Arsenal have been linked with Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes, but are they that much better than Wojciech Szczesny?
Following their 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League earlier this week, calls intensified for Arsenal to sign a new goalkeeper after an uninspiring display from current number one Wojciech Szczesny.
With Arsene Wenger rumoured to have £70m at his disposal this summer, the pressure on Szczesny has increased as Arsenal continue to be linked with moves for top class 'keepers, most prominently Liverpool's Pepe Reina and Barcelona's Victor Valdes. But are the pair really that much better than Szczesny? We decided to compare all three* to see who comes out on top.
Reina has come under fire this season for a perceived drop in form, with his Liverpool future questioned seriously for the first time since signing for the club in 2005. While the 30-year-old has been tipped for a return to Spain, Reina has also been linked with a surprise move to Arsenal.
When fit, he has been an easy first choice in the Liverpool goal, although his 37 goals conceded in 26 games is a slight cause for concern. That stat is by far the highest of the three 'keepers and as such he concedes, on average, a goal every 63 minutes, although he does play for a weaker team than Szcezsny and Valdes.
One area in which he does excel is dealing with crosses and high balls. Despite Reina's tendency to punch rather than catch, he has enjoyed a spotless record in this area, the only of the three to do so, completing 100% of all attempted punches and catches.
The most questionable area of his game has been his shot stopping and, while he has ironed out a number of the errors which blighted his season last year, Reina is not as solid between the sticks as he once was. An overall save percentage of 63% does not inspire a great amount of confidence in a goalkeeper who has started to earn an unwanted reputation of losing concentration in matches.
Unquestionably, Reina has failed to scale the heights of 2006-08 when he was awarded the Premier League's Golden Glove award for clean sheets three seasons in a row, but as the statistics show he still remains a solid 'keeper.
Criticism of Wojciech Szczesny, while at times justifiable, appears possibly disproportionate when looking at his statistics so far this season. The 22-year-old's lack of game time has been largely due to injury, however the brief emergence of Vito Mannone offered competition, despite the Pole regaining the number one shirt shortly after his return.
The most striking of his statistics is his high amount of saves per game (3.2), which is almost twice that of Victor Valdes. Obviously this ican be partly attributed to the number of shots he has faced, but his saves to shots ratio of 72% is the best of all three 'keepers. Given the amount of work Szczesny is made to do in the Arsenal goal and considering the sometimes shaky defence he has in front of him, his reputation as a shot stopper is certainly enhanced, even if he has conceded 24 times in 20 Premier and Champions League games.
Perhaps the weakest area of Szczesny's game is his kicking, completing a dismal 42% of his kicking distribution. While this is not a massive part of his game, it is still an important aspect and does hint at wastefulness.
Arguably though, criticism of Szczesny is a tad harsh. At just 22 years old he is by far the youngest of the three goalkeepers, yet boasts figures comparable with his more experienced counterparts. While there is no guarantee that he will improve as a 'keeper, all the signs are there that he is a very talented asset to have.
The elder statesmen of the trio at 31, Valdes is vastly more experienced than Szczesny, winning every trophy available at Barcelona. While statistics only tell part of the story, it is difficult to quantify how much experience really adds to a team.
Valdes has been a constant at Barcelona for the best part of a decade, so it should come as no surprise that he has featured 30 times already this season in La Liga and Europe. Much like Szczesny, Valdes is rated more for his shot stopping, a fact reflected in his high amount of shots saved from inside the box (42), a number which dwarfs the other goalkeepers' stats. Valdes is certainly a solid option, even if his overall saves to shots ratio is less than Szczesny's.
Similar to the Pole, his ability to deal with high balls is questionable and Valdes shows a fallibility in the air which can be exploited. However, his kicking distribution has a success rate you would expect at Barca.
After confirming that he will not renew his contract at Barcelona, Valdes could be a great addition to any side, but potential suitors would likely have to wait until the conclusion of the 2013/14 season first.
Statistically, Wojciech Szczesny pretty much holds his own against two vastly experienced goalkeepers and while the jury still remains out on the young Pole, it could be a mistake to ditch him at such an early stage of his career. While both Reina and Valdes would represent fantastic additions to Arsenal's starting XI, all signs suggest that at just 22 years old, Szczesny has the raw ability to be as good as the pair. At still such a young age for a goalkeeper he is nowhere near his peak, and will require more faith from Wenger if he is to continue that development.
*Statistics for Premier League and European competition, correct up to and including 20 February 2013.
Arsenal fans, should Wenger give Szczesny more time to grow as a goalkeeper, or should he look to bring in a new 'keeper this summer? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below...