There’s been lots of chat recently about Manchester United’s dull but effective defensive strategy. Van Gaal is taking a lot of flak for fielding the most boring bunch of Red Devils since Marc Wilmot ordered plain waffles at Cafe Coupe du Monde in Brazil last summer.
Me? I’m not convinced that United are that ace at being tight at the back. The team is not a top 4 side defensively in either of my xG or xA models. Whenever I watch them, my eyes are continually drawn to David De Gea’s heroics in goal.
Repeat offenders who continue to visit this site will note my continuing devotion to the Spaniard who once again this year leads the way in my shot stopping rankings for regular number 1’s. The rankings take into account the distance and angle of each shot on target faced by Premier League goalkeepers.
Below are the shots on target De Gea has faced in the Premier League this season:
You’ll see United aren’t that adept at preventing shots on target from the danger zone directly in front of goal (there’s 8 teams with the same or less). They’ve simply been fortunate enough to face some poor finishing – players with good sight of goal firing straight at De Gea (good positioning in any case?) – or the Spaniard has made some great saves. Take a look at some of the action:
We can also visually compare the volume of chances United give up in the box compared to, say, Arsenal. It looks like the beginning of a game of Ker-Plunk rather than half way through:
I think the busy fixture list over the next couple of months may see the crack in results to match the cracks in United’s performances. Put simply, ten thousand simulations say there’s a 92% chance De Gea concedes more goals than he has done so far. He’s good, but he’s not that good.
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