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Kepa Arrizabalaga vs Andriy Lunin: Solving Real Madrid’s goalkeeping dilemma with a statistical dive

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Kepa and Lunin Real Madrid
Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Thibaut Courtois’ injury was not half the bane Real Madrid expected it to be. The Belgian star may have been one of the team’s pillars on the field, but his tenure on the sidelines opened the doors for the club to discover strong backups.

The men in white signed Kepa Arrizabalaga from Chelsea on a season-long loan deal as their immediate response to the crisis in goal. The Spanish shot-stopper was after all coming off a strong season with the London side, and his quick adaptation to Real Madrid spoke volumes about his quality.

One injury spell, however, brought the roof crashing down on Kepa’s supremacy at the club. Given a hint of continuity, Andriy Lunin stepped on the gas and ensured he left a mark with his consistent displays, leaving Carlo Ancelotti in an acute dilemma.

The Kepa vs Lunin debate has now become a recurring theme in the Italian gaffer’s press conferences, and his stance on the situation shows that there is not much that separates the two in-form stars.

Madrid Universal breaks down the numbers of both players, primarily of this season, and thus provides an overview of their strengths, profiles, and a dive into who is the better option.

Clean sheets

There is a clear discrepancy between the prominence both players have received this season, primarily owing to the prolonged continuity Kepa enjoyed at the beginning of the season. As a result, the Spaniard has started 11 games for Real Madrid in La Liga while Lunin has only seen seven.

Of all his appearances in Spain, Kepa has overseen six clean sheets with a clean sheet percentage of 54.5%. Lunin trails in that regard with three clean sheets and a percentage of 42.9%.

Notably, however, the Ukrainian star boasts of fewer goals conceded per 90 minutes. While his record on that front stands at a mere 0.57, Kepa stands at 0.64.

Kepa was the preferred starter earlier in the season. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Shot-stopping

The PSxG-GA (Post Shot xG – Goals against) is a unique statistic that highlights an individual’s ability to react to a threatening attack and avoid conceding. In simple words, it is a record of a goalkeeper’s ability to counter the opposition’s chances with his brilliance.

Paint a scenario where a shot-stopper is faced with a rampant counterattack. The situation boils down to a 1v1 where the striker has a high chance of scoring. A save under such a circumstance would reward the goalkeeper with a higher PSxG-GA than, assume, a save off a long-range shot that had a lower chance of finding the back of the net.

In that respect, Kepa has faced an average of 0.75 Post Shot xG (PSxG) per game while Lunin has faced 1.01. Taking their shot-stopping prowess into account, the Spanish and Ukrainian internationals boast of a PSxG-GA of +0.20 and +0.44 respectively.

That implies that both players have done exceedingly well in actively nullifying opposition threats on goal, although Lunin has been over twice as effective in that respect.

Distribution

Goalkeeper passes can be broadly classified into two categories – short-range and long-range. The former includes all distributive actions less than 40 yards, while the latter comprises any passes beyond that limit.

Statistically, Kepa averages 6.27 attempted launches (>40 yards) per ninety, completing 2.09 with a 33.3% success rate. Lunin meanwhile completed 1.57 of his 3.14 attempted launches with a 50% success rate.

Lunin also boasts of a higher pass accuracy (91.2%) compared to Kepa (84.9%) and is individually superior in accuracy in both short and long-range passes. The on-loan star, meanwhile, can boast of superior range in goal kicks (an average of over 29 yards compared to Lunin’s 27 yards) and a superior rate of launching the long ball.

Lunin has excelled in the chances he has received. (Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)

Miscellaneous

One statistic that drastically separates the two keepers is their ability to counter opposition crosses and cut off the attack at the root. Lunin, in that regard, is far superior.

The youngster stops just under 10% of opposition crosses into the penalty area per game, stopping 1.29 of the approximate 13 crosses faced. His elder counterpart, however, lags with a crosses-stopped % of just 1.5%.

Lunin is also surprisingly ahead in his ability and confidence in operating as a sweeper keeper recording one defensive action outside the box per game to Kepa’s 0.64. The latter, however, is superior in the number of gross ball recoveries and clearances.

Conclusion

Despite being the one less trusted, the statistics favour Real Madrid’s in-house solution Andriy Lunin to be the more rounded goalkeeping option in Ancelotti’s arsenal.

The youngster is not only more calm in the face of adversity but boasts a superior goal-saving record, cleaner distribution, and better awareness to stop opposition counters.

Kepa provides a strong case to be a starter as well, but it is high time the manager started viewing his Ukrainian option as his primary goalkeeper. In fact, he has hinted at the same in recent press conferences and it remains to be seen if his management concurs with the light thrown by the statistics.

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Features

Real Madrid 3-2 FC Barcelona – Player Ratings

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Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

Still fatigued from their weary 120 minutes midweek against Manchester City, Real Madrid took on Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier today in a fascinating clash.

Unlike the two previous games between the two sides this season, tonight’s Clasico was a very tight affair with both teams having their chances to steal the show. 

Andreas Christensen opened the scoring for Barcelona early in the night, giving the visitors the lead. A clean penalty conversion from Vinicius Jr, however, soon pulled one back for Los Blancos.

Fermin Lopez’s goal gave the Catalans the lead once more in the second period but the advantage was short-lived as Lucas Vazquez cut the deficit once more.

In the end, Jude Bellingham scored an injury-time winner for the men in white and Real Madrid got the result they required. The league title now appears written in their name.

Madrid Universal brings you the player ratings from El Clasico.

Andriy Lunin: 5

A relatively shaky night for the Ukrainian shot-stopper who never really looked confident with his saves. Was very poor in Andreas Christensen’s opener with his decision-making and came very close to conceding to a Lamine Yamal flick in the first half. 

Was directly at fault for the Blaugranas’ second goal of the night as he pushed the ball straight into the path of Fermin Lopez.

Lucas Vazquez: 10

A strong display from the Spanish full-back who once again showed that he is a potent force in the final third. Won the penalty for Real Madrid after some masterful trickery on the flank, setting up the team’s equaliser.

Found a stunning half-volley to stun Barcelona minutes after their second goal, levelling the scores once more. Was vital in the buildup for the team’s winner as well.

Sensational. (Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)

Aurelien Tchouameni: 6.5

The French centre-back was presumably chosen for his prowess in the air but was nowhere to be seen when Christensen netted Barcelona’s opener. Was regularly poor in defending against set pieces, especially at the far post.

Antonio Rudiger: 7

The German centre-back led the team’s defensive unit but was also far from his best on the night. Did not make any glaring mistakes, but fatigue is likely to have impacted his influence.

Eduardo Camavinga: 6

The young phenom started the game well and was a lively presence in the final third. However, he soon began to struggle to keep up with Barcelona’s Lamine Yamal who began running havoc down the flank.

Was caught napping for Yamal’s cross that set up Barcelona’s second goal of the night and was dribbled past twice. Replaced by Fran Garcia at the 70-minute mark.

Federico Valverde: 7

Real Madrid’s midfield machine was undoubtedly fatigued on the night, yet came out at the team’s most valuable asset off the ball.

Completed seven defensive actions and 92% of his passes, executing his duties well.

Toni Kroos: 8

Sitting deep in the defensive midfield, Kroos was instrumental in holding the fortress for Real Madrid on the break. Silky smooth as ever with his distribution and creativity, combined with some no-nonsense defending.

Luka Modric: 8

Showing his quality. (Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

A good showing from the Croatian talisman who controlled the midfield alongside Kroos and Valverde throughout the first half. 

Jude Bellingham: 9

A much-improved performance from the Golden Boy who has been under scrutiny in recent weeks for his dip in form.

Bellingham was vital on the break for Real Madrid, dictating the attacking play of the team. He was immaculate with his passing range and completed 100% of his attempted dribbles.

Of all the Real Madrid players, Bellingham was likely the one who put in the biggest defensive shift when out of possession. Found the back of the net in emphatic fashion in the final minutes of the game to give his side the win.

Vinicius Jr: 8

Another Clasico goal. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

Not the Brazilian phenom’s best night on the grasses of the Santiago Bernabeu as he struggled to conjure up much on the counters. Regardless, he scored a vital penalty and even came close to assisting Rodrygo twice in the first half.

Laid the ball on a platter for Lucas Vazquez, setting up the team’s second goal.

Rodrygo Goes: 7

While Rodrygo did not enjoy too much freedom in the final third either, his runs between the lines often created problems for the visitors. Yet, one felt Real Madrid should have capitalised more on the 23-year-old’s presence in the final third.

SUBSTITUTES

Brahim Diaz: 7

Brought life to Real Madrid’s counterattacks after coming on, although he did not really get into the game considering Los Blancos’ defence-heavy strategy.

Fran Garcia: 7

Did relatively well to defend against Yamal, and demonstrated more defensive awareness than Camavinga.

Eder Militao: NA

Came on too late to make a tangible impact.

Joselu: NA

Came on too late to make a tangible impact.

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