David de Gea has played like a man possessed for Manchester United this season.
Having suffered a post-2018 World Cup slump of such damning proportions that Dean Henderson almost usurped him as United’s number one, De Gea has played out of his skin in 2021/22.
There can no longer be any denying that De Gea is back to the superlative form that saw him win four Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year awards in five years – and he could easily add another one to his collection come May.
However, what if we were to go one step further and tell you that De Gea might well be the best goalkeeper in the world right now? Would you think we’d lost the plot and simply been shallowly reactionary?
Well, fear not, because we’re still compos mentis and have stumbled across fascinating data from FBref suggesting that De Gea is the best in the business when it comes to shot-stopping if nothing else.
You may or may not have stumbled across the ‘goals prevented’ metric before, but it’s arguably the finest statistical measure when it comes to gauging how effectively goalkeepers, well, prevent goals.
It’s calculated by taking a shot-stopper’s ‘Post-Shot Expected Goals’ – which is how many goals they would be expected to concede based on the quality of the shots they faced – and taking away the total of goals they actually let in.
A few things to note are that own goals aren’t included in the equation and that, yes, an element of luck can play a role in why a goalkeeper might have saved a shot that statistically ‘should’ have rippled the net.
Nevertheless, the moral of the story is that De Gea is the top performer in Europe’s top five leagues based on the metric having prevented 9.8 goals.
The United number one was statistically expected to have conceded 37.8 league goals this season, but having only actually conceded 28 that weren’t own goals, we’re left with an unrivalled total of 9.8.
In fact, incredibly, the next best-performing goalkeeping across the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A in this metric is Bochum’s Manuel Riemann on a comparatively pedestrian total of 6.3.
However, park that thought for a second because the best way to put De Gea’s brilliant statistics into context is by comparing it to the goalkeepers widely considered to be the best in the world.
To do that, we’ve compiled who we reckon are the sport’s 22 best goalkeepers right now – other opinions are available – to see where they all rank by the same 2021/22 league statistic compared to De Gea.
Got it? Right then, well, prepare to get excited, United fans, because your man between the sticks blows everybody out of the water in the fascinating data that you can check out down below:
22. Jan Oblak: -8.0
21. Emiliano Martinez: -4.8
20. Kasper Schmeichel: -3.4
19. Manuel Neuer: -2.3
18. Marc-Andre ter Stegen: -1.9
17. Rui Patricio: -1.8
16. Ederson: -1.7
15. Keylor Navas: -0.2
14. Thibaut Courtois: 0.6
13. Edouard Mendy: 0.7
12. Wojciech Szczesny: 0.8
11. Hugo Lloris: 0.9
10. Unai Simon: 1.0
9. Lukas Hradecky: 1.2
8. Samir Handanovic: 1.2
7. Yassine Bounou: 1.9
6. Gianluigi Donnarumma: 2.1
5. Alisson Becker: 2.8
4. Peter Gulacsi: 3.5
3. Yann Sommer: 3.7
2. Mike Maignan: 3.7
1. David de Gea: 9.8
Woah, so De Gea has prevented in excess of six goals more than the next goalkeeper who most people would rank amongst the best in the business.
Naturally, ‘keepers who face more shots – United have been peppered this season – do have a slight advantage here, so credit must also go to shot-stoppers like Alisson, Donnarumma and Mendy who are over-performing too.
However, there’s no denying that Martinez, Schmeichel and Neuer aren’t having vintage seasons by their dizzying standards and quite why Oblak is performing so poorly in 2021/22 is beyond us.
The Atletico Madrid man is many fans’ pick for the best goalkeeper in the world, but the data shows that he’s conceded no less than eight more goals than the quality of the shots he’s faced suggest he would.
In fact, only Salernitana’s Vid Belec and Bordeaux’s Benoit Costil rank beneath the Slovenian – who finishes 179th – in Europe’s top five leagues this season by the measure.
But let’s end on a positive note because while all statistics should be taken with a pinch of salt, there’s no denying that De Gea is back in the conversation for the world’s number one number one. The numbers don’t lie.
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