“It’s best being a striker. If you miss five then score a winner, you’re a hero. The goalkeeper can play a blinder, then let one in. And he’s a villain”. There’s no better saying to explain how crucial the role of a goalkeeper is. The sad truth of being a goalkeeper is that there’s no one behind to save you. With the FAWSL 2019/20 campaign not likely to resume anytime soon, let’s try to find out the best goalkeeper of FAWSL this season by analysing their statistics.

In this data analysis, we shall find out the best goalkeeper statistically with the help of statistics and data. But, one should also understand that the stats of a goalkeeper are highly influenced by other factors as well.

Overview

Before directly jumping straight into the performance of the keeper, let’s get an idea of which team has conceded more.

Finding the best goalkeeper in the FAWSL 2019/20 - data analysis statistics
Bubble chart representation of goals conceded by each team.

Liverpool, which is found at the bottom of the table surprisingly have conceded fewer goals(20) when compared to the other teams at the bottom. Bristol City has conceded the maximum number of goals(38) followed by West Ham and Brighton.

Manchester City continues the tradition of conceding(9) fewer goals along with Chelsea(11), who is trailing by a point in the title race. Manchester United have also conceded fewer goals(12) this season. They are comfortably in the fourth position behind Arsenal who had conceded just 13 goals this season. The remaining teams have greater than 20 goals against them.

The above-discussed criteria are purely dependent on the number of shots each team has faced. A team which has faced more number of shots would end up conceding more number of goals. If the number of shots is more and the goals are less or vice versa, that would help us define the goalkeeper’s quality.

Analysis of shots on target per 90 minutes

We begin by analysing the number of shots on target faced by each team in a match.
Finding the best goalkeeper in the FAWSL 2019/20 - data analysis statistics
To our surprise, Bristol City, the team conceding maximum goals faces only 7.71 shots on target per match whereas Tottenham which is sixth in the points table faces 11.80 shots per match. This could explain the shot-stopping capacity of Bristol City’s keeper to an extent.

Man United(3.21) and Man City(3.28) along with Chelsea(3.75) face fewer shots on target in a match.

Brighton’s keeper who faces the most number of shots(16.53) per match has allowed fewer goals than West Ham and Bristol City.

To get a detailed understanding of each goalkeeper’s shot-stopping capacity let’s analyse the PsxG(Post shot expected goal) per shot with their save percentage.

Analysis of goalkeeper’s shot-stopping capacity

Finding the best goalkeeper in the FAWSL 2019/20 - data analysis statistics

As one can see Ellie Roebuck, the 20-year-old Man City keeper has more percentage of saves(85%) under her belt. She on an average faces a shot with an expected goal value of 0.31 which is above the average line of 0.285. Man City having one of the strongest defence this season give away fewer opportunities for the opponents to score. This is reflected in the number of clean sheets Roebuck holds(10).

Grace Moloney, the player who has played nine matches this season for Reading, on average faces a shot with an expected goal value of 0.38 with the least save percentage of 56%.

Despite Reading being a well-organised team, they often leave space for opposition attackers to exploit. Reading’s transition from attack to defence is worrying as there’s too much space between the defence and the midfielders which is often exploited by the opponents, which could be the reason for these numbers.

The Spurs keeper Rebecca Spencer is found above average in both the criteria. Despite facing as much as 11 shots in a match, she has conceded only 18 goals this season so far. With an impressive save percentage of 72%, she faces each shot with an expected goal value as same as Roebuck.

Tinja-Riikka Korpela, Everton’s keeper is also among the bunch of keepers who faces shots with high PsxG value(0.30). Hannah Hampton of Birmingham City and Courtney Brosnan of West Ham are two keepers who have the same PsxG value as Korpela.

Mary Earps of Man United has a good save percentage which is the second-highest(77%) but the average shot she faces are not as threatening as others. Surprisingly Manuela Zinsberger, the Arsenal keeper comparatively has less save percentage(64%) and also faces less threatening shots(0.23). Despite facing such shots, it’s worrying that she still hasn’t saved most of them. Thanks to Arsenal’s defence for closing down opponents before they take shots.

Ann-Katrin Berger of Chelsea has the third-highest save percentage of 73% but faces shots with an expected goal value as low as 0.26. Liverpool’s keeper Anke Preuss faces shots with an average PsxG value of 0.24 and a good save percentage of 71%.

As one can see Megan Walsh of Bristol City and Sophie Baggaley of Brighton are found below average in both the criteria.

Analysis of expected performance vs actual performance

Finding the best goalkeeper in the FAWSL 2019/20 - data analysis statistics

Roebuck, Spencer, Earps and Korpela are statistically among the few outstanding performers this season.

Baggaley’s bad stats could be because of their sloppy defence. Bristol City’s defence adopts a high line defence which is easily broken by quick passes. A timing run and a perfect through ball is the solution to break Bristol’s defence, considering how shapeless their defence is at times, which makes the opposition penetrate easily from the wings. They often go clueless on who to mark when the ball travels in the air and lets the attacker go unmarked.

Maybe if Arsenal hadn’t scored 11 goals against Bristol City their stats could have been a bit better.

Zinsberger is poor is because of her inability to stop shots which indeed had less PsxG value. Despite facing only 4.8 shots per match, she has only conceded 11 goals this season. Most of which could have been saved.

We should also bring into account that Liverpool’s poor performance this season is not because of Preuss, but their attackers’ poor conversion rate of 0.16. On the other hand, Zinsberger’s poor stats go unnoticed because of Arsenal’s attack who have scored 40 goals from just 87 shots on target.

This is exactly how other players’ performance has a great influence on the stats of the goalkeepers.

Analysis of the goalkeeper’s distribution 

With the new law stating that the ball is in play once the goal kick is taken and it can be played before leaving the penalty area, many teams have adopted the style of building up their play from the back.

Finding the best goalkeeper in the FAWSL 2019/20 - data analysis statisticsOne can see Roebuck making the shorter passes(24.5m) when compared to others. This is because of Man City’s way of switching sides. When opponents press city high, the centre backs use Roebuck to break the press.

On the other hand, Baggaley is found having more passes per match(35.79). Her passes also cover the most distance on an average(39m). This is because of high-line defence maintained by Bristol City. Very often she could be found standing out of the goalpost and playing as a sweeper forcing her to go for long passes when her centre backs are marked.

Preuss is found making least number of passes covering more distance on an average. Brosnan, Earps, Walsh and Moloney too demonstrate a good ability to distribute the ball. With Hampton making more number of passes per 90, the distance of her passes is an average of 37.92m.

Hampton is the keeper involved more in the game by making 37.92 passes in a match. She’s followed closely by Zinsberger(36.67). Korpela and Spencer are further off when compared to Hampton with 34.09 and 33.13 passes per match respectively. Berger too, however, has been putting up a decent show compared to the others.

The final analysis

Before concluding our analysis, let’s take a look at a few other areas of their performance.

Finding the best goalkeeper in the FAWSL 2019/20 - data analysis statistics

Roebuck has the maximum number of clean sheets under her name(10). Zinsberger has six clean sheets, Berger with four and Earps with five. Moloney, Brosnan and Preuss are the only keepers to have only one clean sheet.

Moloney and Hamptom lead the way when it comes to defensive actions per 90, with Spencer and Roebuck having the lease defensive actions outside penalty area per 90. Walsh too seems to have high defensive actions per 90, with the others having an average around 0.5.

Baggaley makes more saves per 90, as she faces more number of shorts per 90. However, Zinsberger who faces as much as 4.8 shots per match as a least save per 90 of just 1.50. Roebuck and Earps end up saving most of the goals as their shot per 90 and save per 90 are both found to be similar.

Berger too has been confident in the post by having 4.2 saves per match. Which as is as low as the number of shots she faces in a match

Saving penalties is no easy task, however, Baggaley has managed to save them twice. Baggaley seems to be a very good keeper, but the collective performance of her team is letting her individuality disappear.

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to judge a keeper based on their stats as it is greatly influenced by other factors. Every keeper analysed have their strengths and weaknesses. The ultimate goal of the keeper is to save goals, which most of them have done well.

But, statistically comparing the players, we see that Roebuck has been simply outstanding in all aspects of her role. Her saves against Manchester United were City won 3-1 is something no Man City fan would forget. One should not forget the fact she’s just 20-years-old and she could turn into a strikers nightmare if she continues to put up the same level of performance. We conclude our analysis by identifying Ellie Roebuck as the best goalkeeper in the FAWSL 2019/20.

Sathish Prasad V T