If goals win you games then goalkeepers keep you in them, and the value of a great shot-stopper can be the difference between success and failure.
As we are often told, they're an eclectic bunch, from John Paul II to Albert Camus to Jorge Campos, the goalkeeper stands as a man alone.
What better time to take a look at just how the goalkeepers in the SPL have been performing so far this season, using our patented number crunching stats machine, which is kinda like Ziggy from Quantum Leap, only far more accurate and far less noisy.
The First statistic to look at is the save percentage, which is simply the number of goals that a goalkeeper concedes divided by the shots that he faces. This is arguably the simplest form of defining goalkeeper performance, and shows the frequency with which goalkeepers make saves. Still, it has to be addressed with a couple of caveats.
Save percentage doesn't take into account how difficult a shot was to save. Better teams with better defences tend to leave more difficult opportunities for opposition players to score from, with less one-on-ones and free shots on goal. Equally, particularly bad teams will concede lots of opportunities, so a goalkeeper will often have less chance of making a save when these opportunities are presented.
With that in mind, here are the statistics for save percentage for every goalkeeper that has played at least 5 SPL matches.
1. Darren Randolph - 82.8%
2. Cammy Bell - 82.6%
3. Fraser Forster - 81%
4. Alan Mannus - 79.8%
5. Ben Williams - 79.6%
6. Jamie MacDonald - 75%
7. Michael Fraser - 73.8%
8. Jamie Langfield - 73.7%
9. Kyle Letheren - 73.5%
10. Rab Douglas - 73.3%
11. Antonio Reguero - 72.7%
12. Radoslaw Cierzniak - 72%
13. Mark Brown - 71.4%
14. Craig Samson - 65.1%
15. Ryan Esson - 61.9%
As you can see, this table doesn't just reflect the abilities of each goalkeeper, but how good the defence is in front of them. Goalkeepers that are relatively quiet can have statistics as skewed as those who are constantly busy. To get a bit more context, we need to look at how many saves per game each goalkeeper makes.
Average saves per game
The following statistics show which goalkeeper makes the most saves per SPL game on average. Again, this isn't going to give a crystal clear explanation of which goalkeepers are at peak form this season, but it should give a little more context. Goalkeepers that are particularly busy, and have very high save percentages are most likely to save their team points. Again, there are numerous reasons why a goalkeeper may face more shots than others, but it gives some idea on who are the busiest custodians. Perhaps (?) this is more of an indicator of concentration levels than general goalkeeping abilities?
The following shows the average number of saves per game of each SPL goalkeeper.
1. Cammy Bell - 6
2. Darren Randolph - 5.9
3. Rab Douglas - 5.38
4. Ben Williams - 4.95
5. Alan Mannus - 4.5
6. Michael Fraser - 4.13
7. Mark Brown - 4
8. Radoslaw Cierzniak - 3.86
9. Ryan Esson - 3.71
10. Kyle Letheren - 3.57
11. Jamie Langfield - 3.48
12. Antonio Reguero - 3.43
13. Craig Samson - 3.23
14. Fraser Forster - 2.86
15. Jamie McDonald - 2.86
Again, goalkeepers that are nearer the bottom of the division tend to face more shots, however there are two obvious examples, in Cammy Bell and Darren Randolph, of goalkeepers who are clearly winning their team considerable points.
Goals conceeded per minute played
The final stat we'll look at here is how many minutes each goalkeeper plays to how many goals he has conceded. This should help clarify some of the statistics on players who have been in-and-out of the team, through injury or suspension.
Again, this isn't an absolute reflection on a goalkeeper's abilities, and reflects on the defence as a whole. However, it gives a slightly wider picture, and irons out some of the inconsistencies of data that might arise from goalkeepers letting in lots of goals in a one-off, freak game. it is interesting to note the variation between two goalkeepers who play for the same club, as they have as few variables as possible.
The following shows the amount of time in minutes between each goal conceded by each SPL goalkeeper.
1. Fraser Forster - 135 minutes
2. Jamie MacDonald - 94.5 minutes
3. Alan Mannus - 79.2 minutes
4. Darren Randolph - 73.3 minutes
5. Jamie Langfield - 72.69 minutes
6. Cammy Bell - 71 minutes
7. Ben Williams - 70.71 minutes
8. Antonio Reguero - 70 minutes
9. Kyle Letheren - 61.5 minutes
10. Michael Fraser - 61.36 minutes
11. Radoslaw Cierzniak - 60 minutes
12. Mark Brown - 56.25 minutes
13. Craig Samson - 52.1 minutes
14. Rab Douglas - 46 minutes
15. Ryan Esson - 39.4 minutes.
As with all the other statistics, these numbers aren't just based on the abilities of the individual goalkeeper, as the defence of the team has to take responsibility for giving away goals. Judging "The Best Goalkeeper in the SPL" is as easy as judging who the best defender is. However, all of these stats should help with the debate.