One De Gea at a Time for Manchester United’s Goalkeeper

Now that the dust has settled on the first month of his Premier League career, it’s time for the first meaningful analysis of David De Gea’s start at Manchester United. In De Gea’s case, a common sense approach needs to be adopted to dissect his play at United thus far. Forget the hyperbole associated with his move and the subsequent transfer fee. Try and qualify the sometimes accurate, but more often exaggerated, criticism of his abilities. For at United, since the departure of Peter Schmeichel, no player has been scrutinized more than the man wearing the number one jersey.

Statistically speaking, De Gea’s start at United has been very good. After six league games, he has conceded four goals, made 32 saves, recorded two clean sheets, and saved a penalty. All of these stats are more than respectable. The statistic that stands out is the amount of saves he has made, which is more than any other goalkeeper in the top flight. However, it’s a figure that asks more questions than it answers. Given his uncertain start to the season, most notably the Community Shield and United’s first league match away to West Bromwich Albion, a logical argument has arisen that teams are simply taking more low percentage shots in hopes of stealing a cheap goal. To a certain extent, this is true. However, given the free-flowing nature of United’s games this season, they have been giving quality chances to their opponents with regularity. One need look no further than the United-Chelsea match, where the result could have been much different if not for Chelsea’s profligacy in front of goal.

Based on this school of thought, De Gea’s 32 saves looks like a diagnosis of the play in front of him, rather than a number used to analyze his play. In De Gea’s defense, this is unfair. Aside from the two poor goals he conceded to Edin Dzeko and Shane Long in his first two matches, De Gea’s shot stopping has been solid. Increasingly it has been brilliant, particularly in his last two matches against Chelsea and Stoke. It would appear that as he has settled in to his surroundings. The quality of play that lured suitors such as United has returned.

When you combine De Gea’s shot stopping ability with his quality footwork and distribution, he has a formidable skill set. Yet, in the Premier League a goalkeepers’ ability to dominate his own 18-yard box is crucial. De Gea has not demonstrated he can add this to his toolbox. Exhibit A would be Peter Crouch’s goal on the weekend. While fingers may point to the ease with which Crouch beat his marker, anytime a corner is headed in from the top of the 6-yard box, questions will be directed toward the goalkeeper.

Given his age and height, De Gea may be able to cut a commanding figure down the road. In order to be successful this season, United need him to be that goalkeeper now. As Ben Foster and Tim Howard can attest, only a very short window for growth is afforded to a goalkeeper at United. Up to this point, De Gea’s errors have not been damaging. While a glaring error at the Hawthorns may not cost United, a similar error would be disastrous at Eastlands. After a month, De Gea’s prospects look better than after a week, but doubt lingers.

15 thoughts on “One De Gea at a Time for Manchester United’s Goalkeeper”

  1. I definitely agree with this analysis – great distribution, very good shot-stopping, but could be a bit more assertive in his box. Still, at least his decision-making is spot on and he’s not blindly leaping and flapping at crosses. At some point, United’s centerback carousel has to shoulder some burden.

  2. Things will be definitely be easier for him and for United’s back-line when Vidic will be back. Not only he will dominate all the headers but he will also add a much needed composure and experience to the back four. This way, united can start building their attacks from the back instead of missing simple passes. However, this analysis is pretty accurate and he needs to improve his command in the 6-yard box.

  3. i’m so sick of man utd and stories about them that i want to vomit. i’m never coming here again. this website is basically to please all the bandwagon fan boys who follow the red devils. they prob didn’t even know that manchester city existed prior to 2008. i hope chelsea or man city win the title and united is left behind. and hopefully next year, liverpool will once again become a force to reckon with and make it a 3 horse race between themselves, city , and chelsea. let’s see how long united’s glory hunting supporters stay in the wagon. i bet they sneak out at night and go over to the city bandwagon and see how it’s doing lol. but they won’t admit it. publicly, they’ll sing “glory glory man utd”! that’s prob the only song they know. let’s see how long the mexicans stay man united fans. they care more about verbally abusing ashley cole and jonathan woodgate for getting physical with their cheaterito than supporting united. like all those cr7 fans who became real madrid fans…soulless rotten bunch.

  4. Arse()nic crying again? Is that all this character does? I guess he won’t read this because he’s never coming back here again. Wah wah wah. Must be a Liverpool fan. 19!!

  5. As a Arsenal fan I must say that De Gea is not good BUT not bad either. He has his moments and he has his downers. And of course when you play for a team like Man U your mistakes will be noticed more than your good doings

  6. The only thing I need De gea to do is toughen up a little bit and be able to take some of the body to body contact he is going to take in the EPL…this is a much more physical league and even though he should HAVE TO, he is going to take a few body shots here and there. Toughen up David!!!

  7. David de Gea is a 20 year old keeper who is first-choice at Manchester United. Re-read that again and tell me he’s crap or what not. Scary thing is, he’s only going to get better, like his understanding and usage of English.

    And according to the Premier League’s official website and “EA Sports Player Performance Index”, de Gea is the top rated keeper at the moment. Obviously the stats are a bit subjective/not the greatest measure of a goalkeeper, however, it can be said de Gea has done his part in helping United go to the top of the table going into October 2011.

  8. He’s a 20 year old with one of the most scrutinized and demanding jobs in the world–All in all I think he’s settled in quite nicely–I do agree that one of his more pressing needs is to understand that the 18 yard box is his and he needs to command it, even if that means ordering veterans like Ferdinand and Vidic around–The problem since the first two matches hasn’t been De Gea as much as it has the two CB’s in front of him making mistakes

  9. early days,big upside and time will tell…will take a full season so patience is the key…no knee jerk reaction required.

  10. To be fair he’s only 20 years old and he will need a little time. Being a goalkeeper can be a very unforgiven position to play. I play the position a lot and certainly it can be a challenge. Unless you have played the position a lot it’s really hard to understand what we have to deal with because one moment your the king and next your villian.

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