Who was the best Premier League goalkeeper of the 2021/22 season?
In a year where Jose Sa and Aaron Ramsdale ranked amongst the season’s best signings and Alisson Becker returned to his world-beating best, picking the number one number one is no easy task.
And while you might well have your own opinion on the matter, the closest we can come to making such a subjective question an objective one is by referring to the full set of 2021/22 statistics.
2021/22 Premier League goalkeepers
And although there are a thousand ways in which you can judge a goalkeeper’s quality, their job ultimately comes down to, well, preventing goals and therefore the art of shot-stopping.
Yes, we could look at total saves or goals conceded, but the fairest way to judge the league’s goalkeepers regardless of the quality of the team they play for is the so-called ‘goals prevented’ metric.
The ‘goals prevented’ statistic
This new kid on the block in the world of stats is calculated by comparing the difference between a goalkeeper’s goals conceded and the post-shot expected goals that they faced based on the xG model.
In other words, if a goalkeeper was statistically meant to have conceded 50 goals based on the quality of the shots they faced, but only conceded 48, then the theory goes that they prevented two goals.
The only caveats are that own goals are not included, but penalties are indeed factored in.
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Premier League goalkeepers ranked by goals prevented
It’s not a perfect system and the xG doubters amongst you might be rolling your eyes, but it’s arguably the closest data has ever come to ranking the shot-stopping ability of goalkeepers.
So, without further ado, be sure to check out how all the Premier League ‘keepers to have amassed at least 10 appearances in the 2021/22 season rank by goals prevented down below:
23. Illan Meslier (Leeds United): -7.8
22. Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa): -5.2
=20. Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal): -4.6
=20. Ben Foster (Watford): -4.6
19. Tim Krul (Norwich City): -3.9
18. Vicente Guaita (Crystal Palace): -3.6
=15. Alex McCarthy (Southampton): -2.2
=15. Ederson (Manchester City): -2.2
=15. Daniel Bachmann (Watford): -2.2
14. Fraser Forster (Southampton): -1.2
13. Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City): -0.7
=11. Edouard Mendy (Chelsea): -0.5
=11. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur): -0.5
10. Jordan Pickford (Everton): 0.1
9. David Raya (Brentford): 0.5
8. Robert Sánchez (Brighton & Hove Albion): 1.2
7. Álvaro Fernández (Brentford): 2.7
6. Łukasz Fabiański (West Ham United): 4.0
=4. Martin Dúbravka (Newcastle United): 4.1
=4. Alisson Becker (Liverpool): 4.1
3. Nick Pope (Burnley): 4.4
2. David de Gea (Manchester United): 6.7
1. Jose Sa (Wolverhampton Wanderers): 9.2
An incredible season for Sa
Take a bow, Jose, take a bow.
The pick between the sticks for many fans and pundits in ‘Team of the Season’ exercises, Sa has been an unexpected upgrade on Rui Patricio with Wolves running a tight ship in defence for great swathes of 2021/22.
For the Portuguese shot-stopper to have statistically prevented so many more goals than the chasing pack is truly something to be heralded when you’re so new to Premier League football.
Besides, the likes of Pope and De Gea have been stellar over the last nine months when it comes to denying near-certain goals, so the fact that Sa is still head and shoulders above them is something to applaud.
Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Martinez has come crushing back down to earth on the back of a strong first season at Villa and Meslier clearly felt the brunt of Leeds’ woefully leaky defence.
But perhaps most surprising of all is the low placement of Ramsdale, who actually placed third with two goals prevented when we ranked Premier League ‘keepers by this very metric in December.
However, Arsenal fans have noticed for a few months now that Ramsdale has gone off the boil, conceding several goals that they would expect him to save, which has duly seen him slide down the pecking order.
So, take from the numbers what you will and there’s plenty to unpack, but the moral of the 2021/22 story is that Sa is the man to beat when it comes to preventing goals. Bring on next season.