Thursday, December 29, 2011

Is Szczesny Overrated? A Statistical Analysis.

Let's face it - we all love SZCZ. Since Jens was dropped in 2007 (in my opinion ill-advisedly) we've had to put up with some of the less convincing goalkeepers in Arsenal's history, namely Almunia, Fabianski and Mannone. Each, for a brief period, looked like they might have the necessary chops, but all have also had a series of goalkeeping calamities during their period at the club. The permanently terrified look on Almunia's face still haunts me.

So when SZCZ turned up it was a relief for a number of reasons. One - he was confident. Goalkeepers HAVE to be confident. They play in the most unforgiving position on the team and they can't beat themselves up every time they concede a goal, or mess-up a goal kick. Secondly - he looked the real deal. He made big saves in big games (Udinese away anyone?) and he could spread himself, Schmeichel-style, in one-on-one situations. In short, he looks dominant and confident, and that has helped our general defensive improvement since September.

But, while perusing Twitter yesterday, I saw some interesting stats posed by Orbinho on Twitter relating to Arsenal and Spurs this season in the league. Both teams have scored the same amount of goals (34) and Arsenal actually have a higher shot-to-goal ratio than Spurs. (15.1% vs. 14.5%). We also have a similar passing accuracy rate. So Spurs are not actually any better going forward than we have been this season.

Where the stats get even more interesing is in defence. We have conceded 26 goals in total compared to Spurs 19. Yet, we have allowed fewer shots on goal (68 to 95). This means that SZCZ's has only saved 61% of the shots on goal that Arsenal have allowed, while Friedel has saved 79%. Moreover, in a statistic entitled 'errors for goals' (committed by any member of the team), Arsenal have committed 7 errors while Spurs has committed 0.

The conclusion would therefore appear to be clear. As Orbinho put it:

"Effectively the difference between Arsenal & Spurs is that Brad Friedel is far outperforming Szczesny and individual errors by defenders."

Now stats are obviously problematic. The main point of Michael Lewis's Moneyball is that looking at the wrong stats can lead to disaster in sports. And Arsenal's defensive stats have been horribly skewed by the 8-2 drubbing in August.

But, there are some things which I don't think can be escaped here. Namely -  Friedel is considerably more likely to make a save than SZCZ when there is a shot on goal. Yes, not all shots are alike, but the twenty percent difference in shot-stoppage % between the two keepers is considerable. And these saves are from both inside and outside the box: 

Friedel v Szczesny Inside box Goals conceded 17-20 Saves 34-25 Save % 67%-56% - Outside box Conceded 2-6 Saves 37-15 Save % 95%-71%

Or to put it even more bluntly, for every five shots on goal each keeper has faced, Friedel has conceded one, while SZCZ has conceded two. SZCZ looks particularly weak from outside the box.

So, is SZCZ overrated? I would still argue no, because I dread to think how what Almunia's stats would be like this year if a similar comparison was being made. Indeed, I would still probably guess that SZCZ's stats stack up well against most other keepers in the Prem - I would be very surprised if they were not better than those of De Gea and Cech. Friedel is probably the best keeper in the league this season and has been constantly underrated seen his underwhelming spell at Liverpool.

Moreover, SZCZ is starting his career, while Friedel is finishing his - I'm fully confident that SZCZ will step up and become a world-class keeper in the next few years. But, the unavoidable conclusion from all this is that the difference between fifth and third place for Arsenal so far this year has been defensive errors and a lower number of shots on goal saved by our respective goalkeepers. And that SZCZ, for all his confidence, is still learning his trade.

Let's hope that we can turn both these stats round in the new year, and that Spurs undergo their traditional collapse.


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Chris said...

Less Impressed with him recently but still a good goalie.

Anonymous said...

A few things need to be considered here though.
Arsenal have scored a minimum of four own goals this season (verm against fulham, ramsey against liverpool and two against blackburn) there still may be more.
Also, there is no denying it that this season arsenal have been short on full backs, and even when fit, neither gibbs or santos are as convincing as assou ekoto. both are probably better attacking, but not defensively. Also, at the start when verm and per were not available, a lot of goals were conceded because of an out of form djourou and an inexperienced miquel.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but i cannot remember one goal that was plainly down to a mistake from Szczeney, if you remember any, please point them out.
Even the 8 against man U were not his fault

Anonymous said...

seriously, what's the fucking point of this redundant piece? what's next - should mertesacker win more headers? you guys have too much time on your hands talking shit!

Anonymous said...

He's overrated and gooners love him because of his attitude.

I don't think a half decent keeper would've let in that Walker goal or fudged up in the Carling cup final or 5 of manures goals or done the silly parries and his inability to a) dive early b) position himself on long shots are too similar to Paul Robinson on those... ie pants at them.

Almunia wouldve been crucified for any one of those mistakes.

Atishay said...

I think it's near impossible to judge goalkeepers on these statistics. Goalkeepers are best judged by watching them play, and that's it.

Szczesny has been pretty much as good as the best keepers in the league this season, and it must be remembered he has made some absolutely fantastic and crucial saves in various game to keep us ahead/level, when the defence was crumbling.

As for the goals conceded, apart from the one against Spurs, I cant remember any being his mistake, or something he should have saved.

Also, MANY ridiculous/great/lucky goals are scored against us. Can't put it down to him.

Anonymous said...

idiotic article. nothing proved. and if you take the freak scores from OT and BB out what happens then.

anything else you wanna try and knock down

CB said...

I can't remember any that are solely down to him, though the second Spurs one is the closest he has got to a mistake. I can remember lots of confident takes and sound handling.

I can remember Almunia v West Brom...

I think Szcz will be a great.

Yamai said...

Honestly...I Dunno what u guys want!!! Power puff girls, optimus prime, power rangers?? He's 21 for God sakes... Friedel is 40?Dunno...n I don't give a flying rat's a**! The best keeper next to SCZ is Hart! We all hate spuds...but it isn't enough reason to write him off!!! What has statistics ever won for us??

Anonymous said...

Who is actually over-rating SZCZ? Most gooners realize what we've got: a goalkeeper that doesn't drop clangers, rarely makes big mistakes, says things like "I grew up at Arsenal," organizes his defense at set pieces and older players listen to him, nearly broke a spurs player in half, saved a penalty vs Udinese that was massive, put Rooney off a penalty, injured Fabianski's shoulder, and is in his first full season and managing to avoid a problematic dip in form as yet.

Freidel is one of the best at the moment and at the end of his career.

Let's say F is better than Woz in certain areas. A decade at least of premier league experience should make a bigger difference than it currently does. That is the cumulative statistic that comforts gooners. We don't have the best in the business, but we are better off than last 3 years and he is only going to get better.

Lets look at the numbers again at the end of the season.

muktia jakarta said...

He' a good goalie already. But he must improvehis areability. He is weak in stopping freekick..remember Manure 8-2? And Sebastian Larrson's? That was why rosicky turned his back arround and laugh..becausw he knew it mould be a goal..

Anonymous said...

You can't state how good a keeper is on stats as you cannot say that any of them goals were his fault. Like the man united loss had 3+ top corner strikes from outside the area from Rooney and young which were almost impossible to safe.
Also for a team that have been struggling with alot of defensive injuries and players trying to adapt to the premier league, mistakes were made defensively which exposed the Szy which alot of times he has safe the team.
He is a very good keeper, and could be one of the best in the world once he gains experience.

Anonymous said...

Just want to say I was looking at the difference between the top 4 teams goals scored and the goals arsenal have scored, for me the only difference is the top 4 teams have all contributed well and only arsenals striker (r-v-p) has scored the goals to put us where we are, so conclusion is that our winger and midfielders need to score more trust me we will finish third if that happens.. Don't get me wrong I love it when rvp scores but what's happened to the 15 goals a year wingers? Or the 10 goals a year mid? That's the only worry we have right now.. If I was wenger I'd only buy a striker who has sat on the bench before in his career but when he has been called upon he has produced the goods or buy podolski and play ox with benayoun through the middle and give arshavin a run of games when gerviniho is gone and play theo up with rvp but rvp suporting striker, what I ment buy benayoun through the middle is attacking when need be and defending more And give song and arteta a rotate they have played too many games... So our line up would be.

Kos. Mert. Verm. Miquel
Ox. benayoun. Podolski/arshavin
Theo walcot

Tell me what you think guys?
Arsenal for life (my whole family suports man utd but I'm the gifted 1 lol)

Anonymous said...

all you have done is open up a player to criticism, when either way he is easily the best we have and the fans like him, call yourself goonerboy? more like cuntboy. go support friedle seen as you got his cock in your ass

Anonymous said...

my friend pointed this out, opposition team always score unsaveable/world class goals against arsenal. for example last game vs wolves. i don't think any gk can save that. the ball precisely outside the reach of sczesny. or previously vs villa, maybe sczesny could save it but 1 on 1 always difficult. another against sunderland, seb larsson free kick. i think that's better than van persie's. in champion league at dortmund, sczesny faced another world class shot. 8-2 against man utd, ashley young scored 2 world class goals with curled shot at top corner which i don't think he'll ever score the same goal again this season. my point is, there are shots that can be save and not. someone should find stats on where shots were made to arsenal goal. i'm sure we'll see a lot of it at the corners of our goal post.

Englishmik said...

Give it a break, he is our best goalie in years and will be in years to come. Name me 5 keepers from premier league you would rather see in goal than SZCZ. At least from set pieces I only worry about the rest of defense and not goalie. Since we have been playing 4 cb's across the back our set piece defending has been good. Unfortunately does not help the attack from wide positions.

Gooner In Exile said...

Think you answer the question in your own post. Arsenal have conceded 7 more goals than Spuds and we have committed 7 defensive errors compared to 0 for Spuds. As others have said he has not been responsible for any this season. Then remove the worldys that United scored "that" day some which really were unstoppable.

He needs to improve positioning at free kicks (but that's an experience thing). Walkers moves late but Sz himself was visibly disappointed, that's the difference.

This lad will be Worlds Best Keeper within 2 years.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. Good analysis and good contextualisation.

Anonymous said...

While this article offers some interesting statistics to examine, the comparison of Szczesny to Friedel is an unfair comparison on its face.

Szczesny is a 21 year old, recently "blooded" keeper who is still at least 7 years from reaching his prime, while Brad Friedel, at 40, has been a world-class keeper (see his performances for the USA in the World Cup) for years and has "seen it all". Moreover, Szczesny has been playing behind a patchwork defense for most of this season, while Friedel has been playing with defenders who have not only experience in the EPL, but experience playing together and, for the most part, been been healthy as a unit. These two keepers and their situations simply are not comparable.

Is Szczesny overrated? It depends on how you rate him. He is certainly better than any other GK Arsenal has on its roster. While not the best GK in the EPL, he has at the very least certain become an adequate to above average EPL GK. And, he has shown himself to be one of the best young GKs in the EPL in his approximate age group. Is he one of the very best in the EPL? Probably not...not yet.

However, as a young EPL keeper in his first full year as the # 1, Szczesny has already come a long way; showing great improvement and unmistakable signs that he is going to continue to work to become better. At the beginning of the season he was somewhat passive and deferred to his older, more experienced teammates in situations where a more experienced GK would take command. That has changed: Szczesny has learned to take charge, especially in positioning his teammates on corners and outlet passes. While still not very accurate with his upfield kicks, he has greatly improved his short passing and his outlet throws. And he has improved on his reading and fielding of corners.

But, like all young keepers, he still has a long way to go-both in terms of where he needs to improve and before he is a finished product. He needs to become significantly better in reading free kicks and shots from distance. And, while he has done a much better job of organizing his defense, he still has to do a better job of communicating and commanding the back-line in certain situations. But, these are things that will come with experience if he continues to work hard at improving his game.

Szczesny has the talent; the size, reflexes, shot-stopping capability, the presence, ego, and leadership ability; to become one of the best world-class keepers. But he is not there yet and it would be unfair to expect a 21 year old, just starting out as a # 1, to be there yet.

Still, this season Szczesny has shown the willingness and ability to work hard and improve-and that is a sign that he will continue to get better with experience. And, if he does, he has a chance to fulfill his potential and become one of the very best keepers in the world in very short order.

Right now, with the injury situation plaguing Arsenal's backline and his inexperience, Szczesny is pretty good. Put an organized, healthy, experienced backline in front of him in two years and Szczesny will be very hard to beat if he continues to work and improve.

Szczesny is a young GK with potential but with his future ahead of him. If you look at him that way, he is not overrated. He just needs time and experience to develop. If Arsenal fans give him that time, I don't think they will be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Sczcesny is overrated because Gooners have had to put up with years of Almunia, Mannone and Fabianski, and compared to them Sczcesny seems like Shilton.

At least he doesn't make horrendous errors every other week and can only improve. His personality and confidence are vital ingredients; but he needs to progress and not just sit on his laurels as so many players do under Wenger.

Anonymous said...

At the start he looked like just the answer to goalie nightmares but reality is that against Flapianski & Howlunia our expectations were low. David Blunkett would have been as good ... Without the dog !
But has he kicked on. Probably not as of yet. Think stats & league position doesn't lie. No other option so will stick with him and see if all goes belly up like rest or comes good.

Anonymous said...

To those slagging off this analysis, I don't agree. I think it is very interesting, and does tell you something, but you should take it with a pinch of salt as well, because a purely statistical analysis cannot tell you about the quality of the saves that the two goalies have had to make: it is possible that Friedel has been better protected by his defence on the whole, and that therefore many of the shots he's had to deal with have been daisy-cutters and bobblers from snatched half-chances. I'm not saying this IS the case, but we cannot tell from stats alone.

A second point is that this is in any case very limited statistical analysis because it only compares 2 of the PL's goalies, but there are at least 18 others to take into account as well if you want to get a fuller picture of Szczesny's standing: how does he rate in the context of the PL overall?

And to those who take the line that Szcz only looks good compared to his immediate predecessors, I say get real. I think it's clear that he's a bloody good keeper and we'd be extremely hard pushed to recruit a better one. That doesn't mean he's perfect though: even the legends, like Seaman and Schmeichel had their off days.

If you really want an example of an overrated goalie, incidentally, I've thought that Cech has been for years, but it wasn't very apparent when he first arrived in England because of the quality of the defence in front of him. Now the back four at CFC is rocking he's beginning to be found out. He's dropped quite a few clangers over the years.

Nick said...

This article is why people mistrust analysis, because it is anti- analysis. What this tells me is that Spurs have a much leakier defense, which provides us with hope. In one less game they have far more challenges to their goal keeper and the same number of goals. I like Friedel and he's vastly superior to Gomes but it points out the tightrope Spurs are walking

Anonymous said...

Best in the PL?
Probably not. I'd say Reina and Cech were better all round keepers. The true test of a top keeper is consistency and recovering from a spell of poor form, and in that regard Hart is as unproven as Szcz.

But is current ability all you judge a player on? Surely, future potential and mental attributes (not least loyalty) should be taken into consideration?

I wouldn't swap him for any other keeper in the league. Perhaps I over-rate him, but it seems many of you over-rate others.

Elizabeth J. Neal said...

He made big saves in big games (Udinese away anyone?) and he could spread himself, Schmeichel-style, in one-on-one situations. In short, he looks dominant and confident, and that has helped our general defensive improvement since September. fengshui