The G.O.A.T keeper debate!

Pawan Dayma
3 min readJul 13, 2021

The G.O.A.T debate

There’s always a discussion going on in football world about who’s the greatest of all time(G.O.A.T) , well that discussion might never get settled! But there is also a debate about who’s the G.O.A.T keeper!

We all have our picks from Oliver Kahn to Peter Schmeichel , to modern day flying super-mans Gigi Buffon , Alison Becker and Manuel Neuer.

Will this debate ever get settled?

It’s more likely to be here forever…

What we can do is , look at the playing styles of these goalkeepers.

The different style of Manuel Neuer

One thing that makes Neuer stand out from the rest of the keepers is his brilliant footwork and his ability to regulate the game. What also contributes to his success is the style of play that FC Bayern Munich(his club) adopts. Talking about the season(2019–20) BFC completed their treble by winning the Champions League final beating PSG 1–0.

We all witnessed the high defensive back-line of the Bayern in the later competition stages. The keeper has to play important role in such formations because there’s always a chance of conceding goals from a counter-attack , as we saw against Lyon, but Neuer made two crucial saves and helped the team go through to the next stage.

What data has to offer?

I have some data from the 2018 Football World Cup of two goalkeepers one is England International Jordan Pickford who helped his team to get to the semifinals and the other data is of Manuel Neuer the German goalkeeper.

This data will show the interesting facts about passes made by these two keepers in the game.

Jordan Pickford’s data

The first is Jordan Pickford’s data showing the passes made by him in the game England vs Panama which England won 6–1.

Passes by Jordan Pickford

How to observe the data

The circles demonstrate the starting location of the pass or where the keeper received the pass before passing it on to his teammate and the arrow points in the direction where the ball was passed.

The tip of the arrow is where the ball was received by the other player.

Manuel Neuer’s data

Below is the data about the passes made by the Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in the match Germany vs Sweden ,which Germany won 2–1 thanks to the brilliant 96th minute winning goal by Toni Kroos.

Passes by Manuel Neuer

Key observations

The key observations to note here are the number of passes made by the keepers outside the penalty area , because that shows how the goalkeeper is regulating the game and filling the gap between his goal and the defense back-line.

In the case of Pickford we can observe he has made 6 passes from outside of the box and only 5 in front of the defensive third , whereas in case of Neuer 16 passes were outside of the box and 13 in front of the defensive third.

This data shows how Neuer regulates the game from behind and gives his team an edge by serving as a regular player in passing the ball along with being a brilliant goalkeeper in front of the goal.

The Verdict

By winning the Champions League final(2019–20) Manuel Neuer became only the second goalkeeper in the history to win a Champions League as a captain.

The debate about G.O.A.T will go on forever , but what this data shows us is how Neuer has got an edge over the other great keeper who compete for the same title “The G.O.A.T. KEEPER”!

Note: The data I’ve shown is extracted from the Statsbomb data repository’s open source data using Anaconda’s Sypder.

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Pawan Dayma

Hey guys, I write about machine learning, analytics and it’s impact on football. Feel free to leave your suggestion in the comments! See ya.