Bayern were finally crowned champions after Dortmund’s chase ultimately fell short and thus the Bundesliga season has concluded. That only means the beginning of awards season, and pundits and websites have been churning out a steady stream of best of lists. Well, that’s all well and good, but instead of writing the 937th best of list that purports to be edgy – because it somehow does not pick Manuel Neuer as the best goalie, after he had the best save percentage and allowed 17 goals all season, (8 and 9) – we will just stick with what we know and pick the Worst XI of the Rückrunde.
In Part 1 we will examine the worst goalkeepers, building upon our controversial selection of Roman Bürki from the Hinrunde.
But, first, allow me to propose this caveat: evaluating goalkeepers is an extremely tricky, inexact science and could yield some wacky results. Colin Trainor has done some great work on the subject, and has concluded that shot stopping and save percentages are subject to extreme variations from season to season. Take, Rune Jarstein’s astronomical save percentage that was in the high 70s, but is now below average at 70.6, thanks to a few bad games by Hertha and one horrendous game by the Norwegian against Gladbach. Or how about HSV’s Rene Adler, generally ranked in the 10-13 range by Squawka – see pics below- and Whoscored, being ranked number one by Kicker and earning a spot on the team of the season!!!
Let’s take a look at Squawka’s final rankings, aka the rise of Bürki!
So, I may have been unjustifiably harsh on Bürki, as the BVB goalie has had a stellar spring, finishing third in the rankings. While he has probably not been better than Hitz, Leno, or Baumann, Bürki has become a solid netminder, more capable of spectacular saves (Bayern, Frankfurt matches) than committing some dumb mistakes (Hoffenheim match). Dortmund’s much-improved defense should get credit for BVB conceding just 9 goals in 16 matches, but the Swiss keeper was a big part of that, too. While it is true that the former Freiburg keeper had to make the second fewest saves with 70 on the season, the 25-year-old’s stats tell the story, as he made 38 saves, but allowed 23 goals in the fall, compared to eleven goals and 26 saves in the spring! (he missed two games in the Rückrunde)
Here is the bottom, still a two-horse race for the title of worst goalie.
The king is dead, long live the king as they say, so let’s take a quick look at the heirs to Bürki’s throne from the Hinrunde.
Timo Horn is way too good to be ranked so low and has a 74% save percentage (league avg being 70.8) and has been linked with several major clubs, Liverpool being the most notable, until they instead signed Mainz’ Loris Karius. Despite a miserable start to the spring, Cologne have only conceded 21 goals, the sixth best mark in the league, and a stout defense ahead of Horn has been a huge reason for that.
Ron-Robert Zieler is wondering what said stout defenses look like, as his Hannover team gave up 33 goals and got relegated easily. The Germany international who made 76 saves in an epic Hinrunde was tied with Oliver Baumann with 59 saves this time and is definitely leaving for a bigger club, with Manchester City, and AS Roma being the likeliest suitors.
Lukas Hradecky was very close to being in consideration for the bottom three, but his late season performances and conceding six fewer goals did push him up a few notches. He probably somewhat unfairly suffers from one or two howlers changing people’s perception of him, but has been average at least. Then again, in what is probably most important to SGE fans, he only allowed an own goal in the two promotion/relegation matches with 1.FC Nurnberg a few days ago to keep Die Adler in Germany’s first division.
Ramazan Özcan has been worse in the Rückrunde, as Ingolstadt conceded 21 goals compared to 18 in the Hinrunde, and the Austrian keeper temporarily lost his job to Örjan Nyland, who has arguably been even worse in his three games in the spring. On a fun sidenote, Özcan, who also holds Turkish citizenship committed this atrocity against Turkey in late March, giving new meaning to the word international FRIENDLY
Rene Adler was often injured and missed a couple of games after his red card against Dortmund. While he was solid for HSV, conceding just 19 goals in 13 matches, Adler is arguably at least an average to above average keeper when healthy, and does not belong on this list. His deputy, Jaroslav Drobny was probably a little better, with several strong showings in the last few games of the season, but the Czech was unhappy with his situation and thus HSV are replacing him with Darmstadt’s Christian Mathenia, who has been underwhelming for the Lilies. Still, Mathenia’s team stayed up and he got a new deal from a better club.
So that brings us to our two contenders, the Bayern and Dortmund of bad Bundesliga goalies, Przemyszlaw Tyton of Stuttgart and Felix Wiedwald of Bremen.
Whoscored.com also has trouble deciding who is better, with a 6.45 rating for Wiedwald and a 6.47 for Tyton. For the Werder keeper, the recency bias might feature heavily, as his last four games have been his best stretch of the season.
One of his worst games was the 3-3 draw against Hertha, in which Wiedwald was far from his best, allowing three questionable goals. While credit should also go to Vladimir Darida for a great long-range effort and a well-struck Marvin Plattenhardt free kick, one gets the feeling that a better keeper would have not been overpowered by two bombs that were hit right at the keeper and a great one might have parried away the last shot that resulted in the third Hertha goal.
For Tyton, the early parts of the Rückrunde, when Stuttgart was actually in with an outside shot at the Europa League, were his best stretch:
The next fixture on March 2nd against Gladbach, was the quintessential Tyton game: his defense allowed the Foals to run rampant in the box, and while the Pole did well to make a double save on Thorgan Hazard, the second and fourth goals were moments that Benny Hill would have been proud of.
So, then the question remains: would you rather have a consistently bad goalkeeper in Wiedwald with very little upside, or someone like Tyton, who is capable of 4-5 epic howlers, but also of going on a run of 80% save percentages and clean sheets? It’s a tough choice, so let’s look at this wonderful analysis provided by the Global Soccer Network which you can find at https://twitter.com/info_gsn
Tyton – who probably should have won this award in the Hinrunde, rates out as an average to slightly below average main league goalie by SRC, performance, level of play and GSN index. His performances early in the Rückrunde were promising, and I would tend to blame his defenders (many of whom will feature in Part 2 of this series – the worst defenders of the Rückrunde) for putting him in terrible positions. This is mostly anecdotal evidence, but having watched about 12 Stuttgart games in the spring, the choreography of a VfB loss would look something like this: VfB play OK for a while, and if Kostic or Didavi can create something they might even take the lead – this was true for the first 6-8 games – but some absolutely ridiculous defensive error would lead to a goal, after which it was a fait accompli that two or three would follow. Overall, Tyton was definitely part of the problem and not the solution, but I’d place about 30% of the blame on him and 70 on his abysmal defenders.
Wiedwald – who finally, after a year!!!, earned a clean sheet vs Cologne, is actually rated pretty well by GSN, with his 72 SRC rating putting him on the higher end of average main league. His performance is just on the lowest end of average, and is probably buoyed by his recent run of back-to-back clean sheets. By his level of play and current rating, GSN rates him as a fringe main league player, but with some good potential at 26. Still 63.3% save percentage with a defense that on paper should not be a disaster is some damning stuff. His culpability is at least 50%.
Ultimately, Wiedwald, who has also played 400 more minutes (do Werder not have a backup?) and let in more goals than Tyton (65 to 59) wins this dubious award of Worst Bundesliga Goalkeeper by the skin of his teeth, much like how his team have escaped relegation.
I mean this probably actually happened in a real game as well….