Kasper Schmeichel: Time To Question the Leicester City Goalkeeper?

Kasper Schmeichel has been Leicester City’s undisputed number one since joining in 2011. He has been a vital part of the club’s success, with heroic goalkeeping keeping Leicester in games on countless occasions.

Kasper Schmeichel: Time To Question the Leicester City Goalkeeper?

However, this season has seen him come in for criticism with regards to certain aspects of his game. Under Claude Puel, there is a much greater emphasis on playing out from the back then under previous management. Puel has a history of using ball playing goalkeepers: Fabian Barthez, Hugo Lloris, David Ospina all played under the Frenchman.

There has certainly been an element of frustration from Leicester fans towards Schmeichel this season. On a weekly basis, he seems to give the ball to the opposition in a dangerous area or sail a goal kick out of bounds. In the modern game, a goalkeeper with the ability to be a force on the ball is important. In Claude Puel’s possession-based system, it is essential. But do the stats back up the view that Schmeichel’s distribution is limiting Leicester?

What Do the Statistics Say?

The most direct comparison to Leicester City in terms of league position and playing style is probably Wolves. Thus, this season’s performances of Schmeichel have been compared to Wolves’ keeper Rui Patricio and Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

Kasper Schmeichel has completed significantly more passes than both Rui Patricio and Jordan Pickford: 327 to 211 and 300. Interestingly, Schmeichel also has a higher average length of distribution. He also has a marginally higher distribution accuracy than Patricio (62.6% compared to 61.8%), however, it is lower than Pickford’s (66.87%). This evidence suggests that Schmeichel is stronger on the ball than Rui Patricio, whilst comparison to Pickford is harder due to their different play styles.

For context, Schmeichel was also compared to three of the best ball-playing goalkeepers in the league: Hugo Lloris, Ederson and Alisson. Schmeichel’s distribution accuracy was significantly lower than all three. Whilst some of this can be attributed to a lower average distribution length, there is no doubt that all three are better distributors. Whilst this is unsurprising, the vast difference highlights Schmeichel’s potential limitations in Puel’s system.

Surprisingly, Schmeichel compares relatively poorly to Patricio and Pickford in other areas. His greatest strength has always been considered to be his shot stopping. However, Schmeichel averages only 1.71 saves per goal conceded compared to Patricio’s 2.69 and Pickford’s 1.85. It is not only Patricio that Schmeichel compares against poorly in this area. Ben Foster (2.39) and Lukasz Fabianski (2.85) also have much better numbers in this domain.

So What Does It All Mean?

Kasper Schmeichel undoubtedly remains one of the better Premier League goalkeepers. The statistics suggest that he is a better or similar distributor than those at clubs of a similar level to Leicester. Unsurprisingly, he falls way behind in comparison to the best ball playing keepers in the league.

What has surprised is Schmeichel’s relatively poor saves to goal success ratio. Given that this is perceived to be one of his greatest strengths, it is worrying that he lags so far behind goalkeepers at similar clubs.

Ultimately Schmeichel will remain the undisputed starter this season. Much of his future may depend on that of Claude Puel. Should the under-fire manager depart, a change in style may follow, which would make the conversation irrelevant. However, if Puel remains, he may start to think about finding a goalkeeper who can help to progress his ball playing, possession-based style of play.

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