Who are the Premiership’s most effective goalkeepers?

Who are the Premiership’s most effective goalkeepers?

By James Cairney

After having a look at the Premiership’s most effective playmakers and attackers, we’re now switching our attention to the other end of the pitch.


We’ve examined each goalkeeper in the league taking into account the amount of goals conceded, saves and their expected goals against (xGA) in order to discover who the numbers say is the Premiership’s most effective goalkeeper.

The graph below shows each goalkeeper’s xGA/90 minutes – how often a goalie can expect to concede during a match, based on the quality of a shot – along with their saves per 90 (S/90) minutes and goals against per 90 minutes (GA/90) to try and give us an idea of who’s excelling.


A high-performing goalkeeper would have a xGA/90 higherthan their actual xGA/90 – the bigger the gap, the better they’re playing. Below, we’ve picked out a few goalkeepers with eye-catching stats.



Jon McLaughlin


Jon McLaughlin joined Hearts from Burton Albion in the summer and his record since his move to Edinburgh speaks for itself. Only Craig Gordon has a lower GA/90 than the Hearts keeper – the two players are the only goalies in the division who concede less than a goal a game on average.


The telling detail of McLaughlin’s form, however, lies in the discrepancy between his GA/90 and his xGA/90. Based on the shots he’s faced, the 30-year-old could reasonably expect to concede 1.63 times per 90 minutes; in reality, that figure is 0.77 – more than half his xGA/90.


Since Levein took over from Ian Cathro last year he made organising his defence a top priority, with great success. The likes of Christophe Berra and John Souttar have gained plaudits, notably when avoiding conceding for a club-record eight consecutive matches, but perhaps McLaughlin deserves more credit than he’s had. The data certainly suggests so.


Alan Mannus


Alan Mannus has played about half of his side’s league fixtures so far this term, with Zander Clark playing slightly more minutes than St Johnstone’s veteran goalkeeper. Interestingly, Mannus has the highest xGA/90 of any goalie in the Premiership with 1.98. Remarkably, though, the 35-year-old has a significantly lower GA/90 – 0.67 lower, to be precise, or two fewer goals for every three games played.



The difference between his expected and actual goals conceded pays testament to the shot-stopper’s ability – McLaughlin might have the largest difference between his xGA/90 and GA/90, but Mannus is a close second. It’s worth noting that Mannus concedes fewer goals and has a lower xGA/90 than Clark, despite making fewer saves. If Tommy Wright were to give his compatriot more gametime, it could help arrest the Saints’ alarming decline in form.


Craig Gordon


Unsurprisingly, Celtic’s number one finds himself the league leader in both GA/90 and xGA/90. Before his injury last month, Gordon had an impressive GA/90 of 0.69 and is the least busy keeper in the league, only being called upon to make 1.8 saves per game, on average. However, it should be noted that the Scotland international is actually slightly underperforming this season – his xGA/90 is marginally smaller than his GA/90.


Of course, the numbers don’t tell the full story. Yes, Gordon concedes fewer goals than all but one Premiership keeper, but he still has the advantage of the Premiership’s best defence sitting in front of him. Injury to the Celtic shot-stopper forced Brendan Rodgers to bring in Scott Bain on deadline day – the Northern Irishman will be hoping that Bain can fill Gordon’s shoes while the latter is out injured.


Scott Bain


Speaking of Bain, the new Celtic goalie leads the way in the number of saves made during a typical Premiership fixture with around 4.44 – a 0.41 increase over Ross County’s second-placed Aaron McCarey.



It’s clear to see why Celtic recruited Bain in January; his GA/90 is the highest in the league, but the former Dundee goalkeeper has been playing with a leaky defence in front of him for most of the season. That will change now he’s at Celtic Park and the data says he’s been overperforming in reality, with his xGA/90 0.11 higher than his actual GA/90.


Ofir Marciano


Neil Lennon signed Ofir Marciano on a permanent basis last summer after the Israeli goalie impressed during his loan spell at the club the previous season and has largely been rewarded with more eye-catching displays. The Hibs keeper has one of the lowest S/90 rates in the division, which demonstrates the good work that the Hibees defence hae been doing so far this season. Opponents are struggling to break them down and create goalscoring opportunities.


The difference between Marciano’s GA/90 and xGA/90 is 0.33 – essentially, this implies that the 28-year-old is preventing a goal every three matches that another goalkeeper wouldn’t necessarily keep out. Lennon had to sacrifice Bain’s place in his squad to facilitate the arrival of Scott Allan and it looks to be an astute decision – in many categories, Marciano’s stats are superior to Bain’s, making him the better option.

One Reply to “Who are the Premiership’s most effective goalkeepers?”

  1. Have to say I’m a little bit surprised at the data on Trevor Carson. A few of my friends who follow Motherwell have been raving about him but the stats don’t seem to quite back that up. Interesting though!

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