Why De Gea really is untouchable as the Premier League's best goalkeeper
Manchester United's goalless draw with Sevilla in the Champions League on Wednesday highlighted two facts we already knew: Jose Mourinho's side are unadventurous but incredibly hard to beat, and David de Gea is a genius.
The Spain goalkeeper added one more to his catalogue of best saves towards the end of the first half, producing a quite remarkable reaction stop to deny Luis Muriel's close-range header.
It was a moment that dominated plenty of the post-match talk (at least, when nobody was discussing Paul Pogba) and underlined why De Gea is widely considered the best goalkeeper in England and, perhaps, the world.
Well, the former is certainly true, if Opta's data for the 2017-18 Premier League season is anything to go by...
14 - David de Gea has conceded 19 Premier League goals this season, but based on Opta xG data for the shots on target he's faced, the average goalkeeper would have been expected to concede 33 goals. This is the biggest differential by a PL goalkeeper in 2017-18. Exceptional. pic.twitter.com/OK3RdSyQAP— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 22, 2018
HITTING NEW HEIGHTS TO KEEP UNITED ROLLING
United have only conceded 19 goals in the top flight this season, fewer than anyone else, and De Gea is quite clearly essential to that figure; according to Opta, the 'Expected Goals on Target' (xGoT) De Gea has faced stands at 33.
In other words, an average goalkeeper would have been expected to concede 33 goals, rather than just 19, from the shots on target the United number one has come up against.
The 'xGoT' metric is key; it considers where in the goal the attempt would have ended up, alongside the quality of the chance itself. It shows De Gea has not simply built up his numbers by making routine stops from the middle of his line.
The 27-year-old's differential of 14 between his goals conceded and 'xGoT' is the biggest of any goalkeeper in the Premier League this term, and by some distance.
In second is Burnley's Nick Pope, who has conceded 20 from an 'xGoT' figure of 29, meaning he could reasonably have been expected to let in another nine for his side. Next is Swansea City's Lukasz Fabianski, who has a differential of four.
The worst in the league is Ben Foster. He has let in 39 goals from an 'xGoT' of 30. That means bottom club West Brom have conceded nine more goals than they really should have done.
BEGUILING, BRILLIANT... AND BUSY
Manuel Neuer once admitted he gets bored playing behind the Bayern Munich and Germany defences, but that's not something De Gea could say.
The former Atletico Madrid man has made 87 saves in 2,430 minutes in the Premier League this season, giving him an average of 27.9 minutes per stop.
That means he has had more to do than any of United's nearest rivals in the table; Arsenal's Petr Cech has a minutes-per-save ratio of 36.5, Thibaut Courtois and Hugo Lloris are both on 45 and Simon Mignolet's is at 47.5. Way out in front, rather like Manchester City, is Ederson – he has only had to make a save every 54 minutes on average.
In fact, of every goalkeeper to have played at least 10 games in the Premier League this season, only Fabianski, Pope, Wayne Hennessey, Jack Butland, Karl Darlow and Fraser Forster have been busier than De Gea, based on this data. Five of those six keepers play for teams in the bottom eight.
To celebrate the launch of #MUFCYouTube, here's a #ThrowbackThursday classic to when @D_DeGea reached 100 clean sheets for #MUFC!— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 22, 2018
View more #DaveSaves moments on our @YouTube channel: https://t.co/cMN0q74hbq pic.twitter.com/LAWzRn1PDo
RIVALS DON'T COME CLOSE
Nobody has kept more clean sheets in the Premier League than De Gea this season (15), with Chelsea's Courtois (13) closest, just ahead of Ederson and Tottenham's Lloris on 11.
His average of 127.9 minutes per goal conceded is also the best in the division among keepers to play at least 10 games. Ederson is closest on 119.3.
When it comes to save percentage, the United man is, unsurprisingly, top again. His figure of 81.9 per cent is higher than anyone else, including Courtois (68.9), Ederson (68.3), Lloris (67.6), Cech (62.9) and Mignolet (59.3).
De Gea's total of 87 saves is matched by Stoke City's Butland, but it is not the highest in the league. That honour goes to Fabianski, with the Swansea man the only keeper to reach the 100-mark in shot-stopping.
The lowest save tally of anyone to play at least 10 times is Crystal Palace's Julian Speroni, down at 31.