The unjustifiable one

Sean Lunt

With the season now in the final stages, the PFA Team of the Year has been announced. And this year Chelsea and Tottenham dominate, with both getting four players each in the team – unsurprising considering they’ve dominated the league.

As with every year, there is an air of controversy about the selection. And this time around it is the inclusion of Gary Cahill ahead of Toby Alderweireld.

The debate about the centre-back choice is not the biggest issue in this team, though. It’s the selection of the man between the sticks.

David de Gea is once again the elected number one, as he has been in the previous two seasons. And whilst those selections were justified, this one was not.

The Spaniard is undoubtedly among the world’s best goalkeepers but he has not been at his best for Manchester United this season.

Mistakes have littered his campaign and he has even found himself dropped from the team at times. That was unthinkable in the last few years, but the fact is, though, players in the team of the year shouldn’t have mistakes blighting their campaign.

The statistics do not back-up his inclusion either; compared to Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, he has been severely lacking.

So far this season the Frenchman has more clean sheets and has conceded four fewer goals. On a per game basis, he has more saves, more saves per goal and a far superior distribution accuracy.

It’s a similar trend when it comes to passing. Both goalkeepers play with their feet and Lloris once again comes out on top.

On a per game basis this season he has managed nearly double the amount of accurate passes per game de Gea has, while his pass success rate is also superior.

Moving away from stats, the sheer influence both have had on their sides should have been a factor. Lloris has played a key role in Tottenham’s title challenge this season, de Gea has been forgettable in United’s push for fifth.

Romelu Lukaku is the only player playing for teams outside of the top six to get in. But the Belgian is the top scorer in the league so he justifies his place.

See also: Battle of the Premier League’s undeserved elite and underrated minnows

In contrast, de Gea has been the third best ‘keeper in the league behind Lloris and Thibaut Courtois. There’s even an argument that Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford or Burnley’s Tom Heaton are more deserving than him.

In truth, his selection is a convenient one more than anything else. His fellow players are aware of his quality, nobody denies that he’s world-class and they pick him because of it.

An in-depth look at the situation shows he does not deserve the goalkeeper spot in the team this year. It seems reputation alone has earned him the award this time around.

Then again, the Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s domination of the Ballon d’Or in recent years had already confirmed that still happens.

Start the discussion

to comment