Goalkeeper.com's Dr. John Harrison has a look at some of the best and worst goalkeeping actions in the top flight over the past week…
From the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where Danny Ward epitomised his season so far in ninety minutes with a ‘best’ and ‘worst’ feature, across London and to the South Coast, Goalkeeper.com's data guru takes us through another week of goalkeeping in the Premier League.
Best Shot Stopping Moment of the Week: Danny Ward vs Davinson Sanchez
Sanchez’s header was traveling at pace into the roof of the net but Ward got across goal quickly and his strong top hand pushed the ball onto the bar.
Historically shots like Sanchez’s are only saved 25% of the time making it the most difficult shot to be saved this week!
Wards’ wonderful pre shot positioning adjustment and use of the top hand is what made this save possible. By dropping off towards his goal line once he realised he could not come for the cross, Ward gave himself valuable extra reaction time. If he had stayed in his initial high starting position, this header would have likely flown past him before he could react.
The use of the top hand was also crucial, as by going with this hand his dive momentum was aligned with the area he was trying to push the ball into meaning he maximised the force he could impart onto the ball. If Ward had gone with his bottom hand I am sure he would’ve struggled to push the ball onto the bar as his dive momentum would no longer be aligned with the area he was trying to push the ball and thus he would have imparted a smaller force onto the ball. Therefore, it would’ve likely ended up nestling into the roof of the net.
Best 1v1 Moment of the Week: Dean Henderson vs Joao Palhinha
Palhinha snuck in behind the Nottingham defence and Henderson held his nerve and stayed deep, waiting for Palhinha to make the first move. This allowed Henderson’s defenders to pressure Palhinha from the side and forced Palhinha into an early shot which Henderson easily saved due to his top class positioning.
Historically, 1v1s like Palhinha’s are only saved 58% of the time making it the most difficult 1v1 to be saved this week!
Henderson dealt with this 1v1 situation perfectly. By holding his position, waiting deep and trusting his reactions, he turned a chance with goal probability 42% into a chance with goal probability 22%. If Henderson had panicked and rushed off his line here the situation would have become one with a goal probability of 56%. The reason why waiting is optimal here is because the striker is so far from goal a goalkeeper's reaction time should be sufficient to cover shots into the majority of the goalmouth.
Rushing out only becomes an optimum strategy when the shot is so close in that a goalkeeper will never have enough reaction time to make the save unless they get themselves so close to the ball and pre-emptively force their body into a shape where the ball is very likely to just hit them and bounce away from goal. Waiting deep and trusting your reactions can be very difficult when it feels like your defenders have left you exposed, but in this scenario Henderson did not hesitate or doubt himself. He set himself and dictated the 1v1 to Palhinha and made a difficult situation look easy.
Best Handling Moment of the Week: Hugo Lloris vs Patson Daka
Daka’s bullet header bounced into the ground and was heading for the far corner until Lloris flung himself across goal and palmed the ball away. Lloris managed to not only save it but guide it expertly away from danger.
Historically, this shot would be expected to grant a rebound with an expected goals value of 0.17 but Lloris parried it out of the side of the six yard box into an area with an expected goals value of just 0.02, making it the best handling moment of the week!
The key skill Lloris showed here was soft hands and excellent ball manipulation. Rather than attempting to push the ball away by imparting a lot of force onto it when making the save, Lloris simply used the pace on the ball and a flick of the wrist to guide it away from danger. Many goalkeepers would panic and try to claw the ball out of the goal and end up pushing the ball back into the danger zone. As I said last week, moments like this are often overlooked but top class handling can be worth goals over the course of a season. Making a great first save and not having to make a double save is something pundits should highlight more often!
Worst Shot Stopping Moment of the Week: David Raya vs Gabriel Jesus
After a floated cross, Jesus powered a header towards the centre of the net and while Raya got a full palm onto the ball it was not enough to claw the ball out of the goal.
Historically, shots like Jesus’ are saved 59% of the time making it the easiest shot not to be saved this week.
Raya’s part in this goal provides an excellent counter example to Ward’s world class save vs Sanchez. Like Ward, Raya showed excellent pre-shot positional adjustment by dropping back to his line. Therefore, Raya also gained those vital extra milliseconds of reaction time but, in contrast to Ward, he elected to attempt to save the ball with his bottom hand. This would not be an issue if the shot trajectory was slightly lower or if the shot did not require a dive to save.
But because of those characteristics Raya ended up in a situation where his dive momentum offered him no help when attempting to parry the ball away. Instead he had to generate all the force to parry the ball away with his arm and while he valiantly attempted to claw the ball out of goal, it was not enough and he ended up palming it into the net. If he could've got his top hand across I am sure the extra force, due to the alignment of his dive momentum, would’ve allowed him to parry the ball out of the goal.
Worst 1v1 Moment of the Week: Danny Ward vs Heung Min Son
After a through ball, Son was in the clear behind the Leicester defence. Ward decided to rush out early and spread himself which allowed a weak finish to squirm through his legs and into the centre of the goal.
Historically 1v1s like Son’s are saved 64% of the time making it the easiest 1v1 not to be saved this week!
This was a classic case of a goalkeeper rushing too early and is a perfect example to contrast with Henderson’s save. Initially, Ward does brilliantly and once he decides not to come for the through ball he drops back into his six yard box. However, Ward then decides to rush out and spread when Son is still 18+ yards away from the centre of goal! Historical data suggests if he had stayed deep he would’ve had a 90% chance of making the save while rushing and spreading only gave him a 39% chance of making the save.
In these sorts of situations, all rushing does is cut the goalkeeper's reaction time and, even if the goalkeeper can get closer to the ball than Ward did here, they will still give the striker the possibility of dribbling around them due to the vast space they leave unoccupied behind them. Decision making is crucial when it comes to saving 1v1s and here Ward’s poor decision cost him, allowing a weak central shot to beat him.
Worst Handling Moment of the Week: Gavin Bazunu vs Ollie Watkins
After the ball was whipped in, Watkins rose above the Southampton defence to power a header towards goal. Bazunu got a big hand onto the ball but could only divert it onto the centre of the bar meaning it bounced back into the six yard box allowing Ramsey to smash home the winner for Aston Villa.
Historically this shot would be expected to grant a rebound with an expected goals value of 0.07, but Bazunu parried it out centrally into an area with an expected goals value of 0.45 making it the worst handling moment of the week!
This was a textbook case of ‘hard hands’. When analysing Lloris’ excellent handling against Leicester I mentioned his ‘soft hands’ and the way he expertly guides the ball away from danger. Here, Bazunu does the opposite. He tries to do too much when he deflects the ball away and takes a big swipe at the ball. This means he does not manipulate the ball as intended and rather than pushing it over the bar he pushes it into the bar.
If Bazunu had taken less of a swipe at the ball and had instead caressed and guided the ball using the power already on the header I am sure he would’ve comfortably pushed it over the bar. This goal highlights how tiny details can make a big difference in the Premier League. This handling moment was the difference between Southampton gaining a point on the road at Aston Villa and Southampton going home empty handed.