Best goalkeepers under 26 in the top five leagues – data analysis
It is well-documented that goalkeepers age like fine wine. Their peak is seen as lasting much longer than outfielders and starting slightly later. However, more and more, we’re seeing top teams opt for younger goalkeepers. Younger goalkeepers appear to be getting better and better. We’ve seen this with Manchester City bringing in Ederson and AC Milan bringing in Gianluigi Donnarumma recently.
In this data analysis, we’ll look at who the best young goalkeepers are within the top five European leagues. To ensure we’re looking at a big enough sample, we’ll be looking at all goalkeepers aged 25 and under as we estimate that a goalkeeper’s peak starts at around 26. This analysis will look at each goalkeeper’s shot-stopping, passing and sweeping to determine the best keepers in the league.
Who are the best shot-stoppers?
A goalkeeper’s shot-stopping data can be heavily affected by the quality of his team’s defence. Therefore, it’s important to take into consideration the number of shots that they face each game. Obviously, the goalkeepers that face more shots are more likely to damage their save percentage statistics. The below graph looks at the number of shots they face per 90 and their save percentage.
The best goalkeepers here are the ones in the top right quadrant. It means that they face an above-average amount of shots and have an above-average save percentage.
Ionuţ Radu has faced the second-most shots with 6.38 per 90 and still has a good save percentage of 69.35%. The Inter Milan man is on loan at Cremonese who are currently struggling in Serie A. The Romanian has struggled for game time in recent seasons, but with his performances so far this season, he could have a future at his parent club.
The second-youngest keeper in the Premier League, Ilan Meslier, also has great stats here. He faces 4.41 shots per 90 and saves 70.45% of them. The Leeds United man has struggled at times since entering the league but at just 22 years old, he still has plenty of time to grow as a player.
Donnarumma stands out the most on this graph. He has by far the best save percentage with an incredible 88.64%, however, he only faces 3.76 shots per 90. PSG are the most dominant team in Ligue 1, so it could be assumed that the Frenchman doesn’t face many difficult shots.
Special mentions can go out to Gregor Kobel of Borussia Dortmund and Lucas Chevalier of Lille.
This next graph looks at how many goals each goalkeeper has prevented. This means the difference between their actual goals conceded per 90 and their xG conceded per 90.
Again here, Radu impresses the most. He prevents 0.53 goals per 90, this is very impressive considering the quality of the team he plays for. Donnarumma’s stats are nearly as good too, he prevents 0.37 goals per 90.
The earlier mentioned Chevalier prevents the third-most goals per 90 with 0.36. The 20-year-old came into the Lille team to take over from Mike Maignan, meaning he had pretty big boots to fill. He’s conceded five goals in five league games this season, keeping two clean sheets. The only other goalkeeper that is a standout is Denmark’s Oliver Christensen. The Hertha Berlin goalkeeper prevents 0.33 goals per 90.
In terms of poor performers, Paul Bernardoni stands out for bad reasons he concedes 0.76 more goals than he should per 90.
Who are the best passers?
With modern tactics, goalkeepers are vital to the way their team plays nowadays. More possession-based teams require a keeper who is confident and composed with the ball at their feet. The next graph will look at the number of passes per 90 and how accurate they are.
The goalkeepers towards the top right are the best passers and are the most involved. Kobel is the best passer, completing 94.05% of his passes. He’s also the second most involved keeper, making 28.91 passes per 90. Kobel is vital in Dortmund’s build-up.
Napoli’s Alex Meret and Donnarumma have similarly good stats. Both are great passers but aren’t involved too much. Meret completed 92.46% of his passes and Donnarumma with 92.54%. Both make under the average number of passes per 90, but both play for teams with ball-playing defenders.
Stuttgart’s Florian Muller is the next best. The German makes 24.13 passes per 90 and completes 90.49% of them. Bartlomiej Dragowski and Unai Simón complete a similar number of passes but the former is more involved with his team. Simón is highly regarded in Spain, seeming to be the one to take over from Manchester United’s David de Gea in the national team. He is clearly very good with the ball at his feet.
This graph will now look at each goalkeeper’s passing tendencies, looking at the likelihood of them passing it long and laterally.
Again, we see that Kobel is the most accomplished passer. 62.71% of his passes are lateral, and just 16.74% are long. He opts to pass it out to his defenders rather than kicking it upfield.
Similarly, we see Donnarumma and Simón again. 50.76% of Donnarumma’s passes are lateral and 16.9% are long whilst 51.53% of Simón’s passes are lateral and 24.75% are long.
Meret has a lateral pass percentage of 47.21% and a long pass percentage of 24.12%. This backs up the previous graph that showed the Italian is a vital cog in his team’s tactics. The previously mentioned Christensen also shows up well. 49.60% of his passes are lateral and 34.35% are long, showing that he has a varied range of passing.
a special mention must be given to Vanja Milinković-Savić.
The best sweepers
Much like passing, modern goalkeepers need to be brave enough to come off their line, but at the same time know when to rush out. Younger goalkeepers are normally more likely to help their defenders out than older.
The above graph looks at the number of interceptions each keeper makes per 90, and how many exits they make per 90. Both these stats demonstrate how often a goalkeeper comes off his line to intervene.
Ironically, one of the worst-performing shot-stoppers, Bernardoni, is by far the best sweeper in terms of exits per 90. He makes 2.37 exits per 90 and 1.88 interceptions per 90.
Christensen and Kobel are the best when it comes to interceptions, however, the former outperforms the latter in terms of exits. Christensen makes 3.81 interceptions per 90 and 1.87 exits per 90.
Premier League duo Meslier and Aaron Ramsdale also perform well here. Ramsdale with 1.46 exits per 90 and 3.4 interceptions per 90. Whilst the Leeds man makes 3.38 interceptions per 90 and 1.51 exits per 90.
Apart from the obvious brilliance of Donnarumma, the three players that stood out for me were, Chevalier, Kobel and Radu. Statistically, Radu was by far the best shot-stopper, he’s had a difficult few seasons in terms of playtime but he’ll be hoping his time on loan will impress. Kobel is one of the best young goalkeepers in world football, even if he is overlooked.
His shot-stopping stats were as expected, but his passing and sweeping stats were outstanding. Chevalier has been one of the biggest surprises this season. The games that he has played for Lille have been very good. For a 20-year-old, he’s looking to be one for the future.