By Tony Attwood
If you are a regular reader you’ll know that I sometimes have a little snigger about the way the daily press in England pick up on our stories occasionally and then do a re-write of them – either covering the same ground, or being persuaded to set out an alternative vision by whoever it is we are having a bash at.
But of course sometimes it happens the other way around. I’ve been plodding along for the last couple of days working on a piece about Arsenal goalkeepers, in the light of the Never Ending Story about who we are not going to sign, and then up pops the story in the Telegraph.
The question to be answered is, “who has been our best keeper?” which might give us a clue as to whether Mr Wenger is good at choosing keepers or not.
Now what delayed me in writing this piece was the gathering of data and trying to decide how to evaluate a goal keeper. The Telegraph however decided to keep it dead simple by looking at the number of clean sheets each keeper has kept per game played. So they won the race, and as my figures are not really leading to an outright conclusion, I might as well take theirs, and add a few snippets of my own en route.
The answer they came up with was of course David Ooooospina. They say of him, “The Spaniard has the best record for the club when it comes to clean sheets, and also the best for goals per minute conceded – 150, no less. Maybe he wouldn’t be a bad long-term option, after all,” which is pretty much what quite a few of us have been saying.
Second place goes to Alex Manninger.
Alex was an interesting chap. In 1998, for example, Manninger was given the Carling Player of the month award. He was then promptly dropped – as Seaman returned from injury. He also had a run of eight consecutive games without conceding at that time, which is rather good.
(Incidentally Alex eventually left us for Espanyol, who then, having signed him, suddenly announced they didn’t have the money to pay for him).
Then the Telegraph goes off the rails a bit by including John Lukic, but only including his second spell with us. During that spell he played just 15 league games in five years, so I think that is a bit silly.
Of course you’ll be wanting to know where David Seaman got to, and he is in fifth. They say, he “Has the second best record when it comes to minutes per goal conceded – 109.2 – but not quite as strong when it comes to clean sheets.”
And this shows where all these stats have a problem. David played 405 league games for us starting in 1990 which means he played in the Almost Unbeaten Season (under Graham – when we just lost one match) but also in the latter days of the Graham era which were pretty awful.
Almunia’s next with 39% clean sheet ratio across 109 games, followed by Fabianski over a much smaller number of games. Incidentally I thought Fabianski was offered a new contract by Arsenal but turned it down, although these days everyone knocking Wenger uses hindsight to say that’s not the case.
Next up is Wojciech Szczesny with 36% clean ones, which is the same number of Jens Lehmann. But this really emphasises where this sort of analysis goes wrong because Lehmann is the only goalkeeper in the history of the football league since 1889 to have played in every match and never played on the losing side. That surely says something about a keeper.
All of which says something about how hard it is to evaluate keepers I suppose.
But still, it’s quite fun to look at the stats.
(Well I think so).
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