The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Team of the Year is an annual award given to a set of footballers from each of the top four tiers of English Football and is meant to be an accolade awarded to those who are the most deserving. The shortlist is compiled by the members of the players’ trade union, i.e. the PFA in January each year and the winners are then voted for by their fellow players in each respective league.
Personally, I have two major gripes with the Team of the Year nomination. Firstly, the shortlist is compiled in January and the awards are then handed out towards the end of April (the gala event takes place on Sunday 28 April 2019). However, the Premier League, as well as the three other top tier Leagues in English football have their playing season from August to May each year. So why have a shortlist compiled in January? It makes zero sense. Secondly - and the main reason for this article - is that whether the shortlist was compiled in January or whether they only did it a few hours ago it would not change the fact that Alisson Becker and not Ederson Morae, should have been named the PFA goalkeeper of the year. Here are the reasons why.
Alisson Becker signed for Liverpool on 19 July 2018 for a record-breaking fee at the time and has been worth every cent and more. He has recorded the highest tally of clean sheets in the Premier League this season with a total of 19 and has surpassed David De Gea’s outstanding achievement of 18 clean sheets which he recorded last season. Further to that, Alisson has officially recorded the highest amount of clean sheets in the Premier League in the past decade. Petr Cech however, still holds the highest record in the Premier League in a single season which was during 2004-05 when he ended the season on 24 clean sheets.
Meanwhile, Manchester City’s Ederson has had a total of 18 clean sheets this season, while Chelsea’s Kepa has had 13 and poor David de Gea’s form has not continued into 2019 as he is currently on a mere seven clean sheets.
Exceeding Expectations (courtesy of Opta)
Another important goalkeeping statistic is the Expected Goals Conceded (xGC) stat which is part of the Expected Goals metric that Opta introduced last season. To calculate the Expected goals’ (xG) for a match, every shot is analysed and then given an ‘Expected goal value’ (EGV). The EGV of a shot assumes that it has been taken by someone of average ability in the league. The value is determined by several factors, including; where the shot was taken from, the proximity of defenders, and the nature of the attack, i.e. whether it was a free-kick or a penalty as well as the quality of the assist.
Alisson’s xGC is 27 (26.80) goals. However, he has only conceded 20 Premier League goals this season and thus he has outperformed his xGC total by 6.80 goals which basically means that he has let in fewer goals than expected.
- Ederson has conceded 22 goals and has an xGC of 24.51 exceeding by 2.51
- De Gea has conceded 50 goals with an xGC of 48.22 and has therefore under-performed by 1.78
- Kepa has conceded 38 goals but has an xGC of 35.37 and he has under-performed by 2.63
Ratio in the Box
Alisson’s speed and his quick reflexes are best reflected at close range and does put him among the best keepers in the world. He excels at stooping low, pushing the ball away with both hands and has the ability to narrow the angle in an instant for any oncoming forward players. Statistically, of all the goalkeepers to have started more than five Premier League matches, Alisson is the hardest to beat when it comes to saves in the box.
His save percentage of shots in the box is 70.77%, followed by Arsenal’s Petr Cech with 69.57%. Tottenham Hotspur’s Hugo Lloris comes in at third place with a save percentage of 69.51% and in fourth is Manchester City’s Ederson with a percentage of 64.91%. Although he has not been the busiest goalkeeper this season which is in large part thanks to the best defender in the world, i.e. Virgil van Dijk, Alisson has made more stops per goal conceded than any of the other PL goalkeepers with a ratio of 3.45, followed by Petr Cech who has a ratio of 3.11 and Hugo Lloris is in third place with 2.86.
In closing, it is abundantly clear that based on statistics alone, Brazil’s number one is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League. And so, allow me to end with some truly profound words about Alisson, courtesy of Roma’s former goalkeeping coach Roberto Negrisolo, who said:
“I don’t think many people know who Alisson is. This guy is a phenomenon. He is the number one of number ones.”
My sentiments exactly.