For a few seasons now, Pepe Reina’s form concerns Liverpool supporters. Since 2010-2011 campaign, the Spaniard has struggled to find some consistency and his save-to-shot ratio has decreased over time. Pepe’s biggest problem seems to be the number of errors he makes as his mistakes can cost Liverpool points, with the latest one turning a win over Manchester City into a disappointing draw. It’s hard to tell what the reason of Reina’s decline is. Many point at Xavi Valero departure as the source of Pepe’s problems, the others think that lack of competition made him try much less on the pitch (which seems to be a poor excuse as the likes of Casillas and Buffon have never had a real competition, yet they are among the best for many years now).
One thing is sure though the level of, the Barcelona-raised, goalkeeper’s performance has been way too low for way too long. It made some supporters believe, that their club needs to find a new goalie and let Reina seek revival somewhere else. With such an opinions getting increasingly popular, the discussion about the possible Spaniard’s successors started.
Swansea’s Michel Vorm and Stoke’s Asmir Begovic, who impressed many Premier League fans with their performances, are among host of names sounded out as possible Pepe’s replacements, but are they good enough to take Reina’s place? This comparison may hopefully put some light on that matter.
Pepe Reina won the golden glove award in four of his five first Premier League seasons at Liverpool, which obviously led to him being regarded as one of the clean-sheet experts. That is no longer the case, as the Spaniard is second-placed in this comparison, two clean sheets behind first Begovic, and three clean sheets more than Vorm. Still, clean sheet is achieved through hard work of the whole team, so it’s not the best way to judge the goalkeeper’s abilities. Also, the playtime makes the difference here. Reina’s minutes per clean-sheet ratio is just slightly worse than Begovic’s. Vorm seems to be worse than the Liverpool-Stoke duo in terms of keeping clean-sheets though.
Swansea stopper is the one to concede the least goals, but it’s mainly because he played much less than Begovic and Reina. Every one of the compared players has similar goals conceded per game ratio, as there is only 0,2 goal difference between the worst in Pepe and the best in Asmir. Begovic has made the highest number of saves, he isn’t the busiest one, as Vorm makes a save every 26,87 minutes compared to Asmir’s 31,69. Reina has much less work than Swansea player, being forced to save the shot every 36,73 minutes. Spaniard is also the only one, who have saved a penalty, stopping one of four he faced.
When it comes to aerial ability, Asmir Begovic is by far the best. He caught 52 crosses without missing even a single one. Second-placed Vorm caught 19 crosses and missed 4, and for Pepe Reina it’s 13 balls caught and 7 missed. The fact Reina’s cross catching stats are so bad isn’t actually a surprising one. Almost every Liverpool fan has always knew that Spaniard is quite poor aerially. Rafa Benitez knew that too, and he helped his goalkeeper by applying zonal marking during set pieces and preventing Pepe from going out of the line too often. Michel Vorm seems to have some problems with crosses too, though he still seems better aerially than the Spaniard.
Reina has made 10 punches this term, compared to Vorm’s 7 and Begovic’s 2. It may indicate, that he’s had some tough crosses to catch, but most likely it just means he wasn’t confident enough to try and catch a ball, knowing he has some problems with high crosses. Again, it’s the same with Vorm, while Begovic, who’s the strongest aerially, punched the ball only twice.
As I’ve already mentioned, Reina’s biggest problem is that he’s too error prone, and error stats confirm that. He’s made twice as many defensive errors as Begovic and Vorm. He’s more lucky than the Dutchman and Bosnian though, as errors, that led to goal stat shows, that two out of three Vorm’s errors led to goal, and for Begovic it’s 3 out of 3, while 4 of Pepe’s mistakes ended up with opposition scoring. Stoke goalkeeper seems to be the best at avoiding costly mistakes, as he makes an error every 750 minutes compared to Vorm’s 412 and Reina’s 300.
Reina has been regarded a great shot stopper in his prime form’s years, it changed now. He has the lowest save-to-shot ratio of all the compared players. He saved 63,6% of the shots on his goal, which is almost 10% less than the best shot stopper of the compared players, Vorm with 73%. Begovic is not far behind Michel, as the difference between the duo is only 1,3%.
Brendan Rodgers is working on implementing a possession-based football model at Liverpool. Part of his tactics is playing a sweeper-keeper role instead of traditional goalkeeper, which means his goalie needs to be a good passer of the ball. That’s why I’ve decided to take a look at compared trio’s passing stats.
Some Liverpool supporters think that Reina being good on the ball is simply a myth. Well, the stats show it isn’t. He seems to beat Begovic and Vorm by a mile, with 72,58% pass completition compared to Swansea’s goalkeeper 57,18% and Asmir’s 54,74%. Own half pass completition is a bit more even, at least when it comes to Reina and Vorm. Still, Spaniard’s 93% wins, though Dutchman is not so far away with his 86%. Begovic has completed only 70% of the passes he made in his own half. Actually, he seems to be the worst passer of all the compared goalkeepers, but defensive, direct football played by Stoke is definitely not helping to achieve a nice pass completition. Maybe the opposition half and final 3rd passing stats would change the situation a bit, but I’ve decided not to include them, as they are a bit irrelevant if you consider that Liverpool prefers to play short, accurate passes now, not the direct ones.
Conclusion – if Liverpool replaced Pepe Reina who would it be?
There is no doubt that Pepe Reina’s form is way below par. His save to shot ratio has lowered quite a lot compared to his best seasons, he makes too many errors, and his aerial ability is just poor. Spaniard has actually won in only one of this comparison’s areas, as his passing seems much better than Vorm’s and Begovic’s. Still, both Swansea and Stoke goalie are much better at shot stopping, commit fewer mistakes and are stronger aerially.
Reina needs to improve, there is no question about that. If he doesn’t, both Vorm and Begovic seem to be interesting options, especially Asmir looks like a player I’d like to see at Liverpool goal. He’s really strong in the air, has a good save to shot ratio and is the least error prone of all the contestants here. The only thing that he’d have to improve is his passing, as it’s way too poor for a possible Reds’ goalkeeper at the moment. I really believe playing in much less direct and more offensive team would automatically bring some improvement here though, as he’d pass under less pressure and have better options than hoofing the ball somewhere around target man.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.