Depending on your point of view, Aston Villa was either extremely lucky to escape this match with a draw, or have proven they’re skilled enough to still earn points when they don’t play their best. The truth may lie somewhere inbetween, but one thing is not in question,Villa owe this point to Shay Given.
In nearly every statistical category measured for the outfield players, Everton dominated the fixture. Everton held a possession edge 54.2% to 45.8% which was achieved, in part, through a 74% passing accuracy that was superior to Aston Villa’s dreadful 67%. While Everton (392) and Villa (342) were very close in terms of passes attempted, the additional 15% attempted by Everton was amplified by the fact they held a 292-229 completed pass edge.
However, the two statistics that stand out are the saves made by Shay Given (5) and the number of Clear Cut Chances that Everton had (8). Given’s saves are particularly remarkable when we consider that these are chances where the two expected outcomes from Opta are ‘goal’ and ‘not goal’. In other words, these scoring chances are in such good positions that passing the ball is not even considered an option. Given has recorded a number of saves for Villa this season, though his five in this match were clearly the most impressive.
In the Wolves match there were no clear cut chances for either team, Given recorded two saves and Hennessey three. In the Blackburn match Given had one save, Robinson had two – there was one clear cut chance for each side, and each team scored with their chance. On opening day, in the Fulham fixture, Schwarzer made one save and Given five, including saves on Fulham’s two clear cut chances.
Because Given has not faced eight other clear cut chances this season, we examined several other matches from the 2011-12 season to determine the rarity of this feat. In short, finding another match where a goalkeeper would have faced eight clear cut chances and conceded just one goal (on said chances) is remarkable.
Looking at some of the highest scoring and most dominant offensive performances in the EPL this season we can see that Everton would rank at or near the top of the list, but for a lack of goals. In the 8-2 Manchester United win over Arsenal, Manchester United had only six clear cut chances (scoring two). That match actually featured ten total clear cut chances, as Arsenal had four themselves, scoring one goal and missing three. Those six chances, incidentally, are the same number United had in their 5-0 win over Bolton, though in that match they scored four goals and missed only two. In Manchester City’s 5-2 victory over Tottenham, they had five clear cut chances (scoring twice), the same number they had in the 4-0 win over Swansea.
Without going through every single game of the season – all 39 – it is fair to say that Given faced an inordinate number of clear cut chances by the opposition, if not the single most of any ‘keeper in a single match this season. Despite this he allowed only two goals, with one coming from the penalty spot.
Given’s performance was very good on another level, Everton not only took 21 shots but they had 16 ‘chances’, as recorded by Opta. Of those five came from a set play and the other 11 in open play. Despite the high volume of chances they clearly only converted them into a single goal in open play. This points to Given’s positioning, a theory that is given further creedence by Given allowing no goals from outside the box. As the chart below illustrates – Given faced 12 shots inside the box, and an additional nine outside the box.
Given has been quite good this season, and has certainly been one of the key figures in Alex McLeish’s rebuilding of Aston Villa following his arrival. While Villa’s new gaffer may not be happy with the outfield players performance in this particular match, it is reassuring to know he has a good goalkeeper between the sticks. As the Villans prepare for an important two weeks (English Premier League and Carling Cup home fixtures against Newcastle and Bolton, respectively, followed by a trip to Loftus Road and Wigan’s visit to Villa park on 1 October) Shay Given’s performance against Everton could set the tenor for McLeish’s side to earn crucial wins against teams they will battle for final position in the table and a chance to be in Europe next season.