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Mat Ryan's opportunity to alter his goalkeeping percentages

Mathew Ryan (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
13th July, 2021
5

The life of a goalkeeper can be anti-climatic: one minute you’re the hero for saving a penalty, the next a villain for allowing a 30-yard shot to squirm through your legs.

Every position on the field is scrutinised with a different set of metrics but over the past 18 months, these stats have shown Australia’s No.1 is in a dreadful run of form that has cost him his Premier League career.

It’s all about the expected goals allowed (xGA) and post-shot expected goals (PSxG) when clubs look at goalkeepers.

The xGA number depends on the team’s defence and not their actual goalkeeper, as defenders allow opposition attackers to have easier or harder attempts at goal.

Brighton had an expected 13.5 xGA but they had conceded 21 goals in 2020, which led coach Graham Potter to have a closer look at the analytics not of his defenders, but his shot-stopper, Mat Ryan.

PSxG measures the quality of the shot after it’s left the boot. A higher PSxG means the likelihood of a more accurate shot – for example, a 20-yard volley that arrows straight into the top corner.

A low PSxG on a shot could be classed as a strike that might not have been hit cleanly, like a strike the goalkeeper can see coming as their view is unobstructed, which gives them plenty of time to position the body for a save.

If you compare a keeper’s actual goals allowed to the PSxG, you get an accurate reading of how good they are at keeping shots out of the net. In 2020, Ryan allowed 19 goals to find the back of a net, with a PSxG of 14.7.

Had it not been for the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, Kepa Arrizabalaga, having a torrid time with Chelsea, the blowtorch of Premier League journalists would’ve have lit a cauldron under Ryan.

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Potter was heavily reliant on the goalkeeping metrics and swiftly dispatched Ryan in January 2021, the Aussie being statistically the worst goalkeeper in the EPL. His replacement, Roberto Sanchez, earned rave reviews and call-ups to Spain’s national team.

Ryan left Brighton on loan and signed for his boyhood club, Arsenal, as a backup to Bernd Leno and was only able to play three games. Upon the end of his loan, Brighton have been trying to find a buyer for Ryan.

There were rumours that Celtic – managed by Australian Ange Postecoglou, who knows the player well – were interested in signing him but a move never materialised.

Instead, a progressive club in Spain met Brighton’s valuation and Ryan is now onto his second stint in La Liga after his time with Valencia in 2015.

Ryan will leave behind the chilling cold of the seaside of Brighton for the warmer temperatures of another coastal city at Real Socieded.

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The current incumbent in Sociedad’s goal is Álex Remiro, whose performances drew rave reviews for a club that finished fifth last term.

Ryan will start as an understudy, as the current No.2, Miguel Ángel Moyá, is in his late 30s and trying to to find a club where he will get regular game time.

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When Ryan is given his opportunity, he must grasp it as those chances will be few and far between (although there are a lot worse place to sit on the bench than the tropical climate of San Sebastian).

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Mat Ryan is still a wonderfully gifted goalkeeper, but it will be a concern for the Australian national team if he is unable to dislodge Remiro from his position.

For Ryan to do this, he needs to keep a close watch on his xGA and PSxG.

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