Guaita's Stellar Stats Underline Need for New Palace Contract

Written by Alex Pewter

Vicente Guaita once again proved his worth to Palace in Saturday's season opener. Here's Alex Pewter with a look at how Guaita has been a points-winner for the club, and his importance to the club's future.  

Guaita cardiff thumbs up

Crystal Palace's opening fixture against Southampton was a prototypical Hodgson victory. The team scored on the counter-attack after turning the ball over in midfield and held on defensively. At the heart of that defensive effort, Vicente Guaita proved impassable for the Saints, and when a team faces tight score-lines, any advantage can be the difference between victory and defeat.

Since Palace's return to top-flight football, the club has taken a successful 'Moneyball' approach to the goalkeeper position. Rather than overspending on a single option, they've continued to roll the dice with low-fee alternatives in the attempt to find their long-term starting goalkeeper. When Guaita joined from Getafe, he ended that process and has made the argument to be included amongst the best #1s to have played at Selhurst Park, albeit whilst donning the #31 jersey. Palace's "holy trinity" of goalkeepers may need a re-brand. 

Now with a year to run on his contract, with a possible one year option mooted, Palace has indeed found a high calibre starter, but they need to get him tied down long term. Whether this past season has been a complete outlier, Guaita looks to be an excellent option for Crystal Palace and vital to the team competing.

Eliminating the long shots


Compared to the high press of a Liverpool or Southampton, Hodgson's side is content to defend their own 1/3, harrying and batting on the edge of the area. In the 2019/20 season, Palace was 5th highest for pressuring players in their 1/3 of the pitch, compared to 3rd lowest in the opposition's third. A high percentage of the team's tackles and interceptions are all close to the box. Defensively the team needs to minimise errors and contest any chances in the box. Anything from further out is Guaita's to deal with, and he has been able to give himself the best opportunity to do so with anticipation and footwork.  

Cast our minds back to the Liverpool fixture last season, where Hennessey deputised for Guaita. Whilst it's not realistic to expect a keeper to stop a wondergoal, Hennessey has often given himself a lower chance of stopping set-pieces or long-range shots compared to his competition.  Guaita kept the tally down to only two goals when was in goal for Palace last season, and a remarkable improvement even compared to previous years, even 2018-19 where he started twenty games.

Season

Shots OOB

Conceded

Per Game

2015-16

270

11

0.29

2016-17

202

11

0.29

2017-18

177

12

0.32

2018-19

214

9

0.24

2019-20

180

4*

0.11

Stats per understat. *2x goals conceded by WH

 
Guaita Hennessey Watford

2019-20 Difference Maker


In the minds of fans, often only isolated goalkeeping errors can stick out, but an accumulation of saves adds up over a season. Save percentages can be thrown around as a measure of a goalkeeper's ability, however not all shots are created equal. A tame effort straight down the middle would count the same as a shot heading for one of the bottom corners. 

"Expected goals on target" eliminates all the shots blocked by defenders, those missing the target and doesn't punish the goalkeeper for own goals. By comparing this number to the goals the team conceded, it's easier to get an idea of how big a difference a goalkeeper has made to their team as a pure shot-stopper. 

Vicente Guaita Stats

By this metric, Guaita prevented +7.3 goals over the season and ranked second in the league only to D├║bravka, from another team with similar attacking issues to Palace. When you consider the team's record low of goals scored and how tight the season was going into lockdown every goal matters. 

Away from Selhurst Park, it's clear to see which other keepers have altered the outcomes of their respective seasons. Hugo Lloris' absence around the time that Mauricio Pochettino got sacked at Tottenham could have had a significant impact on results, given his contribution of +7.2 in 20.1 games. Likewise, it's easy to see why Chelsea have been looking to replace high-priced Kepa when he ranks at the bottom of the division. 

2020-21 Outlook


The 94th minute of the Southampton game bodes well for Guaita and Crystal Palace. After Wilfried Zaha's great opportunity went wide, Guaita denied Danny Ings only moments later. That save on top of the reaction stop vs Che Adams was the difference between 3pts and 0pts. 

Being optimistic, the balance of the squad could be much healthier in terms of attacking depth. There are age and injury concerns with many of the central defenders, but Roy Hodgson's career would suggest he can always find a way of succeeding defensively.  

If Guaita manages to prove that last season wasn't merely a career high performance, the team as a whole should be having much higher aspirations than avoiding relegation. Possibly talk of a national call-up shouldn't be too far behind.