De Gea’s statistical summer

“I’ll keep training and try to do things right. I haven’t killed anyone.”

Following an error from a Cristiano Ronaldo strike in Spain’s opening World Cup clash with Portugal this summer, David de Gea was quick to make a point. For here was a man, widely recognised at the time as the world’s No1 goalkeeper, under fire after conceding three goals to the greatest player on the planet.

Sadly, things got worse. As the Spaniards bombed out to Russia in the last 16, his nation’s critics circled. Spanish newspaper Marca claimed De Gea had “lost his position as the undisputed No1 of Spain” while El Mundo Deportivo simply described his tournament as “a disaster”.

Fast forward two months and despite boasting a “full battery” upon returning to Manchester United for the new campaign, De Gea finds himself in a similar position – or at least that’s what the numbers suggest. Conceding 10 goals from 14 shots is a condemning statistic, but is it also misleading? Should Red Devils fans be concerned about the lucrative new deal set to secure the stopper’s Old Trafford future? Or can we argue that such a statistic doesn’t tell the whole story?

Let’s take a closer look at the 10 goals in question. (Clips are embedded where possible, otherwise I’ve uploaded an image with the clip hyperlinked in the crosshead.)

1 v Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo (4 mins)

Pretty straightforward start. Great penalty. Great strike. Great player. Next.


2 v Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo (44 mins)

I tweeted about this on the night. Seconds before the shot he’s focusing on something else and hasn’t regained full concentration in time to gather Ronaldo’s effort. As a result, he’s off balance, his barrier isn’t square and he hasn’t got both hands in the right position to stun the ball forward. Opting to stun rather than scoop the ball up could be questioned, but he’s factored in Ronaldo’s power and the chance it could slightly move. In this instance, tiny details have caused an error.


3 v Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo (88 mins)

An incredible strike that most goalkeepers in football history would struggle to stop unless they were positioned almost directly where the ball ended up.

What I will say, however, is that a five-man wall isn’t required. De Gea has opted for one because Portugal have two players over the set-piece – right-footed Ronaldo and left-footed Raphael Guerreiro. He’s covered both eventualities when he should know Guerreiro has absolutely no chance of taking that free-kick. In the event of going with five simply because it’s Ronaldo, De Gea should be confident enough to back himself.

The inside man (far left as we look at it) isn’t necessary for Ronaldo as it would still take a lot for him to either knuckleball or curl it beyond De Gea from that angle. Therefore, being a step further to his left (where he can still see the ball without the extra man) gives him a greater chance of saving the free-kick should it go around the wall. Which it did.

DE GEA TO BLAME? No. There’s no need for the extra man in the wall, but take nothing away from the magnitude of Ronaldo’s strike.

4 v Morocco, Khlaid Boutaib (14 mins)

One-on-ones are about timing and making yourself into the biggest barrier possible. De Gea has managed that with his classic spread. He’s anticipated Boutaib is going to slot to either corner and has narrowed the angles with his feet, while his hands are stretched and close to his thighs. Bar hitting it high in the corners, Boutaib’s best option is to go through De Gea’s legs. Fair play to him for executing it, not that I’m not convinced he intended to. It looks like he’s aimed for the far corner and slightly scuffed his shot under the Spaniard through through luck more than judgement.

DE GEA TO BLAME? No. Bar perhaps spreading a split-second earlier, there isn’t a lot else he could have done. We won’t dwell on the misplaced pass which lead to the chance, either.

5 v Morocco, Youssef En-Nesyri (81 mins)

Great delivery. Even better header. Unstoppable. Next.


6 v Russia, Artem Dzyuba (41 mins)

If he goes the right way, he saves it. Granted, De Gea doesn’t have the best penalty-saving record, but that’s not enough to pin this as an error.


7 v Leicester, Jamie Vardy (90 mins)

How often do we see this in a season? Inswinging delivery, goalkeeper sets to rightly anticipate touch from striker or defender, neither gets one, ball bounces in. There is an option to react to the initial ball and just dive regardless, but you’re made to look silly if there’s a touch and it does end up in the net. Here, De Gea’s expecting a touch from Vardy and has zero time to react when it bounces back off the post.


8 v Brighton, Glenn Murray (25 mins)

If a goalkeeper has reaction time, he can set and go. At such close range, you just cover the biggest area possible and hope the ball hits you. De Gea has again adopted that signature spread, which is the right thing to do, but the dink from Murray nullifies it. Great finish.


9 v Brighton, Shane Duffy (27 mins)

He’s got no chance with Duffy’s shot, but De Gea should stop the move by either collecting or punching from the initial corner. In this scenario – with two players on top of you – you keep the players close and, just as the corner is taken, give them a shove to make space (it’s a foul but never given) and then follow with an explosive jump to deal with the cross. Instead, De Gea has bizarrely found himself on the wrong side of Dale Stephens and Ashley Young as the ball drops over his head to the area he should be occupying (I’ve circled it below).

This is the first time I can pinpoint a lack of confidence in his game. By entertaining those players and seemingly appealing to the referee, it’s like he’s claiming a foul to avoid taking control of the situation.


10 v Brighton, Pascal Gross (44 mins)

Another penalty (that’s three from 10). It’s not the best spot kick from Gross, but De Gea hasn’t got control over his shins in the same way he has over his hands. On another day, that hits a slightly different part of his boot and he keeps it out.


So, there we have it. From the 10 goals conceded by David de Gea since the start of the World Cup, only two were due to errors made by him. And one of those wasn’t obvious.

Embed from Getty Images

As a goalkeeper there is only so much of the game you can control.

I remember travelling to Coventry in my days at Watford. I’d not had a minute’s sleep the night before and felt horrendous in the opening 10 minutes. By the end of the game I’d made three big saves and we came away with a 3-0 win. Everything that day just happened to hit me. I was fortunate.

On the flip side, one of my early games for the club was a home clash with Nottingham Forest. I was buzzing in the warm-up and felt unbeatable. On the stroke of half-time, a Kris Commons shot moved at the last second and flashed straight past me. We lost 2-0.

For the past two years prior to the World Cup, pretty much everything had gone in De Gea’s favour. For a small period now, all the 50/50 odds are going against him. Yes, he’s making additional errors, but not to the extent that his ability should be questioned.

None of the above goals are error-free. That applies to everyone on the pitch and not just the goalkeeper. With the exception of Ronaldo’s second and Duffy’s strike, De Gea hasn’t done a whole lot wrong. I have no doubt he’ll silence the stats.

Images: Screengrab (BBC)

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