Why Gavin Bazunu has all the makings to become a great goalkeeper – scout report
Southampton haven’t had the best start to the new Premier League season, finding themselves in 16th position with just seven points. However, they have shown their capabilities with two 2-1 wins over Chelsea and Leicester City. Their slow start could be because of the number of young players they have signed who have gone straight into their starting eleven. Their squad has an average age of 24.1, the second youngest in the league behind Arsenal.
Four of these players were signed from Manchester City, including their new first-choice goalkeeper, Gavin Bazunu. After a fairly successful loan spell at Portsmouth last season, the Republic of Ireland international made the huge leap to first-choice Premier League goalkeeper.
This tactical analysis will look at how Bazunu has fared in his first eight Premier League games. We’ll look at his goalkeeping abilities, how adept he is at sweeping, and how his passing fits into Southampton’s tactics. We will also compare him to other goalkeepers in the league to put his stats into context.
Bazunu as a shot-stopper
Unless you were a Portsmouth or Republic of Ireland fan, the name Bazunu would’ve been unheard of to you. His best performances came in his international games, most notably saving a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty. But how does he rank in goalkeeping terms?
The above graph doesn’t make great reading for Bazunu. He ranks under the league average for both stats. He has a save percentage of 63.89% and has prevented -0.183 goals per 90, meaning he has conceded more goals than he was expected to. However, the quality of his defence has to be taken into consideration. Three of his back four are new signings, meaning it will take them a while to all gel together. For a 20-year-old playing his first season in the top flight, with a completely new defence, these stats, in context, aren’t as bad as they seem.
One of Bazunu’s biggest strengths when it comes to preventing goals is his ability to stop shots from close range, including 1v1s. Above, the keeper notices that he can get to the ball before Demarai Gray can get a touch on it. In the second image, we can see how well he spreads himself to block all possible routes to the goal. As a result, he makes a great save to keep his team in the game. His large frame means that he’s difficult to get around.
This is another good example of how good Bazunu’s reflexes are. Aleksandar Mitrović heads the ball down perfectly towards the bottom corner of the goal. However, Bazunu is able to react brilliantly to get his foot to the ball, using the speed on the ball to tip it over the bar.
However, as effective as he is in stopping shots from close range, he can often lose concentration and misjudge shots from a distance. He does this in the example below against Armenia.
The Southampton man has a good sight of the ball being struck, and it isn’t struck with much power, meaning that he should save it. Bazunu gets down excellently to tip the ball wide of the post, however, he lets the ball slip underneath his hand. From this position, Bazunu should be saving the shot, this is one weakness in his game that this scout report has identified.
One of the most effective sweepers in the league
As the above graph tells us, the 20-year-old is one of the best ‘sweeper-keepers’ in the league. He ranks above the league average for both crosses stopped and actions outside of his penalty area. Bazunu isn’t shy about coming off his line and shutting down opposition attacks by claiming crosses, he’s stopped 7.5% of the crosses he’s faced, and he also makes 1.25 actions outside of his penalty area per 90. These statistics show that the young keeper is very much a progressive one, being authoritative enough to take action in and around his box.
Against Wolves, he prevents a one-on-one opportunity for Pedro Neto by rushing out of his box and clearing the ball after his defenders were beaten by a ball over the top. He makes his mind up straight away and uses his pace to beat the Wolves man to the ball. Having a goalkeeper that does this is a great asset to any team that plays a high line as a tactic. It enables the defenders to push higher up the field.
However, the young goalkeeper can also be hesitant in his decision-making, meaning sometimes he makes rash errors. This goes into the same weakness as losing concentration with long shots.
In this example against Qatar, a ball is played over the top, in between the defence and Bazunu. The keeper would be able to intercept the ball had he not hesitated. In the first image, we see him start to come out, stop, and continue to come out. If he committed to the decision, then he beats the opposition player to the ball. Rather, he concedes a penalty.
Overall, Bazunu is a strong sweeper keeper and is always ready to leave his line to intercept the ball. However, sometimes, his hesitation can mean he makes rash mistakes. These could be avoided if he is more confident in the decisions he makes.
What are his passing tendencies?
Every season, there is more of an emphasis on goalkeepers’ passing. They’re now vital to their team’s tactics and the way they progress up the pitch. How does Bazunu compare to the rest of the league?
As this graph shows, Bazunu is one of the most involved goalkeepers in the league in terms of passing. However, his passing style isn’t the same as the likes of Ederson and Alisson. He makes 22.30 passes per 90 and launches 60% of his passes. The 20-year-old prefers to pass the ball onto his defenders and holding midfielders. For them to then progress the ball up the pitch rather than make risky passes near his goal.
Bazunu doesn’t have much confidence making difficult passes when he’s under pressure. In the example above he has a perfect opportunity to pass out from the back, finding one of his players who is plenty of space to turn. Instead, he opts to launch the ball long, however, he still makes a good pass. One of Bazunu’s strengths is his long passing. We can see this in the example below against Everton.
He spots his full-back in space and picks him out with a great pass. This analysis has shown that Bazunu’s passing choices appear to be determined by how much pressure he is under. If he has time to pick a pass then he is extremely capable of completing long passes. However, if he’s being put under pressure then most of the time, he picks the safe option and launches it upfield.
This scout report has shown that although his goalkeeping statistics may not appear great, Bazunu has the capabilities to become an elite goalkeeper. He has faced fairly tough shots this season, mainly due to Southampton having basically a brand-new defence.
His sweeping statistics are some of the best in the league, and he is confident in commanding his area and outside of his box. He’s great at coming off his line and shutting down attacks.
However, his passing could be improved. He will become more confident with his passing when playing with a team that plays out from the back but for Southampton, this isn’t the case.