How does one compare the goalies of the Premier League? Based on Opta data released by Manchester City last year, I have compared the goalkeepers of the 2011-12 season on two parameters – percentage of shots blocked and success in distribution. This shows the relative successes of the goalkeepers in defence and attack respectively.
So who are the successful goalkeepers in the league? If you look for at this data, you will find that Pepe Reina, Wojciech Szczesny, Petr Cech and Joe Hart form a “convex hull”. What this means is that every other goalkeeper in the premier league is inferior to at least one of these four. So the best goalie has to be one of these.
As for who the absolute best is, that will depend on the relative weights that we give to shot-stopping and distributional ability. Intuitively, a 10% improvement in distribution is likely to result in less goals than a 10% improvement in shot stopping saves. So by that metric, it can be argued that one of Cech and Hart, who are far superior in terms of shot stopping ability is the best goalkeeper.
It is also interesting to note that even in Kenny Dalglish’s time as manager, Reina had a vastly superior distribution success, suggesting that it would not have been that difficult for Liverpool to adapt to Brendan Rodgers’s style of play.
PS: Click on the image to see a larger version
PS2: I’m writing this post sitting in the office room of one of my clients, who also happens to be a frequent visitor to this blog.