Germany is knocked out of the FIFA World Cup for the second consecutive time. They failed to make it past the group stage after a shock defeat against Japan in the opening match. While many pundits questioned the team selection, one that was not discussed enough was the goalkeeper position. Replacing Manuel Neuer is not an easy task, But given the form Marc Andre Ter Stegen is in, it is curious as to why the Barcelona goalkeeper was not even given a chance in the World Cup.
We look at some stats to understand why Marc Andre Ter Stegen deserved to be in Germany’s starting XI.
Ter Stegen has started all 14 matches for Barcelona and has been solid in front of the goal line. He has made 22 saves this season in La Liga and has only conceded five goals. The 30-year-old also has kept 11 clean sheets this season and has single-handedly kept the opposition out.
The above visualization shows the percentile rank of Ter Stegen compared to other goalkeepers. He is ranked in the top 90 percentile for saves and the top 98% for parries. The German International is also ranked in the top 98 percentile for aerial quality and is one of the best in distribution as well. He is ranked in the top 95 percentile for progressive long passes as well.
A goalkeeper can be mainly analyzed by analyzing three primary areas:
1. Shot stopping
2. Highball claims
Ter Stegen is ranked in the top 90 percentile for saves. He has made 22 saves this season and has saved 87.5% of the shots played at his post. He has kept 11 clean sheets and has conceded the least number of goals in the league. Ter Stegen has been a rock at the back for Barca and has single-handedly saved them on numerous occasions.
The above visual shows the shots against the Barcelona goal in the last calendar year. Out of these, he has only conceded five goals in La Liga this season and 12 in the Champions League. He has stopped 69.3% of the shots played at his post and is in brilliant form. An average of 2.37 shots are played against Ter Stegen’s post each game and the German International makes around 2.04 saves per game. He depends upon his reflexes and his decision-making, which are usually good, to make the saves. Out of the saves, more than 70% of them are reflexive actions, indicating his sharpness in front of the goal.
Ter Stegen is not ranked among the best when it comes to aerial duels. He is ranked in the top 36 percentile, which is not very good for a goalkeeper of his reputation. The above visual shows the crosses faced by Marc Andre Ter Stegen in the last calendar year. We can observe from the visual that he faces some trouble when he tries to claim the high balls. He sometimes gets into awkward positions and loses the ball. We can see that he sometimes concedes some shots from those crosses into the box.
The above visual shows the set pieces faced by Marc Andre Ter Stegen. Barcelona have often found it difficult to defend against set pieces, but this cannot be blamed on Ter Stegen. Defensive errors sometimes lead to goals and have hurt Barca in the past. We can observe from the visual that Ter Stegen has conceded 29 shots from set-pieces, but only three of them were converted into goals. As mentioned before, Ter Stegen’s reflexes have come to the rescue more often than not.
Barcelona is a team that plays out from the back and therefore the game starts from the goalkeeper. He usually plays the passes to his centre-backs or finds the free man with considerable ease. Cool under pressure, Ter Stegen is one of the best goalkeepers in short distribution and has a passing accuracy of 98.8%. He very rarely kicks the ball far as that is not the ‘Barcelona way’. But he has done it enough to earn an assist for himself.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen also makes some good throws. When the opposition presses and his usual passing lane is blocked, Ter Stegen depends on his throwing capability to find the free player. He has attempted 123 hand passes and completed 117 of them, for an incredible 95.1% success rate. These long throws to the flanks or the free man in the middle can kickstart an attack and therefore help the team.
Why Ter Stegen deserved a start:
The above visualisation shows the comparison of radars between Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen. While Manuel Neuer is a fantastic goalkeeper and is probably one of the modern greats, there are areas where Ter Stegen performs better than the sweeper-keeper. We can observe from the visual that Ter Stegen surpasses Neuer when it comes to passing accuracy and positioning, both of which are very important for goalkeepers. Even though Ter Stegen is not the best in aerial duels, we can see that he is not much behind Neuer. If we look at the goals conceded this season, Marc Andre Ter Stegen has conceded only five goals with a less formidable backline.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is one of the unluckiest goalkeepers, as replacing Manuel Neuer is not an easy decision. But while selecting the team, form should always be considered, and it is more than fair to say that Ter Stegen deserved a chance in the World Cup. Now, if this decision would have turned Germany’s fate around is something we will never know. But there is no doubt that Ter Stegen in this form, would have been as efficient as Neuer, if not more.
Visuals via Wyscout and the TFA data viz engine