10) Rob Green (QPR)
As you might expect of a goalkeeper in a team that has been as poor as QPR, Robert Green has been kept very occupied.
The former England number one has made more saves than any other Premier League goalkeeper and though he ranks 11th among regular number ones in the division for overall save percentage (68%), that figure is only bettered among the relegation contenders by Sunderland’s Costel Pantilimon.
You don’t need stats, though, to tell you that QPR would be even deeper in the mire if it were not for Green.
The 35-year-old has had to rebuild his career following his nightmare World Cup in 2010 and being dropped three games into his QPR career when Julio Cesar rocked up at Loftus Road.
Green, described recently by Joe Hart as “rock solid” and former boss Sam Allardyce as “a dedicated goalkeeper who works tirelessly on his game”, has had to graft to get back to where he is now. Whatever happens to QPR come the end of the season, at least their goalkeeper has restored his reputation to such an extent that Chelsea are said to be looking at him as back-up for Thibaut Courtois next season.
9) Costel Pantilimon (Sunderland)
The Romanian giant started the season as back-up to Vito Mannone before the No.1 gave Gus Poyet no choice other than to drop him after conceding eight at Southampton and making an almighty c*ck-up the following week against Arsenal.
Pantilimon may have gained his place by default, but he has not let Sunderland down – one of the very few who can justifiably make that claim this season.
The 28-year-old has the second-highest shots-saved percentage (75%) in the Premier League while he ranks third-best in the division for saves from shots inside the box (65%). Ninety-six saves in 24 games have helped Pantilimon keep eight clean sheets, a record of one every three games, which is quite a feat given the lack of protection he has been given at times.
8) Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Manchester City have a rebuilding programme ahead of them this summer, but the goalkeeping department is the one area that can be left untouched. Hart must take great credit for that and the way he has overcome some dramatic dips in form over the last couple of seasons.
Manuel Pellegrini reunited himself with Willy Caballero last summer in a move that put Hart under more pressure than he has faced since he became City and England’s number one. The former Shrewsbury stopper knew that it would not be quite so easy to win back his place if there was any repeat of the mistakes that saw City turn, briefly, to Pantilimon last year.
Hart was a goalkeeper who played on the edge, often brilliant but all-too-often close to calamity over recent seasons. More so than many of his more laidback goalkeeping compatriots in the Premier League, Hart relies heavily on his confidence. When things are good, he’s great. When they go wrong, the doubts can affect his game, as last season showed.
Hart has regained his confidence and that of his manager not by making spectacular saves, but by becoming reliable again. There have been eye-catching contributions, most notably his one-man show in Barcelona, but just as important as his saves have been the absence of errors. It has not been Hart’s best season, but it has been among his most difficult, and he emerges from it with his reputation largely restored.
7) Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
This season may not have been Lloris’s most eye-catching campaign, but the 28-year-old has shown he is still one of the very best around.
Behind an often ropey defence, the Tottenham captain has offered leadership and stability, with his 96 saves being the highest number of any goalkeeper playing for a European contender.
Really, Lloris deserves to be playing in the Champions League. Manchester United may be looking for a new keeper should David de Gea leave this summer and, leaving aside Victor Valdes’s presence, Lloris would be an obvious and sensible target. Daniel Levy may offer stern resistance, but perhaps even he might be tempted to make a hefty profit on the France skipper they signed from Lyon for a bargain price of £12million.
6) Fraser Forster
The 6ft 7in England goalkeeper has silenced any doubters in his first season in the Premier League.
Forster kept Celtic’s goal for four years, winning the Scottish title in three of them, but question marks remained over the Geordie given the nature of the task at Parkhead and the lack of any real test. Those came in the Champions League, when ‘La Gran Muralla’ turned in some incredible displays, most notably against Barcelona. Could he do it, though, on a weekly basis in the Premier League?
Yes, it would seem. The Saints’ goalkeeping ranks was the only area of their squad not to have been pillaged last summer, but Ronald Koeman still saw fit to spend £10million on Forster, preferring him to the more eccentric Artur Boruc.
Forster has proved his manager correct, providing a solid foundation upon which the Saints have mounted the most unlikely European push. The 27-year-old has the highest saves percentage (74%) of any goalkeeper to have started the season as No.1, behind only Ospina and Pantilimon, while only Ospina betters Forster 67% success rate in saving shots from outside the area.
There remains room for progression. Despite some improvement since his early days at Celtic, Forster still sometimes appears sluggish in maneuvering his huge frame around the goal and, given his size, he could be more of a dominating presence inside his box. But, prior to his injury, the Saints stopper proved himself worthy of a starting spot in the Premier League and a place in the England squad.
5) Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea)
Swansea have enjoyed their best Premier League season to date and Fabianski’s fortunes have mirrored those of his team, who many tipped to struggle.
There were a few raised eyebrows when Garry Monk opted to replace Michel Vorm with a free transfer signing who had spent most of the last seven years sat on his backside, but eyebrows are now back where they belong – just above the eyes.
After winning the FA Cup in his final game for Arsenal, Fabianski accepted defeat in his battle to usurp fellow Pole Wojciech Szczesny from the Arsenal team and moved to south Wales for regular football. Less than a year on, first-team regular Fabianski has dislodged Szczesny at international level.
Arsenal’s style is not too disimilar from Swansea’s so Fabianski was already comfortable with what Garry Monk expects from his goalkeepers as a first line of attack. As a last line of defence, the 30-year-old has made mockery of the ‘Flapianski’ nickname given to him at Arsenal.
Fabianski has come for and caught 81 crosses so far this season, which is 12 more than the next best performer in that category. He is also tied for the most successful punches; joint-third best for the number of saves made (112); and his shots-saved percentage of 73 has contributed to 11 clean sheets, helping Swansea to break the 50-point mark for the first time.
4) David Ospina (Arsenal)
Ospina has played only 13 games for Arsenal, but the numbers make it impossible to ignore the Colombian’s contribution.
The 26-year-old spent the first half of the Premier League campaign on the bench as a spectator while Szczesny’s reputation went up in smoke, with the Pole dropped after a woeful display and a crafty fag at Southampton on New Year’s Day.
Ospina took over and it cannot be just a coincidence that Arsenal’s form dramatically improved thereafter. The Gunners have won 11 out of 13 games with Ospina in the sticks, with seven of those ending in shut-outs.
The individual stats are even more telling. Ospina has the highest save percentage (83%) of any keeper to play more than 10 games this season. He also leads the league in saving shots from inside the box, with his 79% success rate being 12% higher than the next best performer.
The numbers do not make good reading for Szczesny. Ospina’s overall shots-saved percentage is 16% higher, while the 22% difference in saves from shots inside the box must be acknowledged.
To the naked eye, the most obvious contrast between Ospina and Szczesny can be found in their temperaments. The Pole appears to relish whatever attention he can get; Ospina is quite the opposite, bringing an air of calm authority to a previously unstable Arsenal defence.
3) Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)
Much was made of Jose Mourinho’s goalkeeping dilemma last summer. Stick with ever-reliable Blues legend Petr Cech, or blood a relative youngster who had spent the previous three seasons out of sight and almost out of mind at Atletico Madrid?
Mourinho, like Roberto Mancini when Joe Hart and Shay Given gave Manchester City a similar poser, opted for youth and Courtois has never given the manager reason to doubt his decision.
Cech brought an air of serenity to the Chelsea goalmouth for a decade along with the odd match-defining save, but the handover of the gloves has been seemless, despite this Daily Mail piece in March, claiming Mourinho ‘must reinstall Cech’, due in no small part to Courtois’ ‘trouble claiming crosses’.
That perceived weakness simply does not exist, and you would be hard pushed to find another. Courtois is so laidback for a young goalkeeper, he almost gives the impression he would rather be doing something else.
Granted, no goalkeeper has better protection than the Chelsea back- our, but when their defence is penetrated, they have been able to rely on a keeper who is “different class”, according to John Terry.
2) Adrian (West Ham)
Following yet another impressive Adrian display – that included the Spaniard’s third consecutive penalty save – Sam Allardyce this weekend hailed his stopper as “one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League on a consistent basis”.
Allardyce is right. The manager has made some very astute signings during his fraught reign at Upton Park – a couple of stinkers too – but the acquisition of Adrian from Real Betis in 2013 certainly ranks as one of the best.
The 27-year-old is a magnificently agile shotstopper – you would reasonably expect any Premier League goalkeeper to be – but 6ft 3in Adrian is a strong all-rounder who took to the Premier League immediately upon replacing Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Despite a reasonably successful season for the Hammers, Adrian has been a busy boy. He has made 118 saves so far, the second-highest number in the division only behind the overworked Green at QPR. Despite the volume of work, Adrian has saved 73% of the shots he has had to deal with, keeping out 65% of efforts inside the penalty area (ranked fourth in the Premier League) and 94% of shots from outside the box.
Whether he is as useful with his feet as he is with his hands remains to be seen, which will be an important consideration for any of the bigger clubs sure to be keeping an eye on Adrian. His passing accuracy is down at 45%, but Allardyce demands his stoppers keep it simple when it comes to distribution.
1) David de Gea (Manchester United)
David de Gea left Madrid a boy and will return – quite likely this summer – a man after his finest campaign yet in the Manchester United goal.
The Spaniard was nominated for the PFA Player of the Year and selected as the number one in the Premier League Team of the Year. The players don’t always get these selections right, but there was no doubt over this season’s best goalkeeper.
Among many highlights, which include getting the better of Eden Hazard at Old Trafford and a pair of brilliant late saves against Stoke, two performances really stand out: the home wins over Everton and Liverpool.
De Gea made eight saves, including a stunning stop to deny Mario Balotelli, against Liverpool to put a very flattering tint on the 3-0 scoreline, but most were saves we have come to expect from him. Against Everton, De Gea was the difference, keeping out a first-half penalty from Leighton Baines, who had scored his previous 14, before pulling off two late saves that had to be seen to be believed as United panicked their way to back-to-back wins for the first time under Louis van Gaal.
Making saves has rarely been a problem for De Gea, even in the early days at Old Trafford, when he was described by The Times journo James Ducker as ‘like a kid who won a competition to play in goal for Manchester United’. Ducker was certainly not a lone voice, given the spindly Spaniard’s weakness in dealing with crosses.
In contrast, De Gea is one of only two No.1s not to drop a cross all season, statistically speaking, at least.
Given De Gea’s circumstances and background, there will surely be few United fans who would begrudge De Gea returning home to Madrid to join Real this summer. Many would have offered to drive him back as recently as two years ago, when Julio Cesar was heavily linked with the job of taking over in the Old Trafford goal. But as United have flailed over the last two seasons, De Gea has grown into one of the very best goalkeepers in the world.