A Penalty Free Zone

Should Fantasy Premier League managers be concerned about a dearth of spot kicks?

After 6 rounds of the new Premier League season we have only seen 10 penalty kicks awarded. If this ratio was to be maintained for the remainder of the season, we would witness the lowest number since the 2001/02 campaign when just 52 spot kicks were awarded in total.

This is quite a turnaround from last season where a total of 106 were given, matching the previous best figure set since the Premier League era began. It’s possible that the men in the middle over-reacted to some new refereeing directives in the early part of the 2016/17 season but for whatever reason, they have been far less inclined to point to the spot this time around.

Clearly a lack of penalties could have repercussions for fantasy football managers that like to pack their line-ups with known penalty takers, especially with double points on offer for the gameweek captain in many formats.

So, what have we learned so far?

Jamie Vardy has scored 2 of his 3 spot-kicks for Leicester City, while Roberto Firmino tucked one away for Liverpool, although the Brazilian international did hit the post from the spot in the Reds’ Champions League clash with Sevilla.

Southampton earned two in their home game with West Ham United, with Dušan Tadić and Charlie Austin both converting, although it should be pointed out that the latter would definitely appear to be the Saints’ first choice taker despite his questionable game time.

However, it is the permutations at Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City that could have major implications for Fantasy Premier League managers as the season unfolds.

Alexandre Lacazette converted from the spot in the Gunners’ 2-0 win over West Brom on Monday to dispel any doubts that Alexis Sánchez would remain as Arsenal’s first choice penalty taker.

The young French striker has now scored 4 of Arsenal’s 9 Premier League goals this season and he just pips Romelu Lukaku to top spot in the GW7 Armband rankings.

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Lukaku had a penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel earlier in the campaign and would now appear to have slipped down the Red Devils’ penalty taking pecking order, with another young French attacker, Anthony Martial, now evidently first choice. However, Martial, like the aforementioned Austin, is far from a nailed-on starter.

In the blue half of Manchester things are a little more confusing. Raheem Sterling converted from the spot late on in City’s 6-0 win at Watford. It was a fixture in which Sergio Agüero had already claimed the match ball, earning a WhoScored 10 out of 10 in the process, so it was perhaps a little surprising that the Argentinian didn’t take it.

Agüero was back on spot kick duty in the Champions League this week though, despite Sterling being on the pitch but he fluffed his lines yet again, the 5th time he has missed in all phases of this particular competition.

Arsenal have another favourable home fixture in GW7, so if you think that we are set to see a surge in the number of penalties awarded, it may just pay to have Lacazette in your side and to hand him that armband!