Football, this beautiful game, has always been about scoring goals, goals galore. The game revolves around putting the ball in the back of the net. Be it the unmissable sitters, heartbreaking and unforgettable last minute winners, the netbusters or sometimes dubious own goals. It is the goals that have always mattered in the end and beyond, goals that footballers are remembered for. Having said that, the less remembered and arguably the least glamorous footballers in terms of what they do, don’t rely much on their feet to do the talking.
It’s a common misconception that goalkeepers are remembered more for their howlers than saves. Though one can rarely witness a goalkeeper winning a football match, you often see them keeping you in games, saving the faces of the other 10 outfield players, giving the team that extra chance to go one above the opponents. It’s been no different this season, the goalkeepers have played a major role thus far, for their respective teams, helping themselves in this World Cup year and thereby, the team in achieving what they want to. In this article, we shall look at the performances of the three young and promising talents in front of goal: Simon Mignolet, David De Gea and Woj Szczesny.
To start with, Manchester United’s David De Gea has played 1 fewer match; Simon Mignolet and Szczesny played last weekend against Southampton and Stoke respectively. Arsenal’s Woj Szczesny has most clean sheets so far with 12 out of 28, which is roughly 43% of the number of games he’s played this season. While David De Gea has had 9 out of 27 and Simon Mignolet 8 out of 28 respectively, this can be attributed to the inconsistency of the back 4 at United and Liverpool. The fact that David De Gea and Mignolet have had to play behind a different back 4 every two or three games, makes it hard to adjust; it can also lead to errors that cost cheap goals which would not have happened otherwise. This by no means is an attempt to undermine Szczesny’s efforts in front of goal but the fact that he plays behind a consistent back 4 and a constant center-back pairing makes it a bit easier for him to convert good defensive performances to clean sheets.
Szczesny has conceded the least number of goals of the three with 28 in 28 games which is 1 goal conceded per game. An interesting statistic is that he conceded almost 40% of them in just two games – the away fixtures against Manchester City and Liverpool, where he conceded 11 goals. This highlights how a couple of shambolic defensive performances can damage a goalkeeper’s statistics. David De Gea has let 31 goals past him and Simon Mignolet has let 35 goals past him so far averaging 1.15 and 1.25 per game respectively. Talking about the saves and minutes per save, De Gea has made 78 saves and had to make a save every 31.15 minutes, whereas Arsenal’s Szczesny has been made to work the most, making 87 saves, a save every 29 minutes this season.
Penalties and the aerial ability are two key attributes of any professional goalkeeper and two vital qualities that separate the average goalkeeper from an exceptional one. Luckily enough Manchester United’s David De Gea has not faced any penalties yet. His ability in the air has often been questioned and criticised for his lack of command in the box which goalkeepers are mostly judged on, such as the likes of Peter Schmeichel and David Seaman. The Spaniard has made 23 high cross catches this season, a massive 19 behind Szczesny. Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet has fared the best when it comes to saving penalties with a 25% save ratio slightly bettering the Pole in this aspect. As expected, De Gea has punched a corner the least number of times (12) whilst Belgian Simon Mignolet (18) and Szczesny (20) managing more. It goes to show, De Gea still has a lot of room to improve and has to develop the urgency to control and dominate set plays more than what he does at this point of time.
Defensive errors usually give an indication of how reliable a goal keeper has been throughout the season and although Mignolet has been excellent for Liverpool this is an area in which he could improve. He’s made 5 defensive errors for Liverpool with them coming at a rate of 504 mins per error. This is the worst of the three being compared with the Arsenal goalkeeper making 3 errors whilst David De Gea impresses the most here making no errors at all this season for Manchester United (also an improvement from last year where he made two)!
With just 10 or 11 games remaining in what has been an exciting season so far, the goalkeepers, especially these three, will be counted on so much by their teammates and fans to turn up with match-winning or match-saving performances to be precise, because every point earned or dropped at this time of the season would go on to make a telling difference in the league table.