Premier League

The state of Premier League shot-stopping

We have used advanced data metrics to assess the performances of goalkeepers in England's top flight as we near the midway point of the season.

Edouard Mendy was the highest profile goalkeeper signing in the summer Edouard Mendy was the highest profile goalkeeper signing in the summer
9:00am on Monday 11th January 2021
Aidan Reagh

As we enter the traditional midpoint of the Premier League campaign in January, it is worth taking a look at how goalkeepers have been performing.

This summer saw the acquisitions of Edouard Mendy (Chelsea), Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield United), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), and Alphonse Areola (Fulham).

There was also Leeds United putting their faith in the youngster Illan Meslier and Newcastle United restoring faith in Karl Darlow for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign in the Championship, so many goalkeepers have a lot to prove.

While certain abilities such as passing and cross-claiming are important, the most critical aspect of a goalkeeper is the ability to stop a shot.

Using data provided by Statsbomb and FbRef, we can look at save percentage and Post-Shot xG. To refresh if you are not familiar with the save percentage metric, take the number of shots saved by a goalkeeper and divide it by the number of shots faced.

For example, if a goalkeeper has faced 42 shots in a season and saved 31, this goalkeeper has a save percentage of 0.738. Post-Shot xG, defined by our article published in June, is 'What Post-Shot Expected Goals does is take the shot quality (ie what would be an xG high-tariff chance) and combine it with what actually happened - the destiny of the shot'. With the definitions covered, let's dive into the performances.

With an eight-match played minimum as of January 5th, we can immediately see the elite, the good, the struggling, and the plain ugly (sorry Mat Ryan).

Our elite shot-stoppers are Nick Pope (Burnley), Martinez (Aston Villa), Areola (Fulham), and Hugo Lloris. These goalkeepers stand out above and beyond in both save percentage and PSxG/90. Referencing the table below, we can see their exact numbers:

Elite goalkeepers in 2020-21

NameClubSave %PSxG Diff./90
Nick PopeBurnley0.806%+0.33
Emiliano MartinezAston Villa0.773%+0.29
Alphonse AreolaFulham0.768%+0.27
Hugo LlorisTottenham0.823%+0.24

With the above four creating the top tier of shot-stopping as of this point in the season, we can move to our second tier, featuring Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham), Alisson Becker (Liverpool), Sam Johnstone (West Brom), Darlow (Newcastle United), Bernd Leno (Arsenal), Meslier (Leeds United), Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City), and Alex McCarthy (Southampton).

For the sake of him being closer to the second tier than the third, we will include Manchester City's Ederson. These goalkeepers are in a category of not leading the league, but not being responsible for club struggles to the point where the club should consider seeking replacements.

Speaking of players who might be costing the club points in terms of shot-stopping, we have our bottom tier goalkeepers.

The seven goalkeepers who make this list are: Mendy (Chelsea), Vicente Guaita (Crystal Palace), David De Gea (Manchester United), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Ramsdale (Sheffield United), Rui Patricio (Wolves), and Ryan (Brighton). Their data can be found in the table below:

Keepers who are costing points

NameClubSave %PSxG Diff./90
Edouard MendyChelsea0.697%-0.08
Vicente GuaitaCrystal Palace0.658%-0.09
David De GeaMan Utd0.614%-0.07
Jordan PickfordEverton0.707%-0.15
Aaron RamsdaleSheffield United0.674%-0.14
Rui PatricioWolves0.615%-0.19
Mat RyanBrighton0.500%-0.29

With Mendy being the 'new face' on the list, having arrived from France in the summer, perhaps he just needs more time to adjust to the culture of England?

Vicente Guaita has been hailed as a saviour for Crystal Palace since he became the number one, is age catching up to him? David De Gea's long-time starting job with Manchester United is looking uncertain as Dean Henderson awaits his turn to shine at Old Trafford.

Meanwhile, Henderson’s replacement Ramsdale is yet to make an impact for the struggling Blades.

Ryan is seeing his minutes drop under Graham Potter at Brighton, and Patricio may be showing signs that Diogo Jota's departure at Wolves is not the only reason they are struggling.

While Pickford struggles and his spot as England's starter comes under more pressure, his biggest competitor in Pope is shining at Burnley. Martinez is showing Arsenal why he deserved a chance and is now helping Villa push for European qualification.

Fabianski remains a goalkeeper who has not slowed down with age, while Meslier is proving he is not too young to be Bielsa's first-choice goalkeeper at Leeds.

As we go into the second half of the Premier League season, will new faces arrive? Who will lose their starting role? Who will earn the next big move?

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more like it, you can follow Aidan Reagh on Twitter @ARDataAnalysis for articles, visuals, and other football analytics discussions. If you would like to see how all of the goalkeepers across Europe’s top five leagues are performing, you can view the interactive data visualization here.

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