wayne Hennessey from Crystal Palace and Robert Elliot from Newcastle United. I was not convinced at all of this pairing especially as there were questions over Hennessey’s security of starts and Newcastle looked like a truly awful team having just come off the back of a 6-1 thumping by Manchester City. I gave the rotation the nickname Helliot on Earth.
Since then, Hennessey has seemingly nailed down his spot and, although Newcastle are still awful, Elliot is still raking in the points. Both keepers have notched up 45 points and if they had been rotated picking the best fixture each week they would have picked up 55 points.
That’s enough about Hennessey, who happens to be an uber-cheap keeper in a top half team. Elliot though is doing something remarkable in arguably the worst team in the league – yes even worse than Aston Villa when you look at their underlying shot and shot conversion stats as encapsulated by James Grayson and his Team Rating system.
Team Rating has MCFC as easily the best PL team, though historically they’re not exactly special pic.twitter.com/9SojZzsihS
— James Grayson (@JamesWGrayson) December 28, 2015
Out of the current 20 first-choice keepers, Elliot sits sixth for points per game and fourth for total Bonus Points earned despite having played nine fewer games than many keepers. Goalies earning bonus points isn’t that special, but the manner in which Elliot is accumulating them is.
Just before Christmas, in Gameweeks 16 and 17, Elliot picked up a bonus point in each match without keeping a clean sheet, making a penalty save or getting a freak goal or assist. To put this into context, since the beginning of the Bonus Point System (BPS) in the 2013-14 season there have been 1,342 goalkeeper appearances without a clean sheet, penalty save, goal or assist and just three of these appearances have resulted in a bonus point for the goalkeeper. One of these occasions was David Marshall in 2013, who made eight saves for Cardiff in a 1-1 draw vs Newcastle. The other two occasions have been Elliot this season.
For goalkeepers there are three components that contribute to nearly all of their baseline BPS scores: appearance points, saves and ball recoveries. Appearance points are the same for all players who play over 60 minutes so saves and ball recoveries are how goalkeepers can make their BPS scores stand out and Elliot gets both of these in spades. To make a high volume of saves a keeper needs to be in a team which concedes a lot of shots on target, something Newcastle certainly do as shown in the first graph. To get ball recoveries a keeper has to dominate their box by catching crosses and getting out to overhit through balls, something Elliot also does very well and much better than Tim Krul who he replaced in the Newcastle side, as shown in the second graph.
In Gameweek 16 Elliot made seven saves and 11 ball recoveries to reach 23 BPS and in Gameweek 17 he made six saves and 12 ball recoveries to reach 22 BPS. In both of these weeks a performance slightly above his base rates resulted in a bonus point each. In many 1-1 draws or 2-1 wins 22 BPS would not be enough to earn a bonus point but as Newcastle are a uniquely bad team, Elliot has shown this is possible.
When we add in that goalkeepers also earn points for every three saves made, we can see how Rob Elliot is capable of scoring well enough without keeping clean sheets. He may not be the first name on the team sheet when drafting your ideal team, but watch out for Manchester City’s progress in the League Cup. If the Citizens reach the final they and Newcastle will have a blank Gameweek 27 and a double gameweek at some point. With Krul out until the end of the season, Elliot could be the perfect second keeper for those who play somebody like Jack Butland or Petr Cech most weeks.