The position of the goalkeeper becomes more and more demanding over the passage of the years. It is a common assumption that the contemporary goalkeepers have encountered too much criticism from the fans and the Press in comparison with those of 00’s or 90’s. That situation has taken place due to the expansion of their responsibilities, as a result of the unprecedented increase of football’s speed.
The purpose of this research focuses on the collection and the juxtaposition of goalkeepers’ data. The researcher will take into account all the data that are revolved around specific categories, which illustrate the profile of a well-balanced goalkeeper. In fact, the main objective of the research is to compare a decent number of stats, so as the researcher to try to answer the following question: Who is the most complete goalkeeper of the current decade? The results of the research will be obtained through the analysis of his collected data.
The evolution of technology and social media has led either to mass glorification or to unreasonable depreciation of the players, especially from the fans’ side. Nowadays, one or two great performances are more than enough to turn a young goalkeeper to a promising prospect, or the opposite. In the past, the levels of exposure for the players were outrageously lower that today. Despite the variation of trends, concerning the support and the condemnation over the last decade, many talented and skillful goalkeepers have appeared in European football and modern goalkeeping methods have emerged, as the position is evolved.
Data Collection and Methodology
For the purposes of the research, goalkeeping data will be collected and analyzed for seven of the best contemporary goalkeepers in the world, from season 2009-10 to season 2017-18. More precisely, the performances of David de Gea, Gianluigi Buffon, Petr Cech, Hugo Lloris, Manuel Neuer, Thibaut Courtois and Marc-André ter Stegen will be examined, as they are goalkeepers with at least 7 full seasons on the top level (with more than 20 official matches per season).
Moreover, different weights will be introduced to the data, by producing a certain score for each one of the statistical categories. This score will be modified, depending on the goalkeeper’s performance. According to this technique, the goalkeepers can be evaluated hierarchically and an accurate conclusion about who is the most complete one can be extracted.
At this point, it is essential to mention that the stats correspond to nine full seasons. From the selected goalkeepers, there are five that have seven to eight full seasons, during this decade. In order to counterbalance the data, the method of normalization will be implemented wherever it is necessary. In normalization, the average value of the stats in each category will be considered as an extra season and a new nine-season average will arise for every player.
Presentation of the Players’ Stats
As it is referred, seven of the best contemporary goalkeepers will be taken into consideration for the needs of the research. The stats that are collected include goals conceded, clean sheets, saves, pass accuracy and penalty saves efficiency. The above-mentioned are thought to be the most significant stats for a goalkeeper in the 21st century.
In the first graph, the annual numbers of matches, goals conceded and clean sheets are presented. Excluding Ter Stegen, all the other players have played over 40 matches per season. The paradox, in this case, is that four out of seven goalkeepers receive almost a goal per match for nine seasons. More particularly, David de Gea (1.06), Hugo Lloris (1.08) and Marc-André ter Stegen (1.01) allow more than one goal per match, Petr Cech (0.98) concedes almost one goal, while Courtois (0.90), Buffon (0.72) and Neuer (0.75) allow a respectful number of goals.
Subsequently, the number of goals these goalkeepers permit is imprinted to their clean sheet performance. Although the defensive game style of Manchester United and the balanced game style of Tottenham, De Gea and Lloris have the same quantity of clean sheets per season. Even Cech and Courtois surpass the Spaniard in this category, proving that he has been betrayed by his defenders many times. Another unforeseen fact is that Neuer keeps the ball away from his post more often than Buffon, when the style of Bundesliga is more offensive than that of Serie A. Eventually, Ter Stegen normally has the fewest clean sheets of all seven players.
In the second graph, the saves that the goalkeepers make are classified, based on the distance of the execution. It might be a contradiction, but De Gea (2.99), who plays in a defensive team, makes the same number of saves with Ter Stegen (3.01), who plays in a full offensive team. Cech has more pressure to pull through in Arsenal than before (2.81), when Courtois (2.29) and Buffon (2.33) make the less saves among the seven players.
Additionally, the 5.35% of De Gea’s saves per match are from the six-yard box (a save per six matches approximately), one of the highest percentages among the top5 European Leagues. The corresponding percentage is 3.86% for Buffon, 3.91% for Cech, 4.17% for Lloris, 3.8% for Neuer, 4.8% for Courtois and 4.32% for Ter Stegen. De Gea has also made the most saves from inside the penalty area, while those of Ter Stegen come more often out of the box. Neuer does not have more than a save out of the box, which can only be justified by the fact that the opponents hesitate to shoot from distance when he is present on the field.
In the last graph, the accuracy of long and short passes is contained as well as the efficiency these goalkeepers have in penalty saves. Apropos the long passing accuracy, Buffon (54.72%), Neuer (53.82%) and Ter Stegen (53.58%) seem skillful enough to transfer the ball with high rate of success to their teammates in distance. On the other hand, Courtois (38.29%) proves that he needs a lot of improvement in this part of his game. De Gea, Cech and Lloris are slightly under the average, but more effective than the Belgian keeper.
Furthermore, in short passes, the high percentages that all have seem to be reasonable, as in goalkeeper’s position the player has less pressure and safer options for passing the ball. Again, Lloris (94.7) and De Gea’s (96.12%) short passing percentage is under the average. On the contrary, Buffon is almost infallible (98.01%) and, by far, the most effective one with the ball at his feet.
As for penalty saves efficiency, the stats contain penalty executions from all official competitions the goalkeepers participated, including the National teams’ matches. Neuer saves more than one out of three penalties when he finds himself against the opponent at the twelve yards. At the same time, Buffon saves almost one out of three penalties, but in a wider range of executions (31/101). The less effective goalkeepers in penalties are Courtois (16.13%) and Lloris (15.28%).
Statistical Analysis & Weights
One of the most fruitful methods for reaching the purpose of the research, concerning the most complete goalkeeper, is the insertion of positive and negative weights in the collected stats. In other words, each statistical category will have a certain weight, which will be multiplied with the category’s value of every single player. The score of all values will give a sum. The goalkeeper with the greatest sum will be considered as the most complete goalkeeper.
|Categories (Weights)||Goals Conceded (-0,4)||Clean Sheets (0,4)||Six-Yard Box (0,55*0,65)||Penalty Area (0,3*0,65)||Out of Box (0,15*0,65)||AccLB % (0,1)||AccSP % (0,05)||Penalty Saves % (0,2)||Sum (1)|
|David de Gea||-0,390818||0,261167||0,3575||0,195||0,089672||0,07454||0,04904||0,15132||0,787|
|Marc ter Stegen||-0,371627||0,237||0,290469||0,187548||0,0975||0,09792||0,04928||0,12840||0,717|
In the above table, the weights and the scores of each player are shown. The sum of all weights must be 1. For that reason, the goals conceded per match will have negative weight (-0.4), while the clean sheets (0.4), the saves (0.65), the penalty saves (0.2), the long (0.1) and the short passes (0.05) will have positive weight. What is more, the saves’ weight will be divided in 3 different parts: a) the six-yard box (0.55), the penalty area (0.3) and the out of the box saves (0.1). In the end, all stats will be divided with the number of the highest performance, for normalizing the values of all categories. For example, the 20.78 clean sheets of Buffon will be divided with the number 24 (the clean sheets of Neuer) and the result will be multiplied with the weight (0.4), providing the score required.
The results of the table demonstrate that Manuel Neuer is the most complete goalkeeper of the decade, followed by Buffon (2nd), De Gea (3rd), Ter Stegen (4th), Cech (5th), Courtois (6th) and Lloris (7th). The German accumulated the best sum, having some of the greatest scores almost in all possible categories. The difference between Buffon and De Gea is not as big as it might be believed, whereas Lloris cannot be competitive against the others, although he is a great modern goalkeeper.
To sum up, in this research the individual performance of seven of the best contemporary goalkeepers is evaluated. The conclusion of the researcher is that the most complete goalkeeper is the German Manuel Neuer of Bayern Munich. The difference of the second and the fourth place was intense, while Lloris seems unable to compete for the title of the greatest. The data that analyzed imprint the skills a modern goalkeeper needs to perfect for reaching the top level.
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