Timo Horn and Loris Karius: Which rising Bundesliga keeper is better right now?

Note: All Stats Courtesy of Whoscored.com

From the days of Sepp Maier and the infamous Harald Schumacher to Bodo Illgner and Oliver Kahn, Jens Lehmann and most recently Manuel Neuer, Germany has continually produced great goalkeepers. The ability of the Germans to bring forth top goalkeepers is no secret, and the current edition of the Bundesliga is filled with high-quality goalkeepers. Two of those goalkeepers are Köln’s Timo Horn and Mainz Loris Karius. These two young goalkeepers, both only 22 years of age, are lighting up the Bundesliga week after week, while they’ve also been the backbone of two of the Bundesliga’s most surprising clubsm the two Carneval clubs, Mainz and Köln. After seeing how similar both of them are, it’s reasonable to compare the seasons they are having, and to see which one of them has been the better goalkeeper thus far.

Comparing the Stats

While Köln have conceded two more goals than Mainz, goals conceded is more of a team stat than individual, with defenders playing a large part in that stat. The individual stats tell you the true story of how well they have done. Horn has the higher match rating at 6.99 compared to Karius 6.89. Horn’s rating being higher means that despite conceding more goal, he has been the better player. He’s had to make more saves and more difficult saves than Karius this season. Both of their match ratings are high for a goalkeeper, but Horn looks like he’s been the better individual player. While that one number might be all that some people need to here, it’s only fair if we dig deeper into the stats to see who has been better.

To do this, we need to see how these two goalkeepers have performed against the Bundesliga’s biggest clubs up to this point. This is because if they want to move on to bigger clubs or play for the national team, they must perform well against the best competition. For Timo Horn, his best performance of the season was against Schalke in the Veltins Arena. Horn dazzled with a match rating of 8.43, making a couple of outstanding saves during the match and earning man of the match honors. He made two saves from close range on Leroy Sane, and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, both of which were top-level efforts for any goalkeeper. His most impressive save was against Karius’ teammate last season Johannes Geis, who whipped in an impressive free kick. As the ball was curling in the net, Horn dived as far as he could and stopped the kick from going into the net. It was truly a world-class save by Horn, and one that displayed his quality. Besides his great game against Schalke, Horn also had solid performances against Gladbach and two solid games against Wolfsburg. He compiled ratings from 6.72 to 6.92 in those games. Based on the stats, Horn has done pretty well in the big games this season

After seeing what Horn has done, let’s see how well Karius has fared against the bigger teams. His best performance against one of the top clubs was very recently, as Mainz took on Borussia Monchengladbach just a two match days ago. The young man from Upper Swabia was fantastic, compiling a match rating of 8.25 en route to man of the match honors. Karius  made a plethora of saves just like Horn did against Schalke. His best save was when he scrambled back to the goal and while he was running back, he made a save on a shot by Raffael. The save showed his great mobility, reflexes and reaction time. Karius also made a couple of saves on shots by Lars Stindl and a good save on a shot by Fabian Johnson. But the best save by Karius was world-class, and he showed his quality in the entire match. Besides his great game against Gladbach, he kept Mainz in the game against Dortmund with his play, and he performed pretty well against Schalke when Mainz went to the Veltins Arena. Just like Horn, Karius has done pretty well against the bigger sides, but Horn made more saves in his game against Schalke. Since Horn was better against the big teams, and has a higher match rating than Karius, he gets the nod for the better individual player.

Value to His Team

Even though Horn has been the better individual, what might be more important is the value that each goalkeeper has to their team. First let’s look at Horn. 1.FC Köln aren’t a team with a lot of great attacking talent, and their best defender is Jonas Hector, who likes to get higher up the pitch. The Billy Goats also play a very defensive style under Peter Stöger, one that is more focused on getting results and staying in the middle of the table rather than aim for Europe. That is clearly the plan for Köln, and it’s worked so well for them this season.

Since Köln place such an emphasis on defense, and don’t score many goals (they’ve only scored 24) Horn is incredibly valuable for his team. The hometown boy has been heroic for Köln this season, and he has kept them in games and gotten them results with some of the saves that he has made. Without Horn, Stöger’s side would likely be in the relegation fight with their inability to score outside of Anthony Modeste. In fact, the only Köln players with higher match rating than Horn this season are defender, outside of Modeste. This shows the the North Rhine-Westphalia club have been relying on Horn and on their defensive tactics.

In almost every game, Horn is called upon to make at least one difficult save, and his ability to make those saves is why Köln  are becoming a force in the Bundesliga. Peter Stöger knew what he was doing when he trusted Horn with the responsibility of keeping Köln in games, and as a result the Billy Goats have been even better this season than last. Horn’s value to his club is clear, and he might be the most valuable goalkeeper in the Bundesliga because of Köln ’s style of play and their position in the table.

Even though Horn is an incredibly valuable player, Loris Karius is also a huge part of Mainz success. Mainz wouldn’t be where they are in the table without Karius, even though they have more attacking talent then Köln . A lot of their best attackers aren’t in form at the moment, and Karius is helping Mainz get results. Since Yunus Malli and Yoshi Muto, Mainz main goalscorers have struggled in recent weeks (Muto is injured), Mainz have been relying on Karius to preserve clean sheets like he did against Gladbach. That game was a great example of Mainz recent fortunes, with Muto and Malli picking up lackluster ratings of 6.3 and 6.9 respectively, but the team still won and defended really well. Mainz have only given up one goal in four games, because they haven’t been scoring goals and have needed to keep clean sheets.

Since they have also struggled for goals at times, Mainz have been playing more defensive as the season has gone on. The pressure has been placed on Karius as Mainz have deepened their line and given their opponents the ball, and he has been great. Whenever the 05ers need Karius to make a save, he makes it just like he did against Gladbach. The fact that Mainz have become more defensive is why Karius is almost as valuable to them a Horn is.

Mainz are surging up the table despite not scoring, which shows just how good they’ve been when they have leaned on Karius. If Martin Schmidt had been relying solely on their out of form attackers in Muto and Malli, they wouldn’t be in the sensational form that they are in right now. Even though Karius has been very important in the club’s rise this season, Horn still gets the nod here. Mainz wouldn’t be threatened by relegation without Karius, while Köln without Horn probably would be, and their playstyle has been defensive minded the entire season, not just in recent weeks. And Mainz have more talent as a team than Köln, which makes Karius one of their stars, not their only star.

Since Horn has been the better individual and he means more to his team, he gets the slight nod over Karius. Karius has been almost as good as Horn, but the talent on his team, and the lower match rating overall and against big sides has made Horn the slightly better goalkeeper. However, both Horn and Karius are terrific young goalkeepers, and the amount of young keepers waiting in the wings behind Manuel Neuer is growing. With Horn, Karius, Ter Stegen and Bernd Leno all being under the age of 24, the German National Team will be well off even when Neuer retires. If Horn and Karius keep plying the way they have, a move to a bigger club might become inevitable, especially because of the track record that German goalkeepers have. And if Horn or Karius can keep playing the way that they have, or even get better, they will certainly be a part of Joachim Löw, or another coach’s, future plans for Die Nationalmannschaft.  

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Alex Lynch

Alex a passionate fan of the Bundesliga and German Football who resides in the United States, who also loves writing and talking about the Bundesliga.