Why are Premier League goalkeepers making more errors?


Something has happened to the stats of the biggest goalkeepers in the Premier League this season. While England’s top flight was once renowned for the number of world class shot-stoppers it boasted, now high profile blunders from the men between the sticks has become commonplace.

Alisson Becker’s arrival at Liverpool proved to be a catalyst in the Reds’ development into a title-winning outfit, but the Brazilian has made three giant gaffes in his last two Premier League appearances. At this moment in time, Liverpool can no longer rely on Alisson as they have been able to these last two seasons.

Hugo Lloris was also far from convincing in his performance against City on Saturday, with the French goalkeeper particularly weak in allowing an Ilkay Gundogan shot to squeeze underneath him at the near post. This wasn’t the first time the World Cup winner had been culpable for a goal in the Premier League this season.

They aren’t the only Premier League goalkeepers struggling with their stats at the moment, however. David de Gea hasn’t been the same player since the 2018 World Cup, but after a period of steady performances mistakes have started to creep into the Spaniard’s game again. Many criticised de Gea for a lack of urgency in rushing off his line to prevent Manchester United dropping points at home two weeks ago, when Everton snatched a stoppage time equaliser.

Robin Olsen’s performance also came under scrutiny after allowing a Scott McTominay header through his arms. Olsen was only in the Everton line-up amid doubts around Jordan Pickford who has been lacking in confidence for quite some time now. Carlo Ancelotti is without a reliable number one.

This came after Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno was shown a straight red card for a bizarre decision to punch a ball away with his arm outside the box in a defeat to Aston Villa. And after Chelsea made the decision to replace £71 million Kepa Arrizabalaga following a series of error-strewn performances.

Emi Martinez is essentially the only Premier League goalkeeper at the top of his game right now. The Argentine has been a key figure for Aston Villa since making the switch from Arsenal in the summer transfer window, raising questions over whether the Gunners should have allowed him to leave in the first place. So why are Premier League goalkeepers making more errors?

The shortened schedule of this season was always likely to push players to their limits, although it was widely assumed the limits pushed would be physical in nature. While goalkeepers are now expected to do more with the ball at their feet, the physical demands on them are not as great as those on their outfield teammates. It is something that the best young goalkeepers in the world are being asked to do from an early age.

Instead, it’s possible the sheer number of fixtures played in such a short period of time is taking a mental toll on goalkeepers. Lapses in concentration, like the kind we have seen from several number one shot-stoppers in recent times, can be a symptom of psychological fatigue. This could be what some Premier League goalkeepers are suffering from.

It’s almost impossible to get anywhere in elite level football without a reliable goalkeeper. Pep Guardiola recognised this by making the signing of a new number one a priority upon his arrival at the Etihad Stadium. And when Claudio Bravo proved not to be the right man for the job, City went back into the market to sign Ederson. Goalkeepers are valued more now than they were a few years ago, even when the goalkeepers with the most clean sheeets in Premier League history were still playing.

Jurgen Klopp recognised similar by spending big to add Alisson to his squad after a calamitous performance by Loris Karius in the 2018 Champions League final. But it’s becoming tougher for all top level goalkeepers, not just in the Premier League to keep their stats at the top of the game – see how even Manuel Neuer allowed his levels to drop at times last year. More is being asked of them, both in terms of what they are expected to do on the pitch and the number of games they are currently having to play.

 


 

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