David de Gea v Dean Henderson: A Statistical Analysis

David de Gea

calamitous display from David de Gea, as well as the rest of the Manchester United squad, saw Chelsea defeat the Red Devils 3-1 in the FA cup’s semi-final at Wembley. This has once again sparked discussion around the Spanish keeper, who is out of form at the moment. On the other hand, his abilities saved the team on multiple occasions in the past years. At his peak, de Gea is one of the worlds best, but it may be time to move on.

Many critics are calling for the Spaniard to be replaced by on-loan English goalkeeper Dean Henderson, after his great season on loan at Sheffield United. The goal of this article is to analyze the shot-stoppers’ contributions to their teams this season and to answer a simple question: who should be United’s number 1?

David de Gea or Dean Henderson: Who Should Be Manchester United’s First Choice Goalkeeper for Next Season?

Loud and Clear

Players from present and past, plus a plethora of fans, have voiced their opinions on de Gea’s recent mistakes, and the perspectives are divided.

Manchester United fans are often criticized for living in the past, but for some of them, it’s time to do what’s best in the present. Whilst he has been a saviour, the Spanish keeper’s poor run of form puts the club’s current success at risk. Understandably, many are calling for in-form Dean Henderson to become the first name on the team sheet, just like de Gea dit at a young age.

Others believe that the 29-year-old has set an extremely high standard for himself, and a few mistakes shouldn’t eliminate his many accomplishments. It’s hard to give a keeper time, since errors are costly, but you would hope that de Gea will return to his best.

On his Instagram story, Paul Scholes insisted that “he’s having a bad time… but without him [United] wouldn’t have finished in the top ten in the last six [years]”. His message was concluded by an optimistic “he’ll be back!”

What the Numbers Say About David de Gea and Dean Henderson

The statistics used in this article are from de Gea and Henderson‘s FBref Pages, and only include this season’s Premier League action. The stats are up to date as of July 21, 2020.

David de Gea and Dean Henderson score very similar save percentages, with .725 and .762 respectively. Their clean sheet record is also very similar. The Englishman has 13, one more than the Spaniard, whilst having played one game fewer. Furthermore, the later concedes 0.97 goals per 90 minutes, compared to 0.86 for his counterpart.

Put simply, the Sheffield United player has had a slightly better season in terms of goalkeeping ability. This is impressive, considering the Blades’ three most used centre-backs together cost considerably less than Harry Maguire.

In terms of passing ability, the Spaniard has the upper hand, especially over long distances. The Red Devil’s number one completes 57% of his passes over 25 yards, around 23% more than his possible successor. However, the second has an impeccable record when it comes to short-distance passing.

In sum, statistics show that the goalkeepers are very similar. Still, some important parts of the game can’t be expressed by stats. Major errors committed by de Gea recently are the reason he is under scrutiny, and the need for a return to his previous consistency is of paramount importance

The Pressure of Old Trafford

The other variable that can’t be expressed by numbers is the pressure between the sticks. De Gea faces more of this pressure because expectations are higher for Manchester United. Sheffield United have had a great season, but being underdogs, their players aren’t faced with as much stress to perform. This could in part explain the 29-year-old’s mistakes this season.

It is impossible to predict how Dean Henderson would react to Old Trafford’s relentless expectations. Whilst a great goalkeeper, he might not be made for the big games. The only way of figuring out is by being placed in important matches, but it is a risk to take for the team.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a big decision to make regarding his first-choice keeper. What he chooses will impact the squad’s present and future success, as well as the careers of the two players in question. Should he stick with his veteran, or make a move in favor of youth?


Main Photo

Embed from Getty Images