Goalies and Percentages

Although we had a match today, all the Carling Cup Final talk about goalies and Arsenal got me thinking. Below are charts of Fulham’s and the Sky Four’s starting goalies since 2005-06 (or, the first season Arsenal began their current trophy-less streak). (Ed. if not embedded, just follow the link. Anyone know how to fix this?)


Considering the number of starts include every competition, and thus each team plays a different amount of games each season depending on their various domestic and international cup campaigns, the key is obviously the percentage(s). A high percentage often means stability. Stability often means success.

In each of Chelsea’s and United’s title winning season, their #1 goalie started just about 75% of the matches. Liverpool haven’t won a title — they however did win an FA Cup and make an CL Final appearance in this span — yet they still sport a pretty damn good percentage with Reina. Meanwhile, Arsenal are looking at a fourth straight season of their #1 not even hitting that 75% threshold. Which is probably why they haven’t won a title in this span nor made any final appearance since 2006.

For Fulham, just looking at the numbers shows this is really Schwarzer’s job. Had he not gone to Qatar for the Asian Cup, his percentage could easily be above 85% this season. Although Stockdale has shown immense promise, and Mark is the biannual subject of transfer talk, we may miss him more than we think if he ever does leave.

Just to add a little context, I tried to think of a struggling team that has used a lot of goalies. But compiling all this data was a bit cumbersome, so I just used Derby’s 2006-07 season to show the nadir. Boy were they a mess.

5 thoughts on “Goalies and Percentages

  1. First, the error yesterday at the Carling Cup belonged to the Goalkeeper, not the defender. The Goalkeeper routinely scoops balls up when players are kicking at it. It makes no difference if a defender is misfired his clearance a yard in front of you, the goalie is supposed to swallow it up. He didn’t. Second, the goalie is supposed to “call” the game. He provides leadership on the back line. He tells his team what to do and where to go. It is hard to do this well if you do not have self confidence, if the job is up for grabs, and if the starter changes every week. Arsenal needs a veteran, solid goalkeeper if they want to win. Would Schwarzer, Freidel or Jaaskelainen have made this mistake? Maybe 20 years ago.

  2. The book “Why England lose at football” (Simon Kuper) has a great section about Goalkeepers and how they are undervalued. We ended paying nothing for our current keeper! This is a guy who had a world cup, about 60 games for Australia and had kept his side in the Premier League for about 10 years – and the EPL valued him at nothing! How many strikers are let go for nothing? I would say that Schwarzer is probably has been more valuable to Fulham at his time here than any of our strikers. Arsenal are paying for that undervaluing of Goalkeepers. What did they offer us for Mark? Well, it has cost them a trophy.

    But I think it also shows us why Mark Hughes was right to put Schwarzer back in goals instead of Stockdale. We are still only 3 or 4 points from relegation and we cannot afford a goal keeper error at this stage, it could cost us relegation.

    1. Absolutely true, and also a hard position to evaluate. The good goalkeepers do their good work while we’re not even looking at them, which is why Schwarzer doesn’t have to dive that much and keepers with lesser anticipation and positioning do. They make spectacular dives to save the shots, Schwarzer deals with them comfortably because he got the right cue from the forward’s shooting position and was there where he had to be.

      On another note, as I’m sure I mentioned somewhere the other day, where would Arsenal be now if they’d found £20m for Schwarzer and Hangeland?

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