Analysing De Gea's top shot-stopping actions over the 2022/23 season.
For some seasons now, David De Gea has been pundits’ favourite goalkeeping scapegoat.
Whilst his shot-stopping has consistently remained his strongest attribute, the perpetual progression of Premier League football has, in the eyes of some, left De Gea in its wake.
In a Manchester United side only recently climbing back to its traditional heights in the top flight table, De Gea, for many seasons, has been one of few mainstays in a dressing room under transition. The Spaniard took the flack for his teammates in the press perhaps once too often over the past few years, and was cut little slack from those in the stands and the studios alike.
But the arrival of Dutch manager Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford launched De Gea’s weaker distributive skills into a particularly harsh spotlight. Alongside this, it seemed as if every goalkeeper in Europe was linked with a move to the Red Devils towards the end of the summer, and many expected the ‘will he leave, won’t he leave?’ transfer saga to come to and end with De Gea’s contract initially expiring at the end of the 2022/23 season.
However, it seems as if De Gea will remain at Old Trafford for some time yet. In March, Fabrizio Romano reported that United were keen to keep their number one at Old Trafford. The club reportedly wanted to offer different contractual terms rather than trigger the one year extension in his contract.
Ten Hag confirmed that he will be in the market for a new goalkeeper this summer, and admitted that there is no certainty that De Gea will remain the Red Devils’ first choice between the sticks next season. However, the Dutchman reiterated in late May that he was keen to keep De Gea at the club.
At the culmination of the 2022/23 Premier League campaign, with 17 clean sheets to his name, De Gea picked up his first Golden Glove award since 2018. Manchester United’s defensive unit have been resolute this season, conceding the joint-second least goals with 43 against their name. Only Manchester City and Newcastle United bettered this, each conceding ten less over the 38-game period.
But it’s well known that clean sheets are a poor measure of a goalkeeper’s performance over the course of a season. A goalkeeper could play behind a very good defence, and thus have little to do, or face shots of a statistically easier nature than others, contributing to their clean sheets.
Goalkeeper xG data can reveal, however, that De Gea has still performed above average in the Premier League this season. His overall value in goals (or overall goalkeeper value; OGV) for the 2022/23 Premier League season comes in at a +1.90. This means that De Gea has been worth nearly two additional goals to Manchester United over the course of the 2022/23 campaign, compared to the mathematically average Premier League goalkeeper.
The Goalkeeper xG model takes into account the widest range of variables to measure goalkeeper performance in the sports data industry today, which, combined, produce a goalkeeper’s OGV. Out of these variables, his standout shot-stopping moments came in fixtures against Fulham at home, Leicester City at home, and West Ham United at home.
Ironically, it took until the final day of the season for De Gea to make his statistical save of the season. With Fulham already 1-0 up at Old Trafford thanks to Kenny Tete’s 19th minute strike, Aleksandar Mitrovic stepped up to double the away side’s advantage from the penalty spot. De Gea stood resolute, diving to his left to repel Mitrovic’s effort with a double handed parry.
Drawing only a 13.4% save probability, De Gea’s penalty prevention was pivotal in a match which would see United come back to win 2-1 and consolidate their third place finish.
In mid February, the Spaniard equalled Peter Schmeichel’s Manchester United clean sheet record of 180. He would go on to break it the following week against Newcastle in the EFL Cup Final, and by the end of February De Gea had two personal accolades to his name.
In the Red Devil’s 3-0 victory over Leicester at Old Trafford, a dinked cross to the back post evaded Diego Dalot, before being nodded towards goal by Kelechi Iheanacho. De Gea sprung to his right and clawed the ball off the line, with the save going on to win the Premier League’s Save of the Month award.
It drew a 36.7% save probability, meaning nearly two thirds of the time, an average Premier League goalkeeper wouldn’t make such a save.
Completing the list of De Gea’s three top shot-stopping actions of the season was a picture-perfect bottom hand save in United’s 1-0 October victory against West Ham. A whipped cross from the left flank by Aaron Cresswell was flicked goalward by Kurt Zouma, but the ball - at pace - wouldn’t reach the top corner it was destined for thanks to an athletic stop by De Gea.
According to Goalkeeper xG, a save of such nature is made just under half the time by the average Premier League goalkeeper with a save probability of 46.1%. It’s more likely to be scored than it is saved. De Gea’s athleticism went a long way to securing an autumnal three points for United, and on a personal level, took him a clean sheet closer to Schmeichel’s aforementioned record and a second Golden Glove.
Today’s FA Cup Final will see the first all-Manchester FA Cup Final in history. It’s the first time the two sides have met in the FA Cup since January 2012, with the Red Devils winning 3-2 that day. The starting goalkeepers that day were Costil Pantilimon in the and Anders Lindegaard, with Joe Hart and a 21-year-old David De Gea on the bench.
The Premier League winners will start with Stefan Ortega in goal ahead of Ederson, confirmed by Pep Guardiola in his pre-Final press conference on Friday afternoon. Ortega has started all five of Manchester City’s FA Cup games this season, and is remarkably yet to concede a single goal.
Manchester red and blue will descend on the home of football for a final that will see United aim to defend City from completing their own Premier League, Champions League, and FA Cup treble. All three trophies came back to Old Trafford in 1999; 24 years later, United’s noisy neighbours could neutralise the bragging rights.
The 2023 FA Cup Final kicks off at 3PM BST at Wembley.