How important are penalty takers in FPL since the handball rule was softened? |

The early-season spate in penalty awards didn’t just dominate discussion among spectators, pundits, players and managers but it also had a significant impact on Fantasy Premier League scores and squads.

From Gameweeks 1-3, there were a whopping 20 spot-kicks given and an unprecedented 17.5% of the goals scored in the English top flight came from 12 yards.

Packing FPL teams full of penalty-takers therefore became a short-lived, semi-popular tactic in September.

But the “softening” of the controversial handball rule ahead of Gameweek 4 has unsurprisingly led to fewer such spot-kicks: there were six penalties awarded for handball in Gameweeks 1-3, the same number that there given in Gameweeks 4-17 after the relaxation.

Penalties overall have dropped as a result:

Penalties per game
2020/21 (Gameweeks 1-3) 0.71
2020/21 (Gameweeks 4-33) 0.29
2019/20 0.24
2018/19 0.27
2017/18 0.21
2016/17 0.28

The rate of penalties being awarded from Gameweeks 4-33 is still up on previous campaigns but the rise is marginal at best.

VAR hasn’t quite had the seismic impact that some were expecting on the rate of spot-kicks.

In 2019/20, VAR’s first season of use in the Premier League, the rate of penalty awards actually dipped from the previous campaign.

ESPN’s Dale Johnson is a must-follow for those interested in the effect of video assistant referees on the English game.

His miscellany of data from this season shows that almost as many penalties have been overturned (21) by VAR as awarded (25):


Our Set Piece Takers tab details who is on penalty-taking duties for their respective clubs, as well as the players responsible for corners and free-kicks.

Most of the listings above are fairly self-explanatory: for example, we know that Mark Noble is first in line for penalties at West Ham so long as he is on on the pitch.

The situation at Manchester City is a bit more clouded, however.

Sergio Aguero scored from the spot in the Champions League tie against Porto in October with Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri on the field. He also scored from 12 yards in Gameweek 28 with Rodri present.

Kevin De Bruyne has taken all of Manchester City’s Premier League penalties when he has been fit and available but Mahrez stepped up to take one in the Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund in April, a match that also featured De Bruyne (but not Aguero!).

It’s all a bit of a mess, then, particularly when Rodri, Sterling and Gundogan have previously taken penalties in De Bruyne and Aguero’s absences.


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While building a “pen-plate” FPL squad consisting purely of spot-kick takers is hardly an advisable tactic now, being first in line from 12 yards doesn’t do any harm.

Ideally, though, we’d like our penalty-takers to also offer threat from elsewhere.

The table below ranks all Premier League players by their expected goal involvement per 90 minutes but strips away penalties to level the playing field.

Anyone who was racked up fewer than 500 minutes of pitch-time has been removed.

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