Man United take on Chelsea in a crucial match tomorrow. The Red Devils need a result to keep their Top 4 hopes alive, while Chelsea will be looking to keep Spurs at bay. Much will depend on the performances of the two men between the sticks. It is a meeting of arguably the best two goalkeepers in the Premier League, if not Europe. Both have been in sensational form this season. With the crunch game upon us, we’re asking ‘De Gea V Courtois: Who is the better goalkeeper?’
De Gea v Courtois: The case for David De Gea
Zlatan Ibrahimovic didn’t hold any punches in his assessment of United’s squad last week. According to the Swede, Mourinho is performing miracles this year to keep United in touch with the top 4. The quality of the players just isn’t there:
“I think the coach is doing the absolute maximum with the team he has. 200 percent.”
It was a frank admission and while slightly exaggerated, Ibrahimovic is correctly pointing out that United are a few players short of being able to challenge for the title. Mourinho will probably have been relived to hear his star striker defend his record this season. While much has been made of 35 year old Zlatan’s goal scoring feats, one cannot overlook the importance of David De Gea in goals. The Spanish stopper has quite simply saved United from complete mediocrity over the past few campaigns.
Saving manager’s jobs
David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal should really have De Gea on their Christmas card list. Both managers under performed at Old Trafford but the performances of De Gea prolonged their tenure (and United’s pain). His stats were simply stunning for a team in a long-term transition. The ‘broken’ fax machine at the end of the transfer window in 2014 ensured United kept their best player and denied Real Madrid of signing a bonafide Galatico.
While Courtois looks up from his goal, he’s reassured by the presence of Cahill, Azicupelta and the rejuvenated David Luiz. Furthermore, Kante is in front of the back three breaking up opposition play during his ultra marathons. When De Gea looks up, he must often feel the urge to look away when Rojo goes flying in to a guaranteed missed tackle or Phil Jones acts like Phil Jones. It’s a tough gig. Therefore, De Gea is kept busier than most keepers and fully earns his lucrative contract.
When De Gea signed for United from Atletico by Sir Alex (he kept giving until the end), his first season was marked by a number of errors. Showing maturity beyond his young years, De Gea buckled down and ironed out nearly all of the faults in his game. He became comfortable dealing with crosses, his distribution improved and his saving stats skyrocketed.
It was no surprise Real were so eager to sign the now Spanish Number 1. Statistics back up De Gea’s claim to be the best goalkeeper in the league. He is only conceding 0.83 goals per game this season, which is a minor miracle when you consider the United defence. When you look at the improvement he has made in weaker areas, his average claim success this season is 99% (Courtois is at 85%).
NAVIGATING THROUGH THE STORM
Truly great players step up when their team is struggling. United and Chelsea both had a season to forget last year. The statistics do make for interesting reading. De Gea conceded 0.97 goals per game and made 2.45 saves for every goal conceded. Compare to this Courtois’ stats of 1.26 goals conceded per game and only 1.93 saves per goal conceded. In the battle of De Gea V Courtois, there can only be one winner, and it’s the man who has been saving United’s skin for years.
De Gea V Courtois: The case for Thibault Courtois
Is there a more reliable keeper in the world than Courtois? The crown once belonged to the rock solid, Petr Cech, but a then 22-year-old Belgian decided it was his time to be Number 1 at Stamford Bridge. No fan in blue has had reason to complain since. Courtois is quite simply a force of nature. Chelsea’s rise to the top of the league this year has been significantly assisted by the form of their goalkeeper. A player for the big games, Courtois has blue ice running through his veins.
In 2011, only 9 million euro was given to Genk in what was one of the bargains of the decade. Chelsea, as only Chelsea could do, immediately loaned out their 19 year old fresh faced new signing. Atletico Madrid were the benefactors, and very quickly forgot all about Mr De Gea. Courtois was immense during his three seasons at the Vicente Caledron.
COLLECTING TROPHIES FASTER THAN ZLATAN
Between the age of 19 and 22, Courtouis won La Liga (the first time a team outside of Barca and Madrid had done so in 12 years), the Europa League, the Copa Del Rey, the UEFA Super Cup, and was runner up in a bitterly unlucky Champions League final against Real. When he eventually returned to Chelsea for the 2014-2015 season, the Blues, unsurprisingly, won the title. They also won the League Cup for good measure. Such is his rapid accumulation of trophies, one could even start calling him the ‘Zlatan of keepers’.
BEST IS STILL TO COME
Courtois is only conceding 0.81 goals per match this season. Chelsea are strolling to the title and they’ll get there in no small part to the 6’6 giant between the sticks. Mourinho repeatedly pushed the self-destruct button at Stamford Bridge last season, and it would be naïve to attribute too much blame to their overworked keeper. However, if you revisit the stats from Chelsea’s 2014/2015 season, Courtois conceded less than a goal per game and his average claim success was 100%. That’s the sign of a world class keeper. At only 24, he will only get better. Courtois has already achieved far more than De Gea, who is three years his senior. There should be no doubt that he is the better keeper.
What’s your opinion? Let us know in the poll below:
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Photo by Ben Sutherland