Eleven saves in one half of football.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 48 hours, you’ll be well aware David de Gea was in one of those moods at the weekend.
The Manchester United stopper racked up a Premier League high against Tottenham when his eleven saves were the most any top-flight goalkeeper has made in a single game this season.
Some praised the Spaniard for a five-star performance. Others, predominantly those in the Twittersphere, suggested he was fortunate Harry Kane and Dele weren’t more clinical in front of goal.
I see a lot of people saying all De Gea saves were straight at him, please factor in that the guy has some mad sense to know where to be at just the right time, you can’t teach that. Proper goally 👏
— Ben Foster (@BenFoster) January 13, 2019
Both arguments can, to a certain extent, be entertained. Let’s take a closer look:
SAVE 1 Heung min-Son, 47 mins
Routine pick-up. No danger. Next.
SAVE 2 Harry Kane, 48 mins
De Gea is at a good angle here. He quickly gets into and holds his position rather than rushing out to spread. Kane should probably do a bit better, but De Gea reacts well with a firm side foot to safety. By no means a wonder save, but certainly a decent stop.
SAVE 3 Dele, 50 mins
You’d expect a goalkeeper of De Gea’s quality to make this save, so it’s more about his concentration to ensure he times both the dive and parry correctly. It’s a good stop for the fact the header comes back across him and he utlises agility and power to change his direction. It would have been a risk to try and hold with the ball bouncing right in front of him, so he judges it on the half-volley and parries to a safe area.
SAVE 4 Harry Kane, 59 mins
Speed of positioning is impressive here. A short corner means he has to initially get close to the near post, then the speed at which he gets back across his line makes it a comfortable save. A lot of goalkeepers would have been at full stretch having not shifted back to the middle of the goal, but his quick movement before Kane’s header allows it to be more routine than it might appear.
SAVE 5 Christian Eriksen, 65 mins
Pretty speculative effort. Never looked like spilling. Next.
SAVE 6 Dele, 66 mins
At the point of impact he’s side on with that big, long barrier, his legs are slightly turned and his hands are nice and wide. This all comes down to De Gea forcing Dele’s hand by holding his position and not rushing out. If he rushes out, Dele skips past him and slots into an empty net. If he’s too deep, Dele has plenty of the goal to aim at. Being roughly six yards on the angle is perfect as it means Dele, who, like Kane, could have done better, has to finish well to beat him. Dele didn’t.
SAVE 7 Toby Alderweireld, 70 mins
You see a lot of goalkeepers beaten by this exact effort as many are caught off guard and unable to recover quickly enough when a corner is whipped into and flicked on at the near post. Some have claimed it’s right by him, but that’s because De Gea has shown quick footwork to take up that position. He adopts that classic futsal technique to save with his feet yet again.
SAVE 8 Harry Kane, 71 mins
Beautiful! Commentary laughed this off as a camera save. It’s actually a goalkeeper full of confidence letting Kane know he needs to try harder. Some might play safe and parry that out, but De Gea effortlessly glides across and maintains perfect technique and grip coordination. Poetry in motion. #GKUnion.
SAVE 9 Dele, 74 mins
Goalkeeping intelligence plays a key part here. The second Dele brings it inside with his thigh, De Gea makes a small step to his left as he predicts that is where the strike will go. Victor Lindelof has the bottom right covered, so De Gea slightly readjusts and makes the save because of that quick foresight. Great movement.
SAVE 10 Harry Kane, 86 mins
This is reminiscent of the save he made to deny Joel Matip at Anfield last season. It’s also another example of how De Gea regularly showcases his flexibility to reach balls other goalkeepers can’t. He’s in a set position as Kane shoots low and makes the save look a lot easier than it is. Textbook may suggest you go with your hands, but De Gea knows he can be quicker with his feet and this is a prime example of that.
SAVE 11 Fernando Llorente, 89 mins
Easy one to finish. In fact, it’s probably the easiest one of the lot. Job done.
There’s no doubting this was an excellent performance from a goalkeeper who’s received unfair criticism in some quarters this season. De Gea has on occasions been under par, but that’s only because he’s consistently set the bar so high in previous campaigns.
His ability to save with his feet should also not be underestimated. You’ll often see instances where goalkeepers can’t adjust their feet quickly enough to make a save. De Gea, however, is the best in the business.
Interestingly, Tottenham’s expected goals came out at roughly 2.0. While De Gea did perform above expectation, the majority of his 11 saves were saves he was expected to make. The sheer volume and quick succession in which they arrived is what highlighted his heroics even more so.