The nights are getting longer up here in the Northern Hemisphere, and soon children will be donning their traditional transfer window jumpers and gathering around open fires to sing traditional transfer window songs. In preparation for the festive season, I’m going to think about teams with really obvious deficiencies, and work out what Santa’s elves might be able to fax over on deadline day to fix them.
We’re going to start with goalkeepers, because frankly it’s easiest to draw up a naughty list of of rubbish keepers using our expected saves model. Below is the list of all keepers that have on average underperformed in the last five seasons, i.e. they’ve made fewer saves than the expected saves model expected. The rating is simply saves over expected saves, times 100. 100 is a keeper that saved exactly what the model thought they should, over is good, under is bad.
An aside as an Everton fan: I am going to note here that the player just above this list, who only just scraped a rating of 100.1, is Tim Howard. I don’t believe he’s as bad as most Everton fans like to make out (he’s just above Joe Hart in this year’s ratings, basically in the middle of the pack), but those that want to play along can by all means picture my recommendations below as applying to Everton as well (or indeed whichever team you happen to support). Just note that whoever Everton might get in will be facing the second most shots of any keeper in the Premier League, and mistakes will be made.
|Dorus de Vries||85.8||85.8|
There are a few main things I want to note here:
- Southampton have terrible taste in keepers – Boruc, Davis, Stekelenburg, all generally underperforming expected saves. Fraser Forster may come good, but until then, Southampton’s overall organisation is covering up a lack of quality between the posts.
- Bournemouth are in real trouble – Boruc isn’t great (not shown here is his 3 mistakes leading to goals already this year), and Adam Federici hasn’t done much better, but he’s left off this table as he’s below the 10-save cutoff. On top of these fairly poor performances is the fact that the shots Bournemouth are allowing are far, far trickier than any other team in the league (0.42xg against Boruc, 0.48 against Federici, against a league average of about 0.3), so literally anyone in their goalmouth would struggle.
- Brad Guzan is the only keeper consistently, year after year, to underperform expected goals but keep his place. The 100-based ratings actually boost him up the table a bit – in terms of raw goals above/below expected, Guzan is last this year, last in 2013, and firmly bottom 6 every season he plays. That’s partly Aston Villa’s woeful defence, but I do not know how Guzan has kept his place for so long.
Of this year’s relegation candidates, Robert Elliot, standing in for Tim Krul at Newcastle, is the only keeper to be performing above expected saves, by a teeny 0.3 goal margin. Pantilimon at Sunderland is poor but not the worst, Bournemouth would probably benefit more from a defensive shakeup to reduce the quality of chances conceded, and I think that leaves Aston Villa as the prime candidates for an upgrade. I might argue in a future post that their defence needs patching (*cough* Alan Hutton *cough*), but they’re conceding chances with an average 0.25xg which isn’t terrible. Guzan, however, is four goals down on where he should be this season and if history’s anything to go by, he’s going to get continue leaking goals. This is the last five seasons in detail:
|Season||Mins||Shots||Saves||Goals||Save %||Expected Saves||+/- Expected||Shot Difficulty||Rating|
So it kinda goes without saying, looking at the historical data above, that Villa could have sorted this out over the Summer, or last year, or the year before. But we’re entering a hypothetical world here where teams might agree to sell their first-choice goalkeeper in the January window, and those keepers might agree to join a team at or near the bottom of the Premier League, plus or minus any sort of reaction that Remi Garde gets between now and then. Let’s assume that nobody is going to drop down from a team above Villa to help out, otherwise I’d probably just point at Jack Butland and be done with it. Villa have been bringing in youth over the Summer, so let’s look at keepers 25 and under in Europe, playing at teams not currently in European competition, with decent ratings from our model. Let’s just assume that Premier League TV money is enough to land one of these targets. Who’s out there?
|Keeper||Mins||Shots||Saves||Goals||Save %||Expected Saves||+/- Expected||Shot Difficulty||Rating|
I’ve snuck Alphonse Areola in here despite the fact that he’s on a season long loan, just because he is/was vaguely available in principle. Any of these players, dead or alive, would probably be an improvement, and it seems like the transfer rumour mill, and potentially even Villa’s scouts, are ahead of me, they’ve been linked with Mainz’s Karius, and indeed Timo Horn. I don’t have Championship data, or smaller foreign leagues, so I will rely on those of you with eyes to fill me in there.
It’s worth noting that perhaps these numbers miss important parts of a modern goalkeeper’s game: Paul Lambert certainly rated Guzan’s distribution, we ought to look into that. Here’s everybody’s overall passing numbers:
And here’s everything over 40 yards:
So Guzan has 5% over Timo Horn on long balls, take it or leave it.
It remains to be seen whether Aston Villa’s transfer window tree will be sheltering a Timo Horn-shaped present this holiday season – I nearly ran the numbers on January goalkeeper transfers to see if it happened that regularly – but I’ll leave that for the more enterprising of you. It’s possible these targets have been approached and Villa have neither the ambition nor the spending power to land any of them. All you can ask for in your letters to Lapland this year is that Remi Garde gets Villa’s Summer signings to gel into some sort of attacking unit, Jack Graelish stops being peak-Ross Barkley wasteful, and someone keeps putting their face in the way of the ball.