EPL

Most saves, most goals prevented – De Gea named Premier League's Player of the Month

By Sports Desk February 04, 2022

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea has been named the Premier League's Player of the Month for January after a string of fine performances.

Spain international De Gea has been United's most consistent player this season by a considerable distance, returning to the heights he hit earlier in his Old Trafford career.

De Gea's form over the previous few years had been patchy at best, with Dean Henderson dislodging him as first-choice for a period last season.

He also lost his starting berth at international level with Spain. Since the start of 2019, he has started just seven games for La Roja and been on the bench 28 times.

But everything points to the De Gea of old being back, and January was as good an example as any month this season, as he became the first goalkeeper to win the prize since February 2016.

Although he only kept one clean sheet in four Premier League matches, no goalkeeper tallied more.

Had it not been for De Gea's heroics, United may not have come through January with just one defeat, as the 31-year-old made 22 saves – over the month, Alvaro Fernandez (17) was the only other goalkeeper to register more than 11.

According to Opta, De Gea's stops contributed to a league-leading 'goals prevented' (excluding own goals) record of 2.6 in January, highlighting not only the crucial nature of his work but also the high standard of his saves.

Similarly, he boasted an 84 per cent save percentage – the only goalkeepers to play at last 180 minutes with better records were Jose Sa (84.6) and Martin Dubravka (88.9).

De Gea beat Jarrod Bowen, Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Harrison, Joao Moutinho and James Ward-Prowse to claim the gong and is the second United player to win it this season after Cristiano Ronaldo in September.

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  • The Numbers Game: France face Mbappe conundrum ahead of Netherlands test The Numbers Game: France face Mbappe conundrum ahead of Netherlands test

    Both the Netherlands and France made winning, if not entirely convincing, starts at Euro 2024.

    On Friday, they face off in a heavyweight clash that could go some way to deciding who tops Group D.

    Ronald Koeman's Oranje had Wout Weghorst to thank as they fought back to beat Poland 2-1 in their opening match, and they will hope the potential absence of Kylian Mbappe gives them the upper hand in Leipzig.

    Mbappe's availability is "uncertain" after he suffered a broken nose during Les Bleus' nervy 1-0 victory over Austria, with the forward set to be fitted with a protective mask ahead of a potential return.

    How will the tournament favourites cope if Mbappe does miss out? Here, we delve into the Opta data to preview Friday's game.

    What's expected?

    Despite the question marks over Mbappe's availability, France are favourites to make it two wins from two games.

    The Opta supercomputer gives them a 52.3 per cent chance of victory to the Netherlands' 24.4 per cent, with 23.3 per cent of simulations finishing level.

    This will be the fourth time the teams have faced off at the Euros. France triumphed on penalties in the 1996 quarter-finals, but the Netherlands have since won two group-stage encounters, 3-2 in 2000 and 4-1 in 2008.

    France have, however, won seven of their last eight matches against the Oranje in all competitions, the exception being a 2-0 defeat in the UEFA Nations League in November 2018.

    If recent history is anything to go by, we should expect to get a victor. Only four of the previous 30 matches between the teams have ended in a draw, with France posting 15 victories to the Netherlands' 11.

    Excluding penalty shoot-outs, the Oranje have only lost one of their last 17 major tournament matches (World Cup/Euros), going down 2-0 to Czechia at Euro 2020 (12 wins, four draws). 

    They lost four successive games before this run began – all three group-stage matches at Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup final versus Spain.  

    France, meanwhile, could win their opening two games at a European Championships for the fourth time. On each of the previous occasions on which they accomplished that feat, they went on to reach the final (1984, 2000 and 2016).

    If in doubt, get Wout out

    Standing at six-foot-six and still on Burnley's books after loan spells with Besiktas, Manchester United and Hoffenheim, Weghorst may not be the personification of Johan Cruyff's 'total football' ideals.

    However, he has a real knack for being in the right place at the right time for his national team.

    Weghorst's winner against Poland came with his first touch after coming on as an 81st-minute substitute and was his fourth goal at a major tournament (World Cup/Euros).

    Three of those strikes have come as a substitute, the most goals any Oranje player has scored off the bench at tournaments.   

    He also has seven goals in his last 11 international appearances overall, tying Cody Gakpo and Calvin Stengs as the Netherlands' leading scorers in Euro 2024 qualifying with three. 

    He ranked eighth among all players for touches in the opposition box during qualifying (47), with six of those to beat him having played more than his 517 minutes.

    Memphis Depay started up front against Poland and flattered to deceive, failing to hit the target with any of his four shots. While he is likely to keep his place in Koeman's lineup on Friday, expect Weghorst to be introduced earlier if Depay produces a similar display.

    Didier Deschamps took some time to settle on Arsenal's William Saliba as the ideal centre-back partner for Dayot Upamecano, and the France duo may need to be prepared for an aerial bombardment. It may not be total football, but it could be effective. 

    Mbappe's absence a chance for Giroud?

    France, meanwhile, are facing up to the scenario they never wished to contemplate – having to cope without Mbappe.

    After colliding with the shoulder of Austria defender Kevin Danso on matchday one, Mbappe is a major doubt for Friday's game. On Wednesday, the president of the France Football Federation, Philippe Diallo, said it was "too soon to know" if he will play again at this tournament.

    The Netherlands will certainly be breathing a sigh of relief, having seen Mbappe score six times in five career matches against them, including his first senior international goal in August 2017. Against no other nation has Real Madrid's newest Galactico netted more often.

    However, Mbappe did attempt four shots without scoring against Austria, taking his total number of shots without scoring at the Euros to 18, the most of any Frenchman since 1980.

    Mbappe started centrally against Austria but often drifted out to the left flank, with Ousmane Dembele stationed wide on the right. Randal Kolo Muani could come in to play a similar role, or Olivier Giroud could provide more of a traditional focal point.

    Giroud's 57 international goals put him top of Les Bleus' all-time scoring charts, six clear of Thierry Henry. Just eight of those have come at major tournaments (one at the 2014 World Cup, three at Euro 2016, four at the 2022 World Cup), but the former Arsenal and Chelsea man has long been a crucial foil for his more mobile team-mates. 

    France have won 71.9 per cent of their games with Giroud in the starting lineup under Deschamps (64/89), compared to 57.3 per cent without him (43/75). 

    The 37-year-old, who has 16 headed goals for his country, will also have been licking his lips at the sight of the Netherlands' set-piece defending against Poland, as Adam Buksa took advantage of some lax marking to head home unopposed from a corner.

    The last three goals conceded by Koeman's team have now come from corners.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH 

    Netherlands – Cody Gakpo

    Having netted the Netherlands' equaliser in their opening match, Gakpo has scored on all four of his group-stage starts at major tournaments (World Cup/Euros).

    In all competitions, the Liverpool forward has six goal involvements in his last eight appearances on the international stage (four goals, two assists). 

    Only Nathan Ake, with four, bettered his three chances created against Poland, while he also completed all five of his dribbles and won 15 of his total of 18 duels contested – both team-high figures.

    France – Antoine Griezmann

    With Mbappe likely to miss out, France need another of their attacking stars to step up. 

    Since the start of Euro 2016, Griezmann has more goal involvements at major tournaments (18 – 11 goals and seven assists) than any other European player (World Cup/Euros).

    Against Austria, no player on the pitch bettered Griezmann's two chances created, while he also attempted as many crosses (six) as all of his team-mates combined.

    In Mbappe's absence, he could get the freedom to roam into more advanced areas. He only managed two touches in the opposition box against Austria, though his two shots were worth a game-high 0.84 expected goals (xG).

  • Scotland 1-1 Switzerland: Trademark Shaqiri stunner puts Swiss on brink of last 16 Scotland 1-1 Switzerland: Trademark Shaqiri stunner puts Swiss on brink of last 16

    Switzerland moved a point closer to the last 16 at Euro 2024 as Xherdan Shaqiri returned to their lineup and netted another big goal to rescue a 1-1 draw against Scotland.

    Shaqiri, appearing in a Swiss-record seventh major tournament, was the only change to the team that had beaten Hungary 3-1 in their Group A opener.

    The former Bayern Munich and Liverpool winger was required to come up with a trademark moment of inspiration to secure a result, even if Switzerland fell short of the three points that would have made sure of their knockout place with a game to spare.

    Scotland, seeking to respond to a humbling 5-1 defeat to Germany, started brightly and led following a 13th-minute counter-attack. Callum McGregor cut the ball back for Scott McTominay, whose shot was heading straight at Yann Sommer until defender Fabian Schar stuck out a leg and inadvertently deflected it in.

    Another defensive mishap at the other end opened the door for Shaqiri to score his 10th tournament goal, however, as he seized on Anthony Ralston's loose pass to loft a sublime first-time finish over Angus Gunn into the top-left corner.

    Dan Ndoye had a quick Swiss second disallowed for offside and drew a superb save from Gunn in the second half, although Scotland came closer still to a winner when Grant Hanley headed against the post.

    While Breel Embolo was also denied by an offside flag and Zeki Amdouni nodded agonisingly wide, the point will surely prove more useful to Switzerland than their opponents, who now need a huge goal swing in the final round of Group A matches to finish in the top two.

    Data Debrief: Shaqiri extends streak in style

    This was an historic night for Shaqiri, who marked his landmark appearance with a stunning strike to extend his streak of scoring at tournaments.

    No other European player has scored at each of the past six major tournaments going back to the 2014 World Cup.

    This spectacular effort was on brand, too, as Shaqiri netted from outside the box for a third time at a tournament. Lothar Matthaus and Michel Platini (both four) are the only European players with more such goals since 1966.

  • St. Louis City v Colorado Rapids: Carnell desperate for response as winless run persists St. Louis City v Colorado Rapids: Carnell desperate for response as winless run persists

    St. Louis City will be desperate to snap a record six-game winless run in MLS when they host Colorado Rapids at CityPark Stadium on Thursday.

    The Missouri-based side have just three wins from their 17 league matches this term, falling down to 11th in the Western Conference standings.

    Bradley Carnell's men have not triumphed in MLS action since a 3-1 win over Chicago Fire in the middle of May, and were defeated 2-0 by FC Dallas last time out.

    St. Louis coach Carnell referenced injury struggles, however, as his side continue to battle through a troubling period.

    "Obviously, it doesn’t take a genius to look at the roster and see where we are. We're not the first team to struggle with this.

    "Now we get challenged and now get to prove what we are as a group, team, organisation and unit – sticking together.

    "We have a plethora of young players who are performing [for our academy] and we will keep some of those guys with us through the week."

    The Rapids have enjoyed a better season, sitting sixth in the West table after returning to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Austin FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

    That ended a four-game winless streak for Colorado, who secured a much-needed victory after a rocketed finish from Cole Bassett before Rafael Navarro netted his 10th goal of the season.

    The next challenge for the Rapids is to secure back-to-back victories for the first time since April, though they have lost three straight on the road.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    St. Louis City – Jared Stroud

    Jared Stroud was involved in a goal in both matches (one goal, one assist) against the Rapids last season.

    The St. Louis man has eight assists to his name in MLS this season, too, and will hope to deliver once more when Colorado come to town.

    Colorado Rapids – Djordje Mihailovic

    Djordje Mihailovic has scored in each of the Rapids' last three away matches.

    He is the first Rapids player to score in three straight away from home in a single regular season since Shkelzen Gashi scored in five straight on the road from June-October 2016.

    MATCH PREDICTION – ST. LOUIS CITY WIN

    St. Louis are the heavy favourites for victory in this encounter, considering their record against the Rapids.

    Carnell's side collected four points from their two matches against Colorado last season, including a 2-0 win at home last July.

    Colorado have lost their last three road matches, conceding 10 goals in those games, and that run of form comes as no surprise.

    Indeed, the Rapids have lost 15 of their last 21 away from home in all competitions (W3 D3), dating back to last May.

    Yet a home win is by no means a foregone conclusion.

    St. Louis are winless in six straight matches (D2 L4) for the first time in club history. They have just three wins so far, tied for the fewest in MLS this season, though all three have come at home.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    St. Louis City win – 48.8%

    Colorado Rapids win – 25.5%

    Draw – 25.7%

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