WHO IS EUROPE'S NUMBER ONE?
Oliver Roderick takes a statistical look at the consistency of David Marshall
Cardiff City goalkeeper David Marshall is once again in the midst of a fine season between the posts for the Bluebirds.
This time last season, City’s number one was setting the footballing world alight with his fantastic clean sheet record as the Bluebirds romped to the nPower Championship title. At the time, Marshall was in the same statistical leagues as the likes ofThibaut Courtois, the Chelsea goalkeeper on loan at Atlético Madrid in Spain’s La Liga,Salvatore Sirigu, the Paris Saint-Germain number one, andManuel Neuer, the German international who would go on to complete an unprecedented treble in German football as his club Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and the UEFA Champions League.
The step-up to the top division in English football was always going to bring about a challenge for Marshall, as City now have to contend with top-level sides on a weekly basis. The likes ofHugo Llorisat Tottenham,Joe Hartat Manchester City andPetr Čechof Chelsea are all considered among the top glove-wearers in the world, with most sides even boasting international goalkeepers on their bench, such is the abundance of riches in the Barclays Premier League.
Earlier this season, Newcastle United’s Dutch stopperTim Krulearned many plaudits when he set a new Premier League record in making an incredible 14 saves in the Magpies’ victory over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, but Cardiff City’s last line of defence has arguably had to recreate that level of performance on a much more consistent level.
Of our 18 points amassed to date from our opening 22 top-flight fixtures, a large proportion can be attributed to the performances of our Scottish international goalkeeper who has been influential. Who can forget the stop Marshall pulled off to deny Shane Long an equaliser in the crucial 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at Cardiff City Stadium? Clean sheets against the likes of Everton, Stoke City and Norwich City are nothing to be sniffed at either. Even in games that have seen Cardiff defeated, their goalkeeper’s stock has risen; the 1-0 home defeat to Spurs in September saw Marshall produce a string of fine saves until he was finally beaten by Paulinho’s flick deep into stoppage time, while stops from Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez at Anfield came too late to inspire a comeback in December’s 3-1 loss.
How then, do the stats look for this season as far as the Bluebirds’ goalkeeper is concerned? So far this term, Marshall has produced a total of 81 saves, which is the highest tally of any goalkeeper in the division, eight more than Norwich City’sJohn Ruddyin second. Having sat out the trip to Hull City with injury (Joe Lewis deputised for him in the 1-1 draw), Marshall has played for a total of 1,890 minutes (not including injury time), which, as mathematics dictate, works out as 3.9 saves a game, again a figure which puts him at the top of the charts in the Barclays Premier League.
Marshall’s stats this season also look impressive when compared to the best figures around the leagues in Europe. In Spain,Diego Mariñoof Valladolid leads the way with 82 saves in 20 games, withEstebanof Almeria not far behind with 78. By contrast,Diego López, the goalkeeper that has recently ousted the greatIker CasillasReal Madrid from the first-choice spot, has been called into action just 54 times in the league this year, with Barcelona’sVictor Valdéseven further behind on 45. Over in Italy, newly promoted Hellas Verona have predictably had a lot of defending to do, and goalkeeperRafaelhas had to make a whopping 98 saves already! More surprisingly perhaps, is thatI Gialloblu, despite the saves their keeper is having to make, currently sit sixth in Serie A, and were very unlucky to come away with nothing from Sunday’s trip to face AC Milan at the San Siro.
The clear leader when it comes to making saves in Germany isOliver Baumannof SC Freiburg, with his 92 saves in 17 games giving 'the Brazilians of Breisgau' a fighting chance of avoiding the drop. In the Champions League,Matus Kozacikhad to make a save every thirteen-and-a-half minutes for Czech side Viktoria Plzeň in Group D, the highest ratio in the tournament. Plzeň exited the competition at the conclusion of the group stages having amassed just three points, but when considering that they were unlucky enough to find themselves in the same group as holders Bayern Munich and Manchester City, two of Europe’s most free-scoring outfits, it is impressive that they did as well as they did.
Since joining Cardiff City on a free transfer from Norwich in the summer of 2009, there can be no doubting that Marshall has been one of the standout bargains - ever-dependable in most if not all of the 178 times that he has represented us. Nonetheless, the Scottish international would swap all of these statistics for a surge up the Barclays Premier League table with the Bluebirds. With just under half of the season to go, Marshall’s continued good form will hopefully be coupled with just that, as City's next win could take them as high as 15th in the division and level on points with Swansea City.