It has been a tough few weeks for Manchester United. The speculation over the long term future of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rumbles on in the background with no sign of a quick resolution. However, the return to form of David de Gea has been a huge positive for the club. It was believed that Dean Henderson would eventually usurp the Spaniard and he did for a period. Now, it looks like the 31-year-old will retain the shirt for the foreseeable future, with Henderson likely to depart in the next 12 months.
De Gea seems to thrive and play his best football when the club is in turmoil. It was true for long periods under previous managers, as he had a spell of winning player of the season in successive seasons. Throughout Solskjaer’s tenure, he has been heavily criticised for his perceived regression by notable pundits.
There has been a good feeling around the club until recently, when Solskjaer’s position has been brought into question. It has coincided with an improvement in his goalkeeper. This may not be a surprise, as De Gea has more work to do and therefore, he will catch the attention more. Despite some great shot-stopping, he did make a notable error at the weekend for the second goal.
His biggest contribution came in the match against West Ham, as he saved a last minute penalty to ensure his team took the three points. After a wretched run of failing to save penalties, including last season’s Europa League final, it underlined the improvements that De Gea made during the summer.
Looking deeper into De Gea’s numbers from this season, a save percentage of 63.8% doesn’t catch the eye and point towards an improvement. The Spanish international ranks 18th out of the 22 goalkeepers to have played in the Premier League this season.
However, in terms of the quality of shots he is facing, De Gea is out-performing what would be expected from an average goalkeeper. The post shot expected goals (PSxG) metric looks at how many goals would be expected from the shots faced by a goalkeeper.
De Gea has conceded 17 goals, two of which were own goals. These are taken out of the calculation as they didn’t come from shots faced by De Gea. From the shots he has faced, the average goalkeeper would be expected to concede 17.5 times. Therefore, the Manchester United goalkeeper has a PSxG minus goals conceded of +2.5.
In the Premier League, only Edouard Mendy (+2.6) is having a more positive impact when it comes to shot stopping. This does underline how there has been a return to form for De Gea when it comes to keeping the ball out of the net.
Throughout De Gea’s Manchester United career, he has been considered an excellent shot stopper. There are issues in his game, such as distribution and physicality, but he could never be criticised for his shot stopping.
In recent seasons, it has become an issue and De Gea wasn’t having as big of an impact in games. That trend seems to be reversing and the Spaniard can now be seen as one of the very best again.