The 2019/20 football season is in full flow and there’s already a few Keepers who look in excellent form. But it’s far too early to judge players.
I’ve taken a look over the previous 2018/19 season to determine which (European club) goalkeepers are currently the best performers in the game.
Difficulties In Analysing Goalkeepers
There aren’t many sources of detailed statistics for goalkeepers (the forgotten man, of course).
Plus there’s a lot of complications in ranking the top keepers. Consider the following:
- How do you accurately compare keepers who play in different leagues?
- Should league performances be treated the same as cup performances?
- How do you compare goalkeepers who’ve played much more/less minutes than another?
- What’s the fairest way to assess goalkeeper performance given some teams are much weaker defensively (where Keepers are put under more pressure) than others?
- Is analysing saves enough when not all goal scoring chances are equal? (some shots are much more likely to go in than others).
Luckily I come from a sports analytics background. And I’ve long worked out that you shouldn’t rely on FIFA rankings or any other player rating model which rests on reputation, hype, and outdated performance records.
Keepers should be judged on their league performances over an entire season. Every league should be analysed individually. Then we need to use the most advanced football statistics available — expected goals — to determine how many goals a Keeper prevented or conceded for his team, per game, compared to the league average. That’s a pretty complex process — but StatsScoreIndex have done it for the 2018/19 season.
To understand the figures in the lists below, just remember that the (+) means the Keeper is above the league average; (-) would mean below. The figure next to it (e.g. 0.5) represents the amount of expected goals the Keeper saved per game. So if the goalkeeper with a +0.5 expected saves rank plays 38 games over an entirely new season, he would be expected to prevent 38 x 0.5 = 19 goals more than the league average — based on last season’s performance, anyway.
In my opinion, this is the fairest list of the best goalkeepers today.
1. Allison +0.29
2. De Gea +0.26
3. Ederson +0.23
4. Lloris +0.22
5. Vincenta Guaita +0.19
1. Jan Oblak +0.67
2. Neto +0.43
3. David Soria +0.29
4. Bono Bounou +0.28
5. Marc-Andre ter Stegen +0.17
1. Walter Benitez +0.34
2. Alphonse Areola +0.32
3. Mike Maignan +0.27
4. Stephane Ruffier +0.25
5. Gianluigi Buffon +0.24
1. Peter Gulascsi +0.62
2. Kevin Trapp +0.26
3. Yann Sommer +0.23
4. Roman Burki +0.18
5. Koen Casteels +0.17
1. Alex Meret +0.41
2. Wojciech Szczesny +0.32
3. Gianluigi Donnarumma +0.26
4. Samir Handanovic +0.26
5. Salvatore Sirigu +0.20
So Who’s The Best Goalkeeper In Europe?
By now you’re probably wondering which of the #1 keepers from the top 5 leagues should be considered the best goalkeeper on the continent.
It’s a really tough one to call: how can you compare Keepers from different leagues?
After much deliberation, I’m going to say Allison.
He came out on top in the Premier League, who’s top flight teams have proven to be some of the best in Europe, with all-English finals in the Europa and Champions League 2018/19. There is of course a fair argument that the “top six” divide in the EPL doesn’t necessarily make for the most competitive league. While that’s true, it’s still the most physical league — and that’s a defining factor in this debate.
It’s worth noting that Jan Oblak performed far above any other Goalkeeper in La Liga, as did Peter Gulassci in the Bundesliga. Both could play in a top four Premier League team, in my opinion. These are goalkeepers to watch in the 2019/20 season.
Injuries will play a huge part, but who do you think will come out as the top Goalkeeper by the end of this season?
Be sure to check out STATS’ European Big Five Goalkeeper Rankings for the extended lists.