December 3, 2020

Nick Pope: How does Burnley keeper stack up in race for England shirt?

Pope received a few words and a hug from Klopp at full-time

“For moments it was Liverpool against Pope.”

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp could be forgiven for thinking it was 11 men against one at times in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Burnley.

Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope was in inspired form as he repeatedly denied the Premier League champions, most notably with saves from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane

In total, Pope, 28, was called on to make eight saves from Liverpool’s 23 shots in the game.

It was the latest impressive performance in a standout season for the former Charlton number one, who missed a large chunk of the previous campaign through injury, but will be expected to add to his two England caps.

“We created super chances but there was always one guy who wanted to deny us and it was Nick Pope,” said Klopp.

Pope added: “It’s nice to be involved, you come to big grounds like this and you expect to be busy. You’ve got to come here and you’ve got to be ready for action, I was fortunate enough to come here and keep and a couple out.”

How does Pope compare to English keepers?

So, could Pope be pushing for a start when England are next in action against Iceland in September?

There are six English goalkeepers who have started at least 20 Premier League games this season, including the man in possession of the nation’s number one jersey, Jordan Pickford.

Premier League’s leading English goalkeepers
Player Club Games Saves Clean sheets Goals conceded Errors leading to goals
Aaron Ramsdale Bournemouth 33 113 5 56 1
Nick Pope Burnley 35 112 14 47 2
Ben Foster Watford 35 108 9 54 2
Dean Henderson Sheff Utd 34 90 13 27 1
Jordan Pickford Everton 34 86 8 49 3
Alex McCarthy Southampton 24 71 6 31 3
Tom Heaton Aston Villa 20 68 4 35 0

The number of saves a keeper makes is not always the best indication of their ability as those playing regularly for struggling clubs will invariably face more shots.

It is no surprise then to find Bournemouth’s Aaron Ramsdale as the English keeper to have made the most saves, with 113. This, though, is only one more than Pope, whose efforts have certainly been of greater benefit to his club.

He has a joint league-high 14 clean sheets, alongside Manchester City’s Ederson, while Ramsdale has just five.

Where Pope begins to stand out more is in his save percentage, which is at a healthy 70.06%, although this is second to Sheffield United’s Dean Henderson, who has an impressive 76.52%.

Interestingly, Pickford’s save percentage is the lowest of the seven keepers.

We can dig deeper to get a picture of how well each has performed by taking the goals they have been expected to concede over the games they have played this season and compare this to the actual number that have been scored.

Pope also fares well in this regard, but the real standout performer is again Henderson, who has conceded about 15 goals fewer than he has been expected to.

Again, note Pickford’s place in the list.

“The saves Pope made against Liverpool kept Burnley in the game. Alongside Henderson I think England are very fortunate with the keepers we’ve got,” said former England striker Ian Wright on Match of the Day.

Keeper performance v expected goals against
Player xG against Goals conceded Difference
Henderson 42.41 27 -15.41
Heaton 40.54 35 -5.54
McCarthy 33.44 31 -2.44
Pope 47.82 47 -0.82
Foster 52.86 54 +1.14
Ramsdale 54.77 56 +1.23
Pickford 42.81 49 +6.19

On Saturday, Burnley boss Sean Dyche hinted at where Pope’s true strengths lay when he said: “His dominance around the box is there for all to see. He is unorthodox in that he makes saves you wouldn’t expect him to make.”

Of the aforementioned seven English goalkeepers, Pope’s aerial command of the box is unrivalled, as indicated by the huge number of catches he has made in comparison to his rivals.

For context, Burnley have faced the most crosses from open play in the division this season – 568 of them – giving Pope plenty of opportunity to practice catching and punching.

But with a goalkeeper so proficient at the art, you can see why Dyche would seek to channel opponents into doing so as opposed to attacking his side through other means.