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Who Are the Best Number 1s in the Premier League?

In a recent poll conducted by the BBC to ascertain the best goalkeepers in Premier League history, only three of the current crop of custodians made the shortlist.

Perhaps that is surprising, perhaps it is not given that many of the number ones at top-flight clubs have not necessarily played in the Premier League long enough to be truly judged.

Indeed, a few on the shortlist compiled by the BBC could easily be questioned.

Either way, the three current goalkeepers on that list must surely be included in any top five from 2020? Well, actually, not quite.

Whether you agree with my choices remains to be seen.

Assessing a goalkeeper’s importance is a tricky task. Some weighting is clearly given to the number of saves they make, but those who represent teams fighting relegation are usually busier than those in a title race.

Clean sheets are also far from a perfect metric given that the calibre of finishing in England’s top tier can often see a goalkeeper’s record muddied through no real fault of their own, or indeed account for the standard of the defence in front of them.

So here we go – and yes, this in order!

 

1. David de Gea (Manchester United)

By far the best goalkeeper in England, and possibly Europe, over the past decade. A series of uncharacteristic mistakes towards the end of last season – and a few during the current campaign – have led to some questioning whether he is past his peak. I cannot agree.

It’s only because such errors have been so rare that when the Spanish number one does make one, it shocks us. Recruited by Sir Alex Ferguson as a teenager, it’s hard to imagine where United would have been in many of the seasons since Ferguson retired without their number one.

At times, he has been a one-man blockade against opposition attacks in a way few other goalkeepers have. Still the best in the league, despite some unsettling showings over the past 12 months.

 

2. Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City)

A Premier League winner, still as strong and still holds as much as a presence his penalty area as he did in the Foxes’ unforgettable title-winning season, Kasper Schmeichel has 10 clean sheets in the league this season. Only two teams have a better defensive record than Leicester, despite them selling Harry Maguire last summer. The Dane is a major reason why.

Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has 10 clean sheets in the Premier League at the moment
Kasper Schmeichel in action for Leicester City

 

3. Alisson Becker (Liverpool)

Also with 10 clean sheets in the league is Alisson at Liverpool, even though he missed the first quarter of the campaign with an injury sustained in the opening league game. Brazil’s number one and the winner of the Golden Glove in the Champions League last season, he and Virgil van Dijk have completely transformed Liverpool’s defence. A real presence.

 

4. Dean Henderson (Sheffield United)

On current form, he should be England’s number one. Who knows, perhaps he will be by the time Euro 2020 is held – in 2021! Like Schmeichel and Alisson, he is behind only Nick Pope of Burnley in terms of top-flight clean sheets this term, Henderson has continued to be a vital cog in Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United team, which defied the Premier League 2020 this year.

Don’t be surprised if the Blades loanee takes England’s number one jersey from Everton’s Jordan Pickford sooner rather than later and, in the longer term, possibly replaces De Gea at Old Trafford.

 

5. Martin Dubravka (Newcastle United)

If you look at all the underlying stats, there is no explanation for how Newcastle are not in the bottom three. Step forward Martin Dubravka, who has produced several Premier League 2020 highlights — 117 saves in 2,610 minutes to be exact, which is a league record this term. His arrival on Tyneside in January 2018 remains the club’s best transfer business of recent years.

The most controversial omission from my list must be Man City’s Ederson – whose ability to read danger coming from his starting position is first-class – or Burnley’s Nick Pope with the most clean-sheets this term (my SBOTOP colleague Stuart Wilkin may never forgive me for this!).

Likewise, if Aston Villa’s Tom Heaton had not seen his season ended in January through injury, he may have made this list.

The almost-effortless Rui Patrício at Wolves and Bernd Leno, growing in stature at Arsenal, were also close to making the top five.

There you go, I suppose I’ve just given you a top 10!

 

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