The Conventional Playmaker’s newest addition, @SaschaFltr analyses the ten goalkeepers that in their opinion, deserve the finest of praise for their efforts this season.*
10. Łukasz Fabiański – Swansea City AFC
The current season did not start very well for the Swans. In addition to the dismissal of Paul Clement, the Swans had to integrate new players like Roque Mesa or Sam Clucas and at the same time fight against relegation. The shaky defence was
one of the main reasons why Swansea were in last place halfway through the season. Swnasea conceded 14.2 shots per game, the 6th highest rate in the Premier League (only Dyches Burnley concede with 16 shots a significant higher number). Thanks to the Polish national keeper, however, the Welsh have only conceded 37 goals. Fabiański got a saving-rate of 3.7 saves per game, from which 2.2 saves were made within the penalty area – both highs in the PL. Fabianski saves 2.31 shots before conceding a goal. In my opinion, Fabianski’s strengths are his footwork and reaction on the line, despite his calmness in the penalty area. Fabiański made some spectacular saves for the Swans especially when he faced shots near the far post. Thanks to his span, the 32-year-old could reach some shots with his finger tips and steer them around the post or over the crossbar. If Swansea City do stay in the league, which seems more likely since the appointment of Carlos Carvalhal he deserves the biggest recognition.
9. Sven Ulreich – FC Bayern Munich
Many supporters of Bayern Munich were worried by the Iong-term injury suffered by Manuel Neuer at the beginning of the season upon facing Schalke 04 -the national keeper suffered an ankle injury. At this time, Sven Ulreich was very much an understudy to Neuer at Bayern; since his transfer back in 2015 and before Neuer’s injury, Ulreich had only played ten games. But as a result of Neuer’s injury, the 29-year-old got thrown into the cold water. You know, it’s not so easy to be a class goalkeeper for Bayern Munich: You must be very calm in possession which also means your passing must be accurate. Ulreich needed a few games to get into the flow. After some weak performances against Wolfsburg and Berlin, Ulreich’s game improved and Ulreich has become more confident with every game. Since the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti, Ulreich has been in great form and much of this is down to Jupp Heynckes, who gave Ulreich and the whole Bayern team more stability. Furthermore, the goalkeeper was voted as player of the month in November and December by the supporters of the club which underlines his great performances during this time with two crucial penalty saves against Hannover 96 and his former club VfB Stuttgart. Because of these performances, German national team coach,Joachim Löw, said that there’s an opportunity for Ulreich to be part of the World Cup squad this summer.
8. Thomas Strakosha – Lazio
The 22-year-old is having a rock-solid season for Lazio. His great ball skills are among the best in Europe. With 75% successful passes and an average pass length of 32.83m according to Squawka, Strakosha is a great passer and a safety option for his teammates in possession. Strakosha does not have any significant weaknesses, in my opinion. On the goal line Strakosha is elegent as well as being well-coordinated in his actions. His footwork allows him to react quickly to the given situation. The main reason as to why Strakosha has conceded 33 goals in Serie A already is that Lazio concede many shots overall per game. They are conceding 12.8 shots and Strakosha can save 3.6 of them statistically which is quite a good value because it means he make 2.45 saves per goal. To add, the Albanian keeper is very fearless when catching crosses or when required to leave his penalty box. All in all, Strakosha is one of the most talented keepers in the Top 5 Leagues and based on his current form he is ready for a Champions League team next season.
7. Jirí Pavlenka – Werder Bremen
As of late February 2018, Bremen were only three points above the relegation zone but had conceded fewer goals than RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04. The reason for this, in addition to discipline and good defensive work rate, is their new keeper. The Czech goalie is one of the most constant players and has secured his team some vital points in a relegation battle. Per game he has saved 4.1 from the 13.5 conceded shots. Pavlenka is a great one-on-one keeper as he stays calm and tries to wait for the action of the striker, which is the main reason why he saves 2.2 shots from inside the penalty area. His footwork needs improvement, to be honest, as he kicks many balls over the sidelines with only 60% pass accuracy. To be fair: as a keeper of Werder Bremen you’re not able to play short passes to your defenders because of the limited build-up play. Nevertheless, Pavlenka is a great keeper and like Fabiański at Swansea City, is a vital player for his club if they want to stay in their respective league for another year. The 25-year-old is, in my opinion, going to be the successor of Petr Cech in the national team.
6. Jan Oblak – Atlético Madrid
For three years, Oblak is one of European footballs greatest goalkeepers. Do you remember his fantastic performances in the CL for Atlético, when he alone frustrated Bayern Munich and Barcelona? Every team has a style which requires different skills from each player. As keepers from a Guardiola-team must be sweeper keepers, the goalie within Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side must be great on the line. And the 25-year-old is probably one of the best in terms of blocking shots. Opponents have needed to make 6.33 shots on target before they have been able to overcome the Slovenian. Atlético have conceded only 54 goals in the last three seasons – Barcelona (77) and Real Madrid (98) are nowhere near this. Despite the fact that Atléti play a more defensive style of football than two aforementioned rivals, Oblak has saved his team, especially in big games some crucial points. Thanks to his height and span he’s able to be dominant at crosses. His insane reflexes combined with his great deep body positioning during his actions, which are world-class, too.
5. David de Gea – Manchester United
Manchester United’s goalkeeper is one of, if not the most important player for José Mourinho’s side. After his intermezzo with Real Madrid three years ago it seems that De Gea accepted the fact that his future lays in Manchester. His great performances last season secured his team 15 clean sheets, an absolute high in Europe. In addition to his smooth movements, de Gea has a strong reaction and can push his self explosively from bottom to reach wide balls. That has resulted in 4.28 saves per goal this season. Although he’s got a quite clean technique, De Gea has only achieved a distribution accuracy of 61%, which is mostly likely caused by poor build-up play. The 27-year-old is a very gifted passer who’s calm under pressure – but at United, is this needed? His goalkeeping technique is quite unique as he often uses his feet for defending and stays near his goal in one-on-ones. Most Goalkeepers come off of their line and try to set the striker under pressure. De Gea stays calm on his line, waiting for the action with trust in his reactions and qualities.
4. Hugo Lloris – Tottenham Hotspur
The Frenchman is, in my opinion, one of the most consistent performers for the last couple of seasons. Lloris is an excellent shot stopper who catches 2.36 of the shots per game. Especially for many young goalkeepers, this is a skill that slowly decreases as many often drop the ball. With this ability he gives his team security and allows them to play a highly intense attacking game. His elegance on the line is superb; his movements are very coordinated which is very important in terms of one-on-ones and confusing situations. The Spurs-captain is strong at high shots near the crossbar, although he reaches many shots with the ball-near hand. So, if there’s a shot near the left top corner of the goal, Lloris uses his left hand to reach the ball. In some situations, it would be better to take the other hand to reach the ball because this hand is naturally a little bit higher than the other one. These seem to be only small details that can be incredibly important to the outcome of a game.
3. Ederson Moraes – Manchester City
Some experts and supporters were sceptical if the young Brazilian could justify the high transfer fee City paid for him last summer. After just a few games you could see why City paid this much for Ederson. Ederson has been one of the most complete keepers this season, although he only must make 1.48 saves per game. Primarily, rather than a straight-forward goalkeeper, the 24-year-old is the 11th outfielder for Pep Guardiola. His excellent passing, long and short-distanced used to circulate play and evade the opposition press, and his calmness under pressure are the main reasons why has been nearly impossible to press Manchester City this season. A signature-move by him is the long-range pass to one of the wingers with good accuracy. Ederson is also a great sweeper as he collects many balls from outside of the box. His fearless attitude is a present for every coach. After this season €40 million will look like a joke.
2. Alisson Becker – AS Roma
Brazil’s other high-flying goalkeeper is currently residing in Rome. Allisson is very much an more unorthodox but highly efficient goalkeeper. If Allisson could reach the ball by an extra step, he would do so to make a cleaner save. That’s one reason why he catches 2.72 shots per game. Also, the 25-year-old has got a great overview in his box and is very comfortable with through balls as he anticipates many passes very well. He has got the confidence and the speed on the first steps to reach these balls and gives his team security. When he’s got the ball at his feet the Brazilian is a very creative passer much like Ederson. Because of City’s great positional play, Ederson always has at least two or three passing options due to their clean positioning. AS Roma differ due to not playing such a clinical JDP, so the potential receivers needed to free up by precise passes. And Allisson is a very accurate passer with a great sense of group dynamics. He often plays difficult in zones where his team got majority, or his teammates could easily release from pressure. At not so creative Roma, Allisson is one of the most creative passers who boosts the game from the back.
1. Marc-André ter Stegen – FC Barcelona
And last, but certainly not least, Marc-André ter Stegen. The German is one of the most complete Goalkeeper’s in the world. After a couple of seasons without league football due to the presence of Claudio Bravo, ter Stegen established himself as number one in Barcelona.. Where should I start? Firstly, he is the most accurate passer of all keepers, even better than Manuel Neuer. His passes have a very nice trajectory with a very well-balanced weight to control. ter Stegen is the master of mid-range passes to the full-backs. There isn’t a single pass like this he will miss during a game. With his passing skills, he could explode the opponents press easily. Under pressure he stays calm and does not fear playing passes though the middle if it’s helpful. Although ter Stegen does not have the range of Ederson or Neuer, he never makes a mistake at these midrange passes – it seems like he’s a cyborg! When it comes to the more classical skills, the German national keeper is no less talented. Despite his small height he’s able to reach balls near the corners. His stand is always deep, just a little bit wider than his shoulders and always ready to jump. Especially in one-on-ones he’s very strong while he stands deep and can reach lower shots next to his body. ter Stegen’s impressive stable torso is the main reason why he’s so explosive whilst diving. You never see his hip jitter while he is in the air which allows him to reach tough shots. He performed incredibly well against Bilbao and Juventus this season which is one reason why his team have remain unbeaten in the league and in Europe. If Manuel Neuer remain injured for the World Cup this summer, Joachim Löw does not have to worry about the goalkeeper position. ter Stegen is the successor of the Bavarian-keeper.
*Statistics as of 20/2/18