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Are Bravo and Karius as bad as they have seemed?


Are Bravo and Karius as bad as they have seemed?


It was a mixed weekend for high-profile goalkeepers in the Premier League. Although Thibaut Courtois made a number of fine saves and David De Gea made a startling block from Kevin Mirallas, both Claudio Bravo and Loris Karius were partly responsible for their defeats. 


With Bravo, of course, this is part of an ongoing narrative. He is a very un-English style of goalkeeper. He is not the stolid, unflappable, reliable figure English football has historically revered. He is not a Shilton or a Seaman. He is flamboyant, takes risks and passes like an outfielder in the model Johan Cruyff always demanded. Cruyff himself, when he was 17, played in goal for the Ajax third team while making his way as a forward for the firsts, something that conditioned his insistence that the keeper should play as high up the pitch as possible, initiating attacks. 


His theory was always that it didn’t matter if his keeper was lobbed once in a while, however embarrassing it may appear, because it was outweighed by the overall benefit of having an additional outfielder. Which is all very well, and perhaps explains some of the suspicion that has surrounded Bravo since he replaced Joe Hart in August, but it does not explain the utter lack of authority Bravo exudes. With each of the three goals that Chelsea scored, there was a sense of inevitability that the ball was going in long before it hit the net. For the second, Bravo was still skipping into his set position as the ball went past him. 


Karius, meanwhile, although he hasn’t faced the invidious task of replacing the England number one, has had to labour with the sense that, as the Irish journalist Ken Early put it, with his floppy blond hair he looks like the prince at the start of a Disney film who you know will turn out to be a wrong’un. Before the Bournemouth game, there had been a feeling that he didn’t save all that much, and so perhaps wasn’t much of a step up on Simon Mignolet. That game seemed to confirm all the fears as he made two terrible errors that cost goals, reacting late to a Ryan Fraser shot that slipped under his body and then spilling Steve Cook’s strike to gift Nathan Ake the winner. 


But is it actually true, or is there an element of confirmation bias going on, that doubts have been raised over Bravo and Karius and so their errors receive more attention? Goalkeeping is extremely difficult to measure statistically because it’s such a reactive field, but looking at the percentage of shots saved does give some indication of a goalkeeper’s shot-stopping capacity. 


Burnley’s Tom Heaton has made the most saves of any goalkeeper this season, followed by Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford – and he made another excellent late block on Saturday – but they have faced the most and second most shots. Looking only at those keepers who’ve played a minimum of seven matches – that is, half the league season – Lee Grant has the best ratio, having saved 87.1% of shots he’s faced. Then comes Kaspar Schmeichel with 76.1% then Heaton on 75.6%, then Petr Cech, Foster and Pickford. 


Are Bravo and Karius as bad as they have seemed?


Bravo, though, isn’t too far behind, having saved 66.7% of shots on target he has faced, the ninth-best record, with Karius in tenth on 65.5%. Both, intriguingly, are ahead of De Gea. Worst is Fraser Forster with 54.3%. Bravo, meanwhile, has the best pass completion rate of any goalkeeper in the league, although his 73.3% is significantly down on the 84.3% he achieved at Barcelona last season. 


But that’s only part of the story. Liverpool have faced just 7.9 shots per game this season and City 8.6, the two lowest figures in the league. Yet Liverpool have let in 18 goals and City 15. To put that another way, every 6.2 shots Liverpool face results in a goal, and every 8.0 shots City face. If Hull, who have leaked the most shots this season, conceded at the same rate as Liverpool, they’d have let in 42 this season; as it is, they’ve leaked 28. 


Whether it’s the goalkeeper or not, something is going wrong in the Liverpool and City defences.

Are Bravo and Karius as bad as they have seemed?

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Comments (11)

  • I think the above stats are decent but need more stats to substantiate them. For example, how many errors has the keeper made that led to goals? I don't think it is a stat, but knowing what the keepers cross interception rate is in terms of crosses came for and claims complete would also be good as being a keeper is far more than just shot stopping. I could go in, but although the above stats are helpful I just don't feel like they tell a full story.

  • pretty ropey way of measuring keepers but those two haven't looked up to the mark to be honest. As a keeper my self, most of the bottom rated keepers i.e. boruc, valdes, fabianski are actually reasonable keepers. All of them have made some top saves but the save percentage is low because the defence is to blame 80% of the time

  • I am Chilean and I know very well how Bravo plays. I must admit that I'm surprised by his bad performance, but I'm sure he will improve. He is not as good as Hart stopping shots, and direct free kicks has always been a weakness for him. However, he is very good in the air, he is great as a sweeper keeper, he has leadership and has experience. Bravo is not he best goalkeeper in the world, but give him some time and he will not disappoint you.

  • I've got to say too that Forster has been awful his year. He's so immobile and slow to get down. No spring on his dive and never comes off his line. For me he's the worst keeper in the league right now and I'm a saints fan. It's sad as he was good last season,

  • Lee Grant*

  • Lee Granr THUG LIFE. He is streets ahead of everyone else. On a more serious note It's incredible actually that his saving percentage is so high from 9 games. Its a huge gap to second, quite clearly a very high quality goalkeeper

  • Also we can only guess but agent of Bravo is FERNANDO FELICEVICH. He has laso in his stable likes of Sanchez and Vidal, so maybe it is one deal at a time and next will involve one or both with the same stable as it was in Mourinho case with Ibramugovic as prelude to Pogba.

  • Otamendi and Stones can form Aston Villa central duo in 4-4-2 (or most of the time 2 out of 3 defenders Guardiola forces to play in some kind of 3--2- -2-1-1), not team pretending to "challenge" top spot. Gk can adjust when knows what to expect from defenders and here it is not any case as both mentioned players are simply too weal for top team in strongest league in Europe. Part of the story is that in 1 vs 1 Bravo is not so good (don't have stats, but from what I hve seen - can be a bit biased) as even Hart and Hart is not so bad when it comes to playing last defender when needed. Maybe he can't pass too much, but in overall he is better than Bravo in this team. When/If City will find new defender/s there or Stones (Otamendi surely not) will improve then asessing Bravo would be more objective/possible. Still I am happy to see flop Guradiola in sorrow :)

  • Bravo is terrible. I think Pep has found out only Neuer can play the sweeper keeper role and as a shot-stopper, Hart is better too but we all know you aren't allowed to say anything to Pep and that is why Hart is out of the club. £17m for a 33-year old who has never been and never will be world class was steep too. As for Klopp, we know he can't pick a keeper for toffee. He had Weidenfeller at Dortmund, who was consistently the weakest link yet was never replaced. Cruyff did some great things in football, as a player AND coach, but the idea the keeper should play as high as possible is silly. If you are Neuer then yes, but he isn't the only type of great keeper. You should have your keeper play his natural game, whatever that is and you should formulate a defensive blueprint to your strengths.

  • Save rate seems like a pretty crude way to measure goalkeepers. But anyway, yes, Bravo does seem a bit flappy, doesn't he? Is he an improvement on Hart? I doubt it. Can't say anything about Karius, haven't seen much of him.

  • @What4- I agree. When it comes down to it, we all know Cech, de Gea and Lloris will step up when called upon and are clearly the top 3 in this league, in whatever order. There are so many variables which go into save percentage such as type of shot faced, how many, the game situation, the defence you're playing behind etc. There's not much to say to somebody who thinks Stekelenburg is as good a shot-stopper as de Gea but that is what the graphic above suggests.

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