Request: Friedel vs Gomes

20 May

“Any chance of comparison Gomes and Brad Friedel for Spurs?”



Heurelho Gomes signed for Spurs at the start of the 2008-09 season after a very good career with PSV Eindhoven. With the Dutch Giants, he won several plaudits, league titles and also impressed in the Champions League. During his time in Eindhoven, the Brazilian keeper kept a clean sheet in 60% of his league games. Tottenham were signing an established keeper and a Brazilian international. After a over coming an error prone start at Spurs, Gomes went on to establish himself as one of the best shot stoppers in the league. However, the 2010-11 season saw the errors creep back into his game with Spurs missing out on a Champions League spot by one place. As a result, Manager Harry Redknapp decided to bring in the experienced (old) Aston Villa keeper Brad Friedel to provide competition and a bit of stability. And stability was the name of the game with the veteran American who had played 266 consecutive league games for Blackburn and Aston Villa.


The goals conceded per game obviously doesn’t paint a full picture for each keeper as it’s just as dependent on the defenders in front of them. And there’s been plenty of change at Spurs since 2008-09. Ledley King, Younes Kaboul, Michael Dawson, Sebastien Bassong, Jonathan Woodgate and William Gallas have invariably made up the central defensive positions whilst Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Corluka, Alan Hutton and more recently Kyle Walker have been at full back.

King, Dawson, and Assou Ekotto have taken part in each season, with Kaboul currently back in his second spell at the club.

The Stats:

Starting with the basics, goals conceded per game:

The goals conceded per game obviously doesn’t paint a full picture for each keeper as it’s just as dependent on the defenders in front of them, but it can help to paint a picture. Gomes’ first season wasn’t actually as bad as first expected. Letting in on average 1.2 goals per game isn’t actually too bad a rate for a debut season, considering he was considered a flop. Based on a 38 game season, it would have worked out at around 45 goals conceded. Bearing in mind that Spurs finished 8th (Apparently they only had 2 points from 8 games when Harry took over), it’s not too bad. He conceded his highest number of goals against Top 6 teams that season, but it has to be remembered that there were two extra games as Spurs were outside the Top 6.

It was in season two for Gomes that he started to really show top form, as Spurs finished 4th to reach the Champions League. Playing in 31 games, Gomes only let in a measely 27 goals, at a rate of 0.871. Only 9 goals were let in against fellow Top 6 teams as Spurs made the step up. Looking at the table above, it’s by far the lowest rate of goals conceded.

Then something went wrong. Perhaps the threat of Carlo Cudicini had an effect on his confidence, but season 2010-11 was not pretty for the Brazilian. League form aside, he was sent off against Inter Milan in the Champions League (in the Gareth Bale game), whist this clanger against Real Madrid wasn’t out of character for him:

In the league, he let in 1.3 goals per game in an error prone season, that finished in Spurs giving up their spot in the Top 4. It was enough for Redknapp to look elsewhere. Step forward big bad Brad. To the naked eye, Friedel’s impact was solid if unspectacular. He played all 38 games, conceding a decent 41 goals, at a rate of 1.079 per game. However, scratch a little deeper and you’ll remember that 10 goals were conceded in two games against Man City (5-1 at the Lane) and North London Rivals, Arsenal (5-2 at the Emirates). A revised rate of 31 in the other 36 games is a lot better.

So what of clean sheets?

Well apart from Gomes’ nightmare 2010-11 season, there’s not a great deal in it. Friedel leads the way with 14 shut outs, but that’s in more games that Gomes, who kept 12 in both his first two seasons. In terms of the level of opposition, it’s actually the Brazilian that did it more often against the Top 6 teams – and the two clean sheets against Man City in 2009-10 contributed massively as Spurs finished above the Manchester team by just 3 points. He also had the higher ranking average opponent per clean sheet with 10.83 in 2008-09, and 10.71 in 2010-11 – despite only keeping 7.

Next up, is a bit more specific to the keepers – saves made.

Once again, it’s Gomes that comes out on top in his first season. In fact, his calamity filled season of 2010-11 still saw 115 saves made in just 30 games. So whilst he conceded goals at a higher rate that year, he actually made more saves per game. Saves in the big games against the Top 6 were highest in 2008-09, with 45 (12 games), though the 39 made by both keepers in the last two seasons, were in 10 games – 3.9 per game.

Mistakes, I’ve made a few….

Unfortantely for Gomes though, it’s not the saves that people remember about him. No, it’s the mistakes. One last bit of data somes up the two keeper quite nicely – cards. Now generally if a keeper has been booked, it’s because they’ve more than likely given away a penalty with a rash/mistimed challenge. That and the odd bit of time wasting. Friedel had no cards in his Premier League appearances this season, which is a stark contrast to Gomes in his previous season:

Them the stats.

In Conclusion:

It’s ultimately an inexact science comparing two keepers over slightly differing time periods. They’ve had different defences in front of them, and even when the same defences have played, the players will be a year older and slower, or perhaps a year more experienced, depending on where they are in their careers. But in my opinion, and based on the stats, and having watched the two play in the last few years, it’s a slightly on the fence conclusion.

Gomes in his first and particularly his second season was actually a very good keeper for Spurs. He had the best goals per game ratio (conceded), he had the most saves, and also the most clean sheets against the Top 6 teams. In his second season, he also had the lowest number of goals conceded. Many Spurs fans will no doubt have a memory of some World Class saves, but for each of those, their will be neutrals who remember these sort of mistakes:

His confidence unfortunately disappeared in his third season, and the number of mistakes and rash challenges increased. With that in mind, despite the previous good form shown, Harry had no option other than to make a change in between the sticks. At 40 (now 41), Friedel wasn’t signed for the long term, but to help Spurs grab those extra few points to make it into the Top 4. In that sense, he’s been a success. He’s kept 14 clean sheets, and has a decent save ratio. It’s not so much a question of who’s the better keeper, more a question of who’s the better keeper right now. And for Spurs at the moment, it’s Friedel. He’s been safe, commanding and consistant, and whilst Gomes is more likely to pull off the spectacular, he’s also more error prone. Friedel, like all keepers will and does make mistakes, but what makes the best keepers stand out about the rest is the rarity of these.

I’m not sure this ultimately concludes the argument, but the fact that Harry didn’t once use Gomes this season in the league, with just 3 Europa League appearances and one League Cup start. Carlo Cudicini made 7 FA Cup appearances and 5 Europa League starts.

Hopefully these slightly flawed points (due to changing defences/opposition) will help settle the arguments.



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