As the player most likely to single-handedly influence the result of any game- the goalkeeper is a key player in any team.If a team is to be successful, they need a keeper with great concentration, proficient ball-skills and most-importantly courage.
Therefore, it is no surprise that Sir Alex has been scouting Europe heavily to find a replacement for the legendary Edwin Van Der Sar. However, having watched many of Europe’s best keepers, it seems Sir Alex has chosen to sign David De Gea (who will apparently join once he switches agents, to Jorge Mendes, on 1st July). Some of you, like myself, may be wondering if Sir Alex has made the right choice but I intend to look at the matter further here.
United’s Next #1
David De Gea, 20
Castrol Ranking: 102
Height: 6ft 4″
Cost: £18 million
Summary: Despite being only 20 years old, Van de Gea (as he is dubbed by his teammates) already has great experience in La Liga, to accompany his UEFA Cup Winners Medal. Tipped to be Spain’s #1 one day, the Spaniard has a bright future ahead of him.
Key Strengths: Nerves of steel and supremely confidence in his own ability.
Key Weakness: Struggles to distribute accurately with his long-kicks.
Pepe Reina, 28
Castrol Ranking: 141
Height: 6ft 1″
Cost: £25 million
Summary: During his stay at Anfield, Reina has set a number of goalkeeping records for Liverpool and won the Premier League Golden Glove award in three of his five seasons. Regarded as one of the best keepers in the world, he is unlucky to find himself behind Iker Casillas in the Spanish national side.
Key Strengths: Immaculate on the ball, with a great footballing brain, Reina is the next best GK-Sweeper after Van Der Sar.
Key Weakness: His height can be a problem, when dealing with high balls, but he it generally deals with the problem cleverly.
Manuel Neuer, 25
Castrol Ranking: 210
Height: 6ft 4″
Cost: £20 million
Summary: A recent acquisition of Bayern Munich, Germany’s first choice keeper showed the world his ability with an incredibly display, against us, in the first leg of the Champions League Semi-Final. Having won the 2009 European Under-21 Championships and reached the World Cup Semi-Finals with his country, he has a glittering career ahead of him.
Key Strength: Impressive reflexes make him a shot-stopper of real repute.
Key Weakness: Isn’t too pro-active organising his defence.
Hugo Lloris, 24
Castrol Ranking: 362
Height: 6ft 2″
Cost: £20 million
Summary: Having represented France at all levels, Lloris is capable of making spectacular saves and is a formidable opponent in one-on-one situations. He joined Lyon in the summer of 2008, for €8.5million, and made an immediate impact at the Stade Gerland, being crowned Ligue 1′s Goalkeeper of the Year.
Key Strength: Superb shot-stopper
Key Weakness: Shaky when coming for crosses
The Castrol Rankings
The Castrol Rankings is the world’s first rankings system based on the actual performance of every football player across Europe’s top five leagues. Collecting data from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1, each player’s performance, in these leagues, is measured objectively and translated into a figure. Each month, these results are released and show just how well players are actually playing, in a fair and scientific manner.
Comparing David De Gea with three of his peers, in Reina, Neuer and Lloris, we can see that statistically the young Spaniard has performed consistently better than any of his more experienced peers, over the past six months. In the Top 100 for the duration of this season, his consistency at such a young age is unbelievable. Surprisingly, De Gea has actually been more consistent, this season, than the vastly experienced Liverpool keeper, Pepe Reina, who finished the season 71 places below him in the rankings.
The performances of Lloris and Neuer, who would both have cost more than De Gea, seem very poor in comparison, as neither has got into the Top 200, since Christmas. These poor rankings seem to suggest that these undoubtedly great shot-stoppers have been poor in other areas (catches, kicking etc) consistently throughout the season.
Looking at the basic goalkeeping figures this year (games, saves and clean sheets) we can make some clear observations. With all 4 keepers having all played more than 30 games this season, we have a reliable range of data from which to draw are conclusions.
With an average of 4.05 saves to make per game this season, De Gea has been the busiest keeper out of the four (because of the poor defence in front of him). However, despite this he averages a clean sheet more often that Hugo Lloris, who only has to deal with an average of 2.85 shots a game. This suggests to me that De Gea is a better shot-stopper, as he keeps more clean sheets despite having more work to do.
Based on this table, Pepe Reina is the best keeper out of the four but that I feel that is equally attributable to the team he has in front of him, as he has to deal with the least amount of shots per game.
Looking at all the evidence, it seems Sir Alex has made a wise choice in choosing De Gea, who will (most probably) be the new #1 at United next season. Blessed with a similar physique to Van Der Sar, it seems almost certain De Gea will get to replace his childhood role model.
Nonetheless, despite being a tremendous talent, De Gea is still very young and has a lot to learn. He sometimes hesitates coming off his line and sometimes fails to control his area but these are all things than can be corrected in time. Maybe it would have been prudent to get him in last season and allow him to learn from Van Der Sar, improving his transition into English football, but that hasn’t happened.
Opting to sign pure talent rather than experience, Sir Alex has undoubtedly taken a gamble. The EPL is a tough league to play in, with a lot of physicality, but I am sure it is something De Gea will adapt to. Either way, only time will tell if the Spaniard has the character to replace Van Der Sar and carry Manchester United to glory for years to come.
About Kiran White
A proud Trinidadian, Kiran has been in love with Manchester United ever since Dwight Yorke started banging in the goals all those years ago. Citing the 2 1 win, at the Nou Camp (Can They Score, Man United Always Score), as his favourite United moment, Kiran watches every match religiously but focuses on his academics away from the TV screen. A 4th Year Dental student at the University of the West Indies, Kiran is currently training to become a Doctor of Dental Surgery, at which point he’ll rip us all off at a private clinic near you