The amount of hostility that David De Gea receives each week is somewhat bemusing to me. I know he’s made mistakes, but so have many other world class goalkeepers. In a way, it is part of the job, and especially so in the EPL where punishing mistakes is a big part of the game. The speed and intensity of matches is what makes watching the Premier League so much fun, but it also causes teams (and goalkeepers) to make errors.
I suppose the reason that De Gea gets a disproportionate amount of criticism is a by-product of playing for Manchester United. Any goalkeeper will be playing in the shadow of the great Peter Schmeichel and will always be compared to him. This is certainly not fair, but it is a fact. Playing for Manchester United also means that the stakes are higher and the expectations even more so. Perhaps the last big reason for all the flak he gets is due to the price tag. £19 million is quite a hefty transfer fee for such a young and largely unproven player. I am not saying that he doesn’t make mistakes or that he shouldn’t be criticized at all, but that criticism leveled against him is often harsher than against other keepers out there. I know he has flaws and he has weaknesses he needs to work on, but this is more about why the ranting and raving is a bit overboard and why I believe Sir Alex and Manchester United should hang on to him.
Here are 3 reasons why I believe Sir Alex Ferguson should keep David De Gea at Manchester United:
1.) At only 22 years old he is still very young. It is well known that keepers play longer than outfield players and that they peak at much later ages. Their past two great keepers, Edwin van der Sar and Peter Schmeichel, were much older during their time at Manchester United. Peter Schmeichel played for United from 1991-1999 and was 28-36 during that time. Edwin van der Sar played from 2005-2011 and was 35-41. It is well documented that the brain does not stop developing until age 25, which could be part of why goalkeepers tend to peak later in their career, considering that the goalkeeper position requires more thinking: it requires foresight, constant decision making along with rapid reflexes. By keeping him at United he will be able to develop within the confines of the United setup. The more games he gets with the team, the more experience he gets. Which leads to the second point…
2) He is still learning the English game. This is only his second full season in EPL and he has only recently begun to play regular first team football. Coming from Atletico Madrid and the La Liga style of play is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the Premier League. I have noticed differences in how he plays and that he is starting to command his box more. Sure, there is still work to be done and he does need to step it up and really dominate the area, but he is learning. Getting in the weight room more will certainly help him out, but so will playing regularly. I think he needs the game time to increase his consistency as well as his confidence. Remember, he is still young and he is still susceptible to becoming insecure and losing poise. The more time he plays with the team and develops in the EPL the better he will get.
3) The language barrier is the last reason why he should be kept. At the moment De Gea’s English is far from stellar. He is taking intensive English courses, but English is also one of the most difficult languages to learn. As he is able to better understand the language the better he is going to be able to communicate with those around him on the pitch. Communication is such a massive part of being a goalkeeper. Part of the issue at the moment seems to be an uncertainty amongst players about what is going on at the back. Many times players seem hesitant to pass back or they aren’t sure if they should be going for a ball or leave it for De Gea. As his own communication skills increase, the more comfortable he should feel with directing those around him as well as others responding to him.
I went through a few stats from this season’s Premier League matches to date (week 25). I took all of my stats from match reports off of the official Premier League website. David De Gea has played in 17 EPL matches (1530 minutes) this season and has made 85 saves and allowed 20 goals. This averages out to 1.18 goals allowed per game and an average of about 4.25 saves per match. In this time he has faced a total of 232 shots with 134 on target leading to a rate of 1.58 saves per shot on target (shots on target include any shots that were blocked by defenders). In reviewing other statistics De Gea is fourth in the league in average goals allowed per game (behind Hart, Cech, and Lloris) and according to one statistic he has the second highest save to shots on goal ratio behind Gerhard Tremmel (who has only played 12 matches). De Gea does have only 4 clean sheets this season (down from 13 last season), but he also has a 14-2-1 record with the only loss coming in the 1-0 loss to Everton the first match of the season. This is compared to Anders Lindegaard who is 6-0-2 with 2 clean sheets and 11 goals allowed this 2012-13 season to date.
Yes, David De Gea still has much to learn, and needs to bulk up for certain, but he should be given the time to do so. It is my hope that Manchester United decides to keep him and let him develop into a world class goalkeeper.