*With the 2018-2019 European club seasons having come to a close, Between the Sticks is honouring the best goalkeepers from the top five European leagues (Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1, Premier League, and Serie A). Bronze, Silver, and Gold Gloves will be awarded to the top three goalkeepers from each league. You can access the pieces on the other winners by clicking on the embedded hyperlinks.*
Bronze: Ederson Moraes
Games played: 38
Clean sheets: 20
Saves made: 57
Save percentage: 68.7%
Goals allowed: 23
It’s no secret Pep Guardiola loves ball-playing goalkeepers. When he coached Barcelona, he trusted the exuberant but error-prone Víctor Valdés in goal due to his confident distribution skills, and with Bayern Munich, Guardiola possessed the best sweeper ‘keeper in the world, Manuel Neuer.
Now at the helm of Manchester City, Guardiola calls on the service of Ederson Moraes, a goalkeeper City cannot afford to be without for any period of time.
When the Claudio Bravo experiment failed in 2016-17, Guardiola immediately replaced the Chilean with Ederson. He paid Benfica €40 million for the Brazilian’s services — a record amount an English team had spent on a goalkeeper at the time — and he hasn’t looked back since.
Not that Guardiola has had to reconsider his purchase. Ederson has fit into his system perfectly, and the Brazilian’s ball-handling skills are exactly what Guardiola was looking for in a City goalkeeper. Ederson is calm on the ball, confident when under pressure, and contrary when told to change his style. He doesn’t let mistakes negatively impact him, and he enjoys tempting opposition players with a loose ball or heavy touch. His style is uniquely Brazilian; use the ball to passionately dance and de-stress your way to victory. It’s also perfect for Manchester City’s possession-based style.
This season, Ederson won his second Premier League championship in a row, making him one of only a handful of goalkeepers to have won the Premier League in each of their first two seasons. He started in all 38 of City’s matches, and he posted career highs in goals conceded (23) and clean sheets (20). He unfortunately lost the (official) Premier League Golden Glove to Liverpool goalkeeper and fellow Brazilian Alisson Becker (he kept 21 clean sheets), but Ederson was in the running until the final matchday.
For a team so chock-full of stars and game changers, it’s easy to forget how important Ederson is to Manchester City’s success. But Guardiola knows of his significance, and while Ederson’s exploits might cause his blood to rush, Guardiola wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
Silver: Łukasz Fabiański
Games played: 38
Clean sheets: 7
Saves made: 144
Save percentage: 72.4%
Goals allowed: 55
Five years ago, Łukasz Fabiański was ousted from Arsenal. The Polish goalkeeper, who per his own words was “never really consistent“, was questioned, doubted, and finally let go from North London. He only had 32 Premier League appearances to his name, and at 29 years of age, it seemed like his best years were going to go unrealized.
Fast forward to today and he’s one of the best goalkeepers in the English Premier League.
Fabiański credits the work of Swansea City goalkeeper coaches Javier García and Tony Roberts for his growth. He spent four seasons with the Welsh club following his free transfer from Arsenal, and although Swansea City were ultimately relegated by the end of his tenure, Fabiański had clearly become a changed man. When West Ham United purchased him for under €8 million in June 2018, they were not buying the same Fabiański that Arsenal let walk out four years before.
The 2018-19 season will likely go down as Fabiański’s best season ever. In 38 league starts, Fabiański averaged 3.8 saves per game. His 144 stops were the most recorded in the 2018-19 Premier League season, and they were at least seven more than any other goalkeeper had posted in that edition. With Fabiański in goal, West Ham United conceded just 55 league goals; 13 less goals than they had conceded the season prior. Fabiański provided the club with the defensive stability they had lacked in 2017-18, and it’s why West Ham United finished 10th in the table in Fabiański’s first year there.
The wins came off of the field too. At the West Ham United Player Awards ceremony, Fabiański took home three club honours. He was awarded with West Ham United’s Save of the Season and Signing of the Season awards. Fabiański also took home the Hammer of the Year award, becoming one of only six goalkeepers to have received that accolade.
Fabiański has come a long way from his nightmare tenure with Arsenal, and while he couldn’t find success in North London, it’s good to know that he was able to revive his career just a few kilometres east.
Gold: Alisson Becker
Games played: 38
Clean sheets: 21
Saves made: 74
Save percentage: 76.3%
Goals allowed: 22
When Liverpool paid AS Roma a fee of €72.5 million for Alisson Becker, more than a few eyebrows were raised. After all, the price made Alisson the most expensive goalkeeper in football history at the time. His fee shattered those paid for Gianlugi Buffon, who cost Juventus nearly €53 million in 2001, and Ederson, who Benfica sold to Manchester City for €40 million in 2017. It was an unheard of price to pay for a goalkeeper, and given that Alisson had only played one full season in Europe at the time (2017-18, 49 games), doubters were understandably doubting him.
One year after the deal and Alisson’s transfer is looking like an absolute bargain.
To say that Alisson has exceeded expectations would be an understatement. The Brazilian international took the Premier League by storm in his debut season. He registered league bests in goals conceded (22), goals-against-average (0.58), save percentage (76.8%), and clean sheets (21). Those numbers were among the best in Europe for last season, let alone in the Premier League, and they were key reasons behind Liverpool’s title challenge and his (official) Premier League Golden Glove win.
That Golden Glove win is special for a few reasons. One, it was won at the expense of Manchester City custodian and fellow Brazilian teammate Ederson Moraes, who kept 20 clean sheets. Secondly, Alisson’s 21 clean sheets made him just the fourth Premier League Golden Glove winner to have kept 20 or more clean sheets in a single 38-game season. The other goalkeepers to do so? Petr Čech, Pepe Reina, and Edwin van der Sar. Finally, Alisson became just the second Liverpool goalkeeper to win the award, behind only Pepe Reina, who won it three times with the Reds.
The stats certainly helped Alisson’s case, but they’re obviously not everything in football. Alisson’s importance to Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool goes beyond simple numbers. With his ball-handling skills and calmness while under pressure in mind, Klopp encouraged Alisson to handle the ball, find passing options over simply clearing the ball, and most importantly, play risky football.
Under Klopp’s guidance, Alisson unleashed his full potential. He played a courageous but smart style of football, took a “pass, don’t panic” approach to playing the ball, and while he did get burned one or two times, his decisions were usually smart and his deliveries were almost always precise.
Alisson has since added two more individual awards to his collection; the Champions League Golden Glove and the Copa América Golden Glove. He may not be done there, though. If Brazil defeat Peru in the Copa América final on Sunday, who’s to say Alisson won’t win the Ballon d’Or too?