- The Top 5 goalkeeper
In January 2021, Manuel Neuer received the FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year award for 2020. Without a doubt, he created a new approach to goalkeeping with his unique co-playing mindset. However, looking at other data, a sometimes-surprising ranking in top-level football becomes visible in European comparison.
In our detailed Goalkeeper Performance Analysis, we therefore examined three Key Performance Indicators for all goalkeepers deployed in the top five European leagues (Spain, France, Germany, Italy, England) for the calendar year 2020:
- Opponents’ expected goals (xG) conversion: This value indicates how many chances the goalkeeper prevents depending on the expected xG values. It can be deduced from this that for every value below 1, the opponent needs more chances to score a goal than the xG value would suggest. The lower the value of the indicator, the better the goalkeeper. Conversely, a worse keeper has a value above 1. Here, more goals are conceded from chances than could be expected. The average value here is 1.02.
- Shots saved in %: This classic indicator shows the percentage of shots on goal, that are successfully saved by the goalkeeper, thus preventing a goal from being conceded. The average value here is 70 %.
- xG per shot saved: This deeper value indicates how dangerous the shots to be saved by the goalkeeper were. The higher this value, the more dangerous balls the keeper was able to save. The average value here is 0.11. The interpretation of this indicator should always be made in combination with the shots saved in %. The assumption is, that a high percentage value for shots saved goes hand in hand with many easy shots on goal by the opponent. If both indicators are above average, then the goalkeeper’s performance is excellent.
In our three-part series, we look at the Top 5 goalkeepers, the “no-names” with outstanding performances and the “overrated” goalkeepers. In addition, you will get to know little background stories and anecdotes as well as interesting supplementary data on the goalkeepers. We start with the top players in their position.
2. The Top 5 goalkeeper
1st place: Bono (FC Sevilla)
According to our analysis, Sevilla FC’s keeper Yassine Bounou, Bono for short, is ranked first. The 29-year-old Moroccan, born in Canada, was signed on loan with an option to buy from Girona FC in the summer transfer window of the 2019/20 season. At 1.91m tall, he brings ideal measurements for a goalkeeper. In his first season at Sevilla FC, he was primarily the goalkeeper in the Europa League (EL) and led his team to the title with some outstanding performances. In La Liga, he was only used six times. However, he convinced the Sevilla FC officials with his performances in the EL and was signed permanently for €4 million (€1 million above his market value at the time) before the 2020/21 season. Since then, he has been the undisputed regular goalkeeper of Sevilla FC. He made his debut for the Moroccan national team in 2013.
Bono provides the benchmark in our analysis for both Shots Saved % and Opponents’ xG conversion. In 17 league games in 2020, he saved 86 per cent of the shots on goal (an average of 3.29 per game). This includes an average of 1.4 supersaves. Bono showed a top performance especially in mid-range shots with 86 per cent of balls saved. A good value here is 74%. Nevertheless, it can be seen that he tends to concede his (few) goals to the right side of the goal.
The xG value of the shots saved was below average at 0.09. Despite this, a super performance can be derived in combination with the shots saved value. This also resulted in a market value update. His market value increased to 15 million euros on 04.01.2021.
With an opponents’ xG conversion of 0.4, it also delivers an outstanding value. The opposing teams thus need on average many more chances to score than the xG value would suggest.
An additional component of Bono is that he has a very solid performance in the passing game with 87% accurate passes and is leads the race compared to the other keepers in the top 5.
Based on his statistics, Bono can be classified more as a line keeper who specialises primarily in preventing goals against. At 29, he is currently in the prime age for goalkeepers. It will be interesting to see whether he can confirm his performance in 2021.
2nd place: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)
One of the most important cornerstones in the Atletico Madrid bastion is undoubtedly Jan Oblak (28). The Slovenian international has been a reliable keeper for Diego Simeone’s team since the 2014/15 season. Since then, he has increased his market value from 4 million euros (transfer fee to Benfica Lisbon: 14 million euros) to 90 million euros. This makes him the most precious goalkeeper in the world. According to his own statements, he always wanted to emulate his father, who, however, only played amateur football in Slovenia. His spectacular triple save against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the Champions League went around the world. But this is not the only reason why Jan Oblak has been on the list of the best goalkeepers of the FIFA Awards for several years. He has also won the Zamora Trophy for the keeper with the fewest goals conceded in the Spanish first division four times.
In 2020, he underpinned these performances in 34 league games with an opponents’ xG conversion value of 0.53. Like Bono, he thus thwarts numerous opponent’s expected goals and thus shows an excellent performance over a whole year.
With 85% of shots saved, he is only just behind Bono. However, with a value of 0.08, the shots on goal by the opponents are slightly less dangerous than those by Bono. It can also be assumed that Atletico Madrid’s defenders do a better job of defending. This is supported by fewer average balls held per game (3.03) compared to the Sevilla keeper. The following chart shows that Oblak has top scores in all types of shots.
It becomes clear that Jan Oblak can also be categorised as a line keeper. He focuses on making saves on all kinds of shots. On the line, Oblak is outstanding and hard to beat. A real constant guarantor for few goals against!
3rd place: Mike Maignan (OSC Lille)
With Mike Maignan, a (still) rather unknown French goalkeeper is in third place in our ranking. The 25-year-old was trained at Paris St. German and passed through all age groups at the French capital club. In training, he clashed with the polarising Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who called him a “shitty goalkeeper” after scoring many goals. Maignan retaliated after Zlatan had saved several shots with the words: “You’re a shitty attacker”. The two got along great after that. Nevertheless, due to a lack of playing time, he moved to OSC Lille for €1 million for the 2015/16 season. At the beginning of the 2017/18 season, he became Lille’s regular keeper. His last updated market value (as of 15.10.2020) is 20 million euros. His statistics for the current season show 14 games without conceding a goal in the French league. This puts him in joint first place with Manchester City’s Ederson in a Europe-wide comparison. For a long time, he was regarded as a highly talented but failed goalkeeper, as indiscipline in the PSG academy made life difficult for him as a youth player. However, he found his way back to a determined life as a young professional in time to dominate the goalkeeping position of year/age group 1995 in France. The coaching legend Marcelo Bielsa recognised his talent and made him a starter at OSC Lille, also due to his very good football skills.
In 2020, he played 26 games and set the Ligue 1 benchmark with an opponents’ xG conversion value of 0.62, managing to save 79% of the shots on goal. In contrast to Bono and Oblak, opponents’ shots on goal were a lot more difficult, as he had an xG value of 0.14 for shots saved. In combination, this means that Maignan was able to achieve an above-average performance on held balls despite challenging shots on goal. This is also supported by his 1.42 supersaves on average per game in 2020. His height of 1.91 m enables him to make the goal as small as possible for the opponent and thus the scoring area. However, experts identified a weakness in corner kicks despite his size. The xG value of goals conceded after corner kicks was 3.2. Maignan, however, conceded 6 goals after corner kicks.
When Maignan was defeated, it was mostly close-range shots, because here his value with 55% of balls saved from this distance is in the below-average range (average = 65%).
Nevertheless, Maik Maignan has played a big part in OSC Lille’s great season. He will be able to seriously challenge the veterans Hugo Lloris and Steven Mandanda in the French national team in the very near future.
4th place: Nick Pope (Burnley FC)
Traditionally english goalkeepers are not taken to seriously due to all the well-known stories that happened in the past. But in recent years, English football fans can hope for improvement in this position due to Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope (28). After 7 loan spells (including 6 different loan stations), Pope was transferred from Charlton Athletic to Burnley FC for 1.30 million euros in 2016/17 and became a regular keeper in the Premier League one season later, after Tom Heaton got sidelined many months. His current market value is €12 million euros. At the moment, there is a heated discussion taking place in the English tabloids about when Pope will finally become the number 1 goalkeeper for the national team. Taking a look at his data also reveals a clearly better performance than the current number 1 Jordan Pickford of Everton FC.
Nick Pope achieved an opponents’ xG conversion value of 0.64 in 32 games in the Premier League in 2020. Furthermore, he held 81% of the shots that hit his goal. It is noteworthy, that the opponent’s shots on goal have a very decent quality. With a value of 0.13, the xG value of the shots saved by Nick Pope is second in the Premier League in 2020. It should be taken into account here, that Burnley is more a team who fights against relegation on a regular basis and whose style of play is not designed for a lot of possession based attacks.
Despite his height of 1.98 m, Pope is an agile goalkeeper with very good reflexes. This is especially evident in his outstanding 78% of close-range shots saved. Following on from this, he made an average of 2.02 supersaves in 2020 and saved 4.48 shots on goal per game. Absolute top class! What is also surprising is that Pope has the most actions outside the penalty area (1.17 per game) and tries to actively participate in Burnley FC’s game. However, in comparison to the other four goalkeepers in our top 5, he has the worst value for successful passes with his foot in build-up play – averaging 66% with 9.34 passes played per game. One of the reasons for this is Burnley FC’s style of play, which relies heavily on long balls from their own half. The error rate here is correspondingly higher than with a controlled flat passing game in the own half. Pope plays only 10% of his passes on a short-range and has the fifth highest rate of the European top leagues with a pass length of 45.6 metres on average.
Despite his more frequent exits out of the penalty area, Nick Pope is more of a line keeper because his main strenght is strong reflexes on the line. Nevertheless, his exits out of his own goal develop characteristics of a sweeper keeper, as he has 2.72 exits per 90 minutes, which means he leaves his own box just under two and a half times in a match.
5th place: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)
The 34-year-old Hugo Lloris, an absolute veteran at the goalkeeping position, rounds off our top 5. The French international goalkeeper has been in charge of preventing goals at Tottenham since 2012. He is captain of both, the Spurs and the Les Bleus. He is regarded as an absolute calming pole and stabiliser with strong reflexes as well as a good penalty killer within his team. For the French fans, he seems more like a “meaningless average professional” – despite winning the World Cup in 2018.
In 2020, he played only 29 Premier League games after recovering from a serious elbow injury he sustained at the end of 2019. In the process, he even had to be ventilated and treated with morphine while still being present on the pitch. Lloris found his old form almost without any problems, which can be shown by his data. His opponents’ xG conversion value of 0.61 is the benchmark in the Premier League in the period under review. In addition, he fended off 82% of the opponents’ shots on goal. Due to the lower xG value of shots saved (0.09) compared to Nick Pope, he is just behind the Englishman of Burnley FC in our ranking. Lloris held an average of 3.96 balls with 1.93 supersaves per game.
However, his data also reveals that he is not only a consistent goalkeeper on the line (close range shots saved = 77%), but also performs above average when defending mid-range shots with 78% of balls saved. In addition, it should be pointed out that Lloris can improve on long-range shots. He only saved 90% of the balls there, the worst value in the ranking of the top 5.
Due to his advanced age, his market value is currently 12 million euros, with a downward trend. For Tottenham, he has become a kind of identification figure, who has delivered top performances over many years.
There are a few surprises in the first part of our Goalkeeper Analysis, but based on our established Key Performance Indicators, they have come out on top in European football. It remains to be seen whether Bono, Maignan and Pope can keep up their performances consistently and possibly become interesting for even bigger clubs in Europe.
In the next part (2/3), you will learn more about the unknown goalkeepers who you should keep an eye on because of their outstanding performances.
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