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Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics

Nick Pope: Why Newcastle United’s goalkeeper is the most underrated in the Premier League – scout report

With some big names moving clubs over the summer; Darwin Núñez to Liverpool, Erling Haaland to Manchester City and Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal, it’s no shock that the transfer of a goalkeeper to Newcastle United would have gone under the radar. With their recent new owners, Newcastle are sure to be one of the most exciting teams in Europe in the coming seasons. Former Burnley man Nick Pope will play a big role in this.

This tactical analysis will look at how Pope has become one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the Premier League in recent seasons and, having brought him in for just £10.35m, will prove to be a bargain. We’ll analyse his personal tactics and how he fits into Newcastle’s style, as well as his goalkeeping and sweeping abilities. We will also compare him to the rest of the league’s goalkeepers to put his statistics into context.

A consistently great shot-stopper

Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics

In the above graph we can see that statistically, in terms of shot-stopping, Pope is the best-performing goalkeeper in the Premier League. The Englishman faces an above-average amount of shots per 90 with 4.48 but has an impressive save percentage of 80%.

Pope prevents 0.26 goals per 90 and has kept three clean sheets so far this season. For a goalkeeper joining a new team, these are very strong stats. He has a great range of shot-stopping techniques that help him prevent goals from anywhere. Standing at nearly 6’5 he’s one of the tallest in the league, meaning he has great reach when it comes to well-placed shots, however, he has great reactions and foot movement which help him adjust to shots closer to his goal.

Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics

In the example above, we can see a combination of his long reach and quick reflexes. The Brighton man has an unmarked header just outside of the six-yard box, giving the goalkeeper almost no chance. However, Pope manages to adjust his feet and anticipate the shot, clawing the ball from behind him and out for a corner. This is a great save because the shot is well-placed and hit with power. Pope is often able to adjust his body to prepare for shots near his goal, which is very difficult for a big keeper.

Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics

To complement his above strengths, Pope is a really good decision-maker. He often chooses the optimum approach to deal with threatening situations. In the one-on-one opportunity against Italy, he could rush out and pressure the striker. However, he notices that pressure is already being applied by his defenders, meaning the shot will be rushed.

Instead, he leaves more space between himself and the striker. This gives him much more time to react to the shot. As a result, the shot is struck just to the right of Pope and he’s able to save it with his foot. Goalkeepers can often rush out, giving the attacker more of a chance to slip it around or underneath the goalkeeper, but in this situation, the keeper was well prepared for any shot.

However, he isn’t without his mistakes.

Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics

Against Germany, during a tight period of the match, he faces a shot from distance. The shot has some power, but Pope should deal with it. We can see that it is close to his chest, meaning he would be able to hold it. Otherwise, if he’s not comfortable, he could push it out for a corner. Instead, he tries to hold it, spills it, and leaves Kai Havertz with a tap-in. He would be disappointed to be unable to deal with a shot of this quality from distance.

An elite sweeper-keeper

Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics

The above graph analyses each goalkeeper’s outside penalty area actions per 90 and the percentage of crosses they have stopped. Although Pope isn’t in the top right quadrant, he still had the third-most actions outside of his penalty area per 90 with 1.33, just behind Alisson and Jordan Pickford. Although his crosses stopped is below average, it’s still a respectable 6.5%.  For some time now, Pope has been one of the most effective ‘sweeper-keepers’ in the league.

Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics

In this example against Crystal Palace, we can see how hard he works to get out and take pressure off his defenders. He comes to the edge of his six-yard box into a crowd of players to punch the ball clear. He recognises that it’s unsafe to catch the ball, therefore he makes the decision to punch the ball. Pope often comes off his line when the ball is lofted into his box, his 6’4 stature helps him massively in this aspect.

Pope’s biggest change since joining Newcastle has been the way he approaches the game with the ball at his feet. We see this in his positioning and passing.

Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics

Above, we can see Pope calmly coming out to the edge of the ‘D’ and taking the ball on his chest. He then passes it out to his midfield. At Burnley, he would have been instructed to kick this ball long. With Burnley playing a deep defensive line in a low block, he also would not have had the chance to take this ball down.

A change in passing style

Since joining Newcastle, there has been more of an emphasis on Pope playing out from the back. If we had to identify one weakness in his game, it would be his passing ability, so the outcome of this part of the analysis was quite a surprise.

Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics

This graph, which looks at how often each goalkeeper launches goal-kicks and passes makes for interesting reading. We can see that Pope ranks among the majority of goalkeepers when it comes to launching his goal-kicks (72.1%). However, his pass launch stats are away from the pack, launching 46.1% of his passes.

What is really interesting, is his stats compared to last season when he was in the Premier League with Burnley. Last season, Pope launched 93% of his goal-kicks and 73.4% of his passes, showing quite a significant drop this season.

Below is a perfect example of his tactics changing.

Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics

In this example against Bournemouth, we can see that Pope is in a situation where he’s immediately under pressure from the opposition. Last season, Pope would have been expected to launch this ball long to his strikers. However, we can see that he makes a delicate chipped pass to his teammate who is in space. This is a prime example of Pope’s passing style changing under Eddie Howe.

However, passing is still his biggest weakness. In the below example, in a team where there is more of an emphasis on keeping the ball, we can see how he begins to struggle.

Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics Nick Pope – scout report – tactical analysis tactics

We see that sometimes Pope is still uncomfortable with the ball at his feet. When he takes his first touch, he still has loads of time to make a pass. However, he spends too long picking a pass and the opposition is able to get a foot on the ball. This sends the ball to another German player. Although his passing ability has improved this season, he is still a bit shaky when being asked to play out from the back.

Conclusion

This scout report has proven why Pope is one of the most underrated and overlooked goalkeepers in the Premier League. He has had a great run of seasons for Burnley and he is looking like he will be an excellent acquisition for Newcastle.

In terms of his shot-stopping and sweeping, he is one of the best and most consistent in the league. Last season he prevented 0.12 goals per 90 with a struggling team, and this season he prevents 0.26 per 90. Although his passing has massively improved, when he plays for England we can see that this is still his biggest weakness.  This might be what keeps him out of their starting line-up for the upcoming World Cup.