Who is the Premier League’s best keeper?

Is de Gea overrated? Getty Images
Is de Gea overrated? Getty Images /

Good goalkeeping is one of the most difficult things to quantify in the Premier League. It’s easy to tell who the best strikers are by their goal scoring records, but goals allowed isn’t a fair indication of how a keeper is playing. For lack of a better measure, goal keeping quality comes down to the eye test more often than not. The best keeper is the player that we see making the flashiest of saves. It’s the least scientific way to evaluate things, but it does create the best debate. So here goes, let’s examine who is the best keeper in the Premier League today.

There is a general consensus among Premier League fans that there is a top echelon of six keepers. Petr Cech, David de Gea, Hugo Lloris, Tim Howard, Thibaut Courtouis and Joe Hart are at the top of most fans’ lists. For the purposes of this article, we are going to confine the debate to those six keepers. With all due to respect to Asmir Begovic, Tim Krul, etc I just don’t think they are in the same class as the aforementioned group. If you disagree, feel free to express yourself in the comments below. So let’s take a look at each of the super six, their strengths/weaknesses and whatever statistical analysis we can apply.

Petr Cech (Arsenal): Whoscored.com-7.18, Squawka.com-27.38- The dean of the group has been better than you think after his move to Arsenal from Chelsea. Many fans remember his howler in the opener against West Ham, but in truth he’s been quite good since then including an outstanding performance in the draw against Liverpool. Cech might be the most cerebral of the group and excels in stopping shots from a variety of areas. He isn’t quite the physical or offensive presence as the other five, but after all, isn’t the most important thing a keeper can do keeping the ball out of the back of the net?

David de Gea (Manchester United): Whoscored.com-6.82, Squawka.com-2.25- De Gea started the year very unsettled after the transfer saga with Real Madrid, but few fans can doubt his quality. He might be the flashiest of the group and he wows fans with his fantastic saves almost every game. However, the numbers show that he might not be quite the star that fans and pundits make him out to be. While he has terrific reflexes, he doesn’t seem to measure out as well defensively as the other five. I think he’s a really good keeper, but not quite worth the hype that pundits provide him. 

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Hugo Lloris (Tottenham): Whoscored.com-7.04, Squawka.com-24.860- The French captain compares very well to the other five on this list statistically, but doesn’t seem to enjoy the same level of praise from the English press. Admittedly, I watch him more often than the others as a Tottenham fan, but I believe he is more of an acquired taste. He does make quite a few outstanding saves, but the majority of his value is encapsulated in his ability as a “sweeper keeper.” His positioning and reflexes make many of his saves look more routine than they would be otherwise.

Tim Howard (Everton): Whoscored.com-7.08, Squawka.com-24.5- I went into this article believing that Howard was the sixth man by a fair margin. Quite surprisingly, he compares quite favorably with the rest of the competitors statistically. Given that I believe his greatest strengths are his commanding presence and ability to marshal his defenses, perhaps the American deserves a bit more credit than he receives.

Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea): Whoscored.com-6.57, Squawka.com-16.67- I venture to guess that most fans will rate the Chelsea stopper as the best in the League when he’s healthy. His length makes him an imposing target in goal and he did displace Petr Cech at Chelsea. His statistics are somewhat tainted by his recent injury, but it is worth noting that he hasn’t graded out as highly as his competitors. He may very well be the most talented of the group, but his pre-injury form was much closer to average than exceptional.

Joe Hart (Manchester City): Whoscored.com-6.91, Squawka.com-23.86- The City stopper may suffer a bit in the eyes of the press and fans from being English. In reality, he has been one of City’s top performers this season. He is prone to periodic dips in form as we’ve seen in years past, but this year he’s been solid to say the least. Hart has kept City’s defense solid even with an ever changing back four in front of him. How good would he look with a consistent center back pairing?

So who is the best?

As a Tottenham fan I’m hard pressed to say that Lloris isn’t the best in the League at the moment. I do think Courtois is the most talented and when he comes back, he will ascend to the top spot. Cech is a solid keeper who doesn’t make mistakes, but he isn’t quite athletic enough to keep pace with those two for me. Hart and Howard are criminally under-appreciated while de Gea receives a bit too much praise for me.