GoonerNow Blog

Should Szczesny be our number 1?

So gooners if the stats via @Orbinho are anything to go by 75% of you will not agree with what I am about to say. I still hope you read and try and understand my motivation around writing this piece.

The rather out of the blue news linking Hugo Lloris to Arsenal has found many fans and pundits questioning why? We have a world class young goalkeeper who is one of the best in his field. But the question I ask is, is he?

Last season I found myself questioning some of Szczesny’s decision making and ability as a top goalkeeper. He was found wanting on more than one occasion, and was completely at fault for several goals, something we would not accept from the likes of Almunia and much loved ‘Flapianski’.

I would like to delve a little deeper and look beyond the charisma and persona of the much adorned Arsenal number 1. My main source…stats. Now I know some of you, as I have already experienced on twitter, are going to say you cannot compare goalkeepers by stats, there are too many variables, too many ifs, and buts, too many excuses in my opinion!

Used under creative commons courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald

A strikers performance is valued on their goals, not their ability to perform a Cruyff turn, fist pump, and walk around with swagger. So why aren’t keepers scored on their shot to save ratios?

I think it’s a valid question.

It’s valid because we are not looking for the most saves in an EPL season, this would obviously go to a lower table team that gets battered every week. We are looking at the percentage of saves for every shot taken.

Variables. This was an argument put to me by @Stephen_Forster. After thinking long and hard about it I couldn’t see the variable in shot to save ratio, in fact it takes variables out of the equation. Every team has 11 players, same goal sizes, same equipment…balls gloves etc everyone plays everyone. Seems fair to me.

This was one tweet I received from Stephen, re variables: “They were scoring tap-ins etc. because the defense & midfield were letting teams through to easy!”

So Arsenal were one of only 4 teams in the league to consistently let teams play through midfield and defence and score ‘tap ins’. I’m sorry Stephen I just don’t buy that. If that were the case how did we finish 3rd?

You may be asking why did he say one of only 4?

That is because Szczesny was in the bottom 4 for shot to save ratio last season. Yes bottom 4. No doubt our lack lustre defence will have an impact on this stat, but it’s far too easy to put all blame at the defences doorstep, the reason I can say this is with my friend Mr Stat.


Wojciech Szczesny vs Wayne Hennessey via Opta

Minutes Played Goals Conceded Conceded Outside Box Saves Save % Minutes per Goal Conceded
Wojciech Szczesny 1800 28 6 47 62.67 64
Wayne Hennessey 1800 36 7 103 74.10 50

So both players played the same amount of time for their clubs, Hennessey did concede far more but also saved more, with 11% higher save ratio.

Yes the argument that he plays for a team that will concede more shots in a game is not relevant here! The facts are Szczesny saved less shots faced. This is only one comparison, let’s not forget he is in the bottom 4 in the EPL.

I would say it is not fair to compare him to a player that was part of a relegation last year, so let’s have a look at another statistical comparison.

Minutes Played Goals Conceded Conceded Outside Box Saves Save % Minutes per Goal Conceded
Wojciech Szczesny 1800 28 6 47 62.67 64
Joe Hart 1800 16 1 59 78.67 113

This table doesn’t shape up as well for our number 1.

I can hear you now, what are you talking about you can’t compare stats like this for keepers, the Man City defence is far better than ours!

How does that explain that Joe Hart made more saves than Szczesny in the season?

It doesn’t, all it explains is that Hart is a much better keeper, a keeper who conceded just once from outside the box all year, a keeper who conceded half the amount of goals Szczesny did and managed to save 12 more shots. A player who saved 16% more shots on his goal than that of Szczesny.

I have compared our main man to a player who faced more shots in a worse defence and a player who faced less shots in a better defence. Either way Szczesny comes off second best.

I think we are better than second best.

So what do you think? This is where I need to thank compulsive tweeter and fellow lover of stats @Orbinho who asked us Arsenal fans: Should Arsenal buy a 1st choice goalkeeper or stick with Szczesny?

Orbinho’s poll, saw 75% of Arsenal fans vote against buying a goalkeeper in this transfer window.

So why do we love Szczesny so much?

I think majority of the fans are fooled by a mixture of his infallible confidence and charisma and of course the livestock we’ve had between the sticks in recent years. He certainly is better than Almunia and Fabianski but is he better than Lehman, Seaman? I don’t think so, not yet at least.

I’m not saying he will never be an amazing keeper. I know he has tremendous potential and will be a force in the future. But that is just my point, the future, should we be ‘blooding’ a young goalkeeper with no real competition for his place at the club. I don’t think so, I would like to see some decent experienced competition in the squad, someone that will push Szczesny, someone with international experience who can really add to the squad. I think Hugo Lloris could be a fantastic addition to our squad and for one would love to see it happen, if only to get the future best out of Szczesny.



  1. KEITH 7 July, 2012 at 20:54 Reply



  2. L 7 July, 2012 at 21:02 Reply

    Saves to shots ratio is an absolutely useless stat on it’s own precisely because it does NOT eliminate variables like you think it does. Your comparisons with Henessy and Hart say absolutely nothing because just counting the number of shots and saves say nothing about where the shots came from and how the goals were scored. How many shots were deflected? What angles did the shots come from? Etc etc.

    I can give you a stat that blows all that saves percentage stuff right out of the water:

    Mikel Arteta.

    10 league games without him, counting Wigan at home: 23 goals conceded.

    28 games with him: 26 goals conceded.

    2.3 goals per game without him, less than one per game with him. Wojciech Szczesny played in all 38 games. If we had kept the same average in all games only two teams would have conceded less in the whole league.

    Was that all down to Arteta?

    Of course not. But what I have just presented shows that you can’t take just one stat and believe that to tell the whole truth. Statistics is a much more difficult area than many understand, things that may look obvious may not have any correllation at all. And no, I don’t think goals scored is a very useful stat for a striker. How many were penalties? How many were scored when the team was already one, two or three goals up? How many were tie-breaking? How many were equalizers? Etc etc etc.

    Football is an incredibly complex game, and can not be reduced to such simple statistics as saves to shots ratio.

    • Craig Gilhooly 7 July, 2012 at 21:12 Reply

      Thanks for your comment L.

      I knew this was coming at some point, I’m not saying that the stats are the be all and end all but 16 goalkeepers managed to save on average more shots on goal, I think a pool of 20 each playing 38 games in the season, equating to 760 games of football being analysed is a fair amount of data to look at.

      This is purely my opinion, though I don’t feel the Arteta argument is a fair one. Every team has shots faced against them all over the pitch, no one team in the EPL only has shots against them that are in the six yard box blah blah blah, these are fair stats to analyse.

      With that said I know I am not going to please people with this post, it was never my intention, but I strongly feel these statistics are relevant and disagree that you cannot analyse them. Most top EPL clubs use stats to improve performance in their players.



      • Daniel 30 August, 2012 at 09:35 Reply

        I’m a fan of stats but I believe that no statistics can tell the true story precisely because of the variables. I don’t deny Szczesny was poor in terms of shots to saves but does that make him any less of a top keeper? I don’t think so. Consider RvP and his shots to goals ratio. It’s up there with the other top scorers from the past 10 years but significantly behind the likes of Adebayor and Yakubu and we all know who is the better player.

        It’s harsh to judge Szczesny on shots to saves precisely because it doesn’t take the variables into consideration. For example, how many “clear” shots did Szczesny face compared to say Hart? How many “tame” or “scuffed” shots did Hart have compared to others?

        I agree that Szczesny has a lot to work on but he’s still one of the most promising keepers in the league and he’s significantly younger than most other keepers and to be fair it was his first full year as no.1 whereas Hart was in his 2nd season with City having completed a full year on loan at Birmingham.

        Improvement needed, challenger needed, replacement not needed.

  3. Mitchell Edwards 8 July, 2012 at 01:46 Reply

    Someone should do a video off all goals conceded and analyse each goal to establish whether it is his fault.
    I agree that he needs better competition. Is Arsenal fans are too sentimental but we need to be more ruthless. He helped us and hindered us last season.

  4. Nemetos 8 July, 2012 at 09:07 Reply

    I think you should also mention that his distribution is piss poor.Even Alumunia could do it better than him.I thought he would get better over the season but he doesn’t seem to have made much progress.

  5. Kris yenne in jos. 8 July, 2012 at 09:52 Reply

    Excellent gunners, fans.i luv ur statistics.but the truth is that schesney needs stiff competition,to put him on his thought that he is good,but he need to improve more to stay in the sticks for a great club in arsenal.come to think of it,what if long injury problems affect him(GOD FORBIT)look at wilshere,what if there is no arteta?.please wenger give schesney a competator in Lloris.UP ARSENAL

  6. Danny 8 July, 2012 at 11:11 Reply

    The point is all the elite teams in football that are expected to win silverware, have franchise goalie’s that would stand out where ever they played. Szczesny isn’t quite there. I don’t see AC Milan or any other teams for that matter, looking to poach Arsenal Goal Keepers. Lloris has the credentials to be a dominant force at Arsenal and he or someone like him should have been purchased years ago. No more freaking out every time there’s a corner.

  7. Stanley 8 July, 2012 at 12:23 Reply

    Nice post. I agree that we need competition for our goalie. I dont feel its fair tho seeing we got thumped 8 by United and had games that left the keeper helpless to certain goals i.e own goals, penalties conceded. Djorou Moments etc. He has his flaws and alot to learn but its those anfield moments he displayed that makes him one we can rely on… Hart is brilliance on his own but you dont get so many clear cut chances against City as to Arsenal. Point is that stopping shots at 128mph or being in a one on one situation many times and defections dont help his stats at all. According to you, he was the 4th worst goalie last season, do you honestly believe that?

  8. oops 8 July, 2012 at 12:33 Reply

    Interesting article but maybe a tad harsh. It is very hard to compare keepers on stats alone. On the face of things it is an isolated position but in reality it isn’t. How deep does the defence sit, how much pressure were the strikers under from covering defenders, how many were from corners (which is as much the defenses fault as the keepers). All these questions will effect the stats drastically. Relegation level keepers often have good stats, maybe strikers think its worth having a pop against a weaker team. The end result might mean more average shots pinged at the keepers. The other side of the coin is that Joe hart has a very strong defense in front of him so how many strikers got time and space to line up a clean shot?

    Maybe compare arsenal with other average defenses who have a high line. This might be a fairer comparison?

    • Craig Gilhooly 8 July, 2012 at 13:03 Reply

      I really don’t think defence comes in to it, the comparison isn’t about shots faced. All keepers in the league face all types of shots and competition throughout a season. Therefore in my opinion it is a fair comparison!

  9. Stanley 8 July, 2012 at 17:09 Reply

    Does the stats put into account quality of the shot? The chances the keeper had on saving them? Most of his shots could have been ones he had little or nothing to do about it. One really bad stat just shows me where he needs to improve, im sure you can find ones that make him look like a god if you wanted 😉 Plus we got to find out that he wasntt fully fit towards the end. Goals conceded and minutes per goals conceded isn’t all down to the goal keeper so it shouldn’t be a valid comparison. He conceded 12 more than hart, cant remember hart conceding 8 or have his players slot in more than 3 own goals or have his defence sipping and letting the opposition free to score i.e. Verminator against QPR twice. Lloris is good and would like to have him, i just think you are being a bit unfair with comparisons.

    • Craig Gilhooly 9 July, 2012 at 07:11 Reply

      I completely 100% disagree with you! Why are you only looking at one half of the coin? Hennessey had terrible defenders in front of him, defenders who also scored multiple own goals, conceded penalties, etc etc. These things level out in the season, it is a very poor excuse from some of you saying simply the shots Szczesny faced ALL season were harder to save! That’s a ridiculous argument that you cannot back up.

  10. O.O. Femi 10 July, 2012 at 13:04 Reply

    What I fear is that, now that it’s all over the news we are looking for a new man to man our goal post for us, it conveys the idea that we do not believe in Szczesny. If we fail to secure that number one, then the performance of Szczesny will drop this season.

  11. para 18 July, 2012 at 13:26 Reply

    i am not concerned about Szczesny, but i agree we need another GK, because the season is long and grueling, and Szczesny may get injured, or even if not, could use a rest, and i cannot see anybody else atm who is good enough to be GK number 2.

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