DM1: THE CHAMPIONSHIP'S FINEST
Marshy up there with Europe's elite this season.
Scottish international Marshall, who has been City’s only ever-present in the league this season, reached fourteen clean sheets in thirty-seven games, and with the Bluebirds boasting a game in hand over sixth-placed Leicester, this means that Marshall has the highest shutout-per-game ratio in the division: 37.8% as opposed to Schmeichel’s 36.8%.
Signed on a free transfer from Norwich City in the summer of 2009, there can be no doubting that Marshall has been one of the standout bargains in terms of arrivals to this Football Club, being ever-dependable on each of the 147 times that he has represented us. The Glaswegian particularly upped his game after fierce competition from Tom Heaton for the number one jersey during the 2011/12 season, and has been the club’s first choice among an impressive who’s who of goalkeepers over the past four years that includes Peter Enckelman, Welsh international Jason Brown, Stephen Bywater, and more recently former England youth international Joe Lewis, himself rated as one of the best young goalkeepers in the country.
This season, Marshall has already eclipsed his end-of-season clean sheet tally from the previous two campaigns (he managed four in 2010/11, a season hampered by injury, and thirteen in 2011/12). His most successful season in terms of shut-outs so far was his first for the Bluebirds, in which he kept sixteen clean sheets overall, and during that year he had only kept twelve clean sheets by the end of March.
Last season, Reading’s Adam Federici kept the most clean sheets in the Championship with twenty as the Royals secured automatic promotion to the Premier League. The Championship has existed in its current form since the 2004/05 season, and in the eight completed seasons since, the record for the most clean sheets kept in a single campaign is held by Paddy Kenny, who managed twenty-five when Queen's Park Rangers won the division in 2010/11.
The lowest number of clean sheets needed to have the most in the division was seventeen, with which Wolves’ Matt Murray completed the 2006/07 season in which his side lost a two-legged Play-Off semi-final against West Bromwich Albion. With nine games left to play this term, David Marshall could reach a maximum of twenty-three, which would be the fourth-highest total.
How, then, does Marshall compare to the current leading goalkeepers in each of the top four divisions? Manchester City’s Joe Hart has the best tally in the Premier League with thirteen shutouts in twenty-nine games. In League One, with both Sheffield United and Swindon Town having got seventeen clean sheets, the accolade goes to the Robins’ Wesley Foderingham, who was between the sticks for all of them – Mark Howard and George Long have shared the goalkeeping duties for Danny Wilson’s team. Fleetwood Town’s Scott Davies has sixteen for the ninth-placed League Two club.
It may come as no surprise that Celtic are at the top of the equivalent charts in the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League, but a rousing combined effort from Michael Fraser, Mark Brown and Mark Foderingham has resulted in plucky Ross County matching Fraser Forster and Lukasz Zaluska’s combined cumulative total of thirteen in thirty-one games. In the individual stakes, Forster, who has been included in Roy Hodgson’s England squads three times this season, tops the charts with twelve. In Wales, Paul Harrison of The New Saints is miles ahead in the Welsh Premier League with twelve for everyone’s favourite club from Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain and Oswestry.
So Marshall is right up there with the best keepers in the UK, and is perfectly-placed to end the season with more clean sheets than anyone in the country’s top divisions. Logically, the next crop of goalkeepers we might compare him to is those across the leagues of the continent. Starting with Spain’s La Liga, Atletico Madrid only lost their 100% home record at Vincente Calderon earlier this month (Real Sociedad mustering a surprise 1-0 win), and it would be foolish to ignore the contribution of their goalkeeper in achieving that feat. While much has been made on the goalscoring exploits of Radamel Falcao, Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, on loan from Chelsea, has fifteen clean sheets in twenty-seven games, a phenomenal ratio of over 50%.
The resurgent Paris Saint-Germain, who have received substantial financial investment from the Qatar Investment Authority, predictably top the defensive charts in France. Their financial clout has attracted superstars from all over the world of football, with the well-publicised arrivals of Dutch defender Gregory Van Der Wiel, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Thiago Silva from AC Milan, Napoli’s Ezequiel Lavezzi and more recently David Beckham, and this has propelled them to a position from which they have looked a credible threat in the Champions’ League this season. A name that does not get the headlines he deserves, though, is Italian goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, who has only missed two games in all competitions and boasts seventeen clean sheets in Ligue Un for the Parc des Princes club.
The race for the golden glove in the German Bundesliga is all but over. Germany’s first choice goalkeeper Manuel Neuer revealed to the press ahead of the recent two-legged victory over Arsenal in the Champions’ League that he sometimes doesn’t need to wash his kit following matches because he has so little to do thanks to Bayern Munich’s miserly defence. This has been a record-setting season for Bayern, instigated by the desire for revenge following Borussia Dortmund’s domination of German football last season (they retained their league title and also thrashed Bayern 5-2 to complete the double in the DFB-Pokal final). Neuer has played his part - seventeen clean sheets in twenty-six Bundesliga matches so far is the proof.
Another side that top their national table and have also progressed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League is Juventus. Nine-time Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year Gianluigi Buffon once again tops the clean sheet charts with twelve, while understudy Marco Storari providing an additional two. Still considered by many to be the world’s best goalkeeper, Buffon has been with the Old Lady since 2001. In the time since he has become a World Cup winner with Italy in 2006, won three Serie A titles and three Supercoppa Italiane . One of the most decorated goalkeepers of all time, Buffon looks set to add to his already close-to-bursting trophy cabinet this season with Juventus nine points clear of Napoli in second.
The fact that David Marshall’s name is up among these superstars of the world game is testament to just how good he and Cardiff City have been this season. With Gordon Strachan including Marshall in his first squad as Scotland manager, we will likely see Cardiff’s goalkeeper give Allan McGregor, now at Besiktas in Turkey, a credible threat to his jersey in the upcoming international break - starting with Wales at Hampden Park on Friday.