Bernd Leno has experienced a relatively turbulent campaign at the Emirates, and the same can be said for the majority of his teammates with Arsenal currently ranked ninth in the Premier League table.
The German goalkeeper hasn’t quite been at his best – rotating with Mat Ryan recently – but there is certainly an argument against encouraging him to leave the club.
Goalkeeping performances are difficult to evaluate; the man between the sticks can go long periods without being called into action, only to concede from the first shot that he faces.
Moreover, because of their position on the field, a goalkeeping mistake tends to be costly and it doesn’t help the reputation of the player.
Leno has certainly been prone to making errors and his decision-making can be questioned by Mikel Arteta, but his actual shot-stopping ability has actually been quite strong in England and that can be captured using post-shot Expected Goals (xG).
xG offers an insight into the likelihood of an attempt being scored by considering aspects such as shot location, and it tends to provide an accurate summary of whether a team deserved fewer or more goals based on their shots.
Post-shot xG – on the other hand – can be applied to goalkeepers as it specifically focuses on shots that hit the target and takes into account the quality and trajectory of the shot, thus relating to shot-stopping.
Leno has been expected to concede around 35.4 goals in the Premier League this season based on the shots on target that he’s faced, but he’s actually shipped just 32 (excluding own goals); that essentially means he’s saved shots to an above average standard, overperforming by roughly 3.4 goals.
Saving above expectation generally indicates above-average performance regarding stopping shots and saving below expectation indicates the opposite, with Southampton’s Alex McCarthy ranked at the bottom of the division this year, having conceded 6.1 goals more than expected.
Rui Patricio at Wolves is another underperformer, alongside Newcastle United’s Karl Darlow and Ryan, who is currently at Arsenal but started the campaign at Brighton and Hove Albion.
Ryan has been expected to ship around 14.8 goals this season, but he’s actually conceded 18 which indicates that his shot-stopping has actually been worse than Leno’s this year despite the two being in competition.
On the overperforming side, Fulham’s Alphonse Areola and former Arsenal man Emi Martinez – who have saved 7.2 and 7.5 goals above expectation for their respective teams – rank first and second, followed by Liverpool’s Alisson Becker in third.
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Shot-stopping overperformance has been a consistent theme throughout Leno’s Arsenal career; the 29 year-old has saved around 13.5 goals more than expected in league competition since his debut in 2018.
It may not feel that way for supporters because of the mistakes that he tends to make every now and then, but replacing his services could easily result in the Gunners fielding a goalkeeper who is essentially worse at performing what is the primary keeping duty.