The holiday season is a chance to sit back, eat and drink, but more importantly to reflect on the past year. There have been numerous excellent review pieces on the wildly entertaining Hinrunde of the Bundesliga, so rather than writing another one of those, I’ve decided to go ahead and do something different. Instead of praising the bevy of excellent Bundesliga coaches, or lauding brilliant strikers such as Lewandowski, Chicharito, or Aubameyang, not to mention maestro midfielders from Thiago, to Mkhitaryan, (or tormentors of the flanks such as Douglas Costa) we are gonna drink some Holiday Haterade and look at some of the worst of the worst. So, join me in dishing out some disrespect to those who deserved it the most in this season’s Hinrunde.
As per usual, I’m using statistics and ratings from Squawka and Whoscored.com with a minimum of 10 out of 17 games played as a requirement.
Goalkeeper – Roman Bürki (Dortmund)
So, I understand the case for VFB Stuttgart goalie Przemyslaw Tyton, who has statistically been the worst goalkeeper in the Bundesliga so far. His team has given up 37 goals, 5 more than anyone else, and he has been an active part (whether it be red cards and penalties, or just outright bad goalkeeping) of conceding those. He also has 57 saves and 37 of those have come inside the penalty are – both of those put him in the 5th to 8th range, a far cry from being the worst of the worst.
That dubious distinction belongs to his Borussia Dortmund counterpart, Roman Bürki who was signed in June from relegated Freiburg, after an excellent 2014-15 season with 9 clean sheets. This year, unfortunately. the 25 year old Swiss international has only had 4 clean sheets, but has already conceded 23 goals and made 38 saves. Keep in mind, that Dortmund have undoubtedly been the second best team in the Hinrunde, ranking behind Bayern in all major defensive statistical categories ( e.g.8.2 shots per game allowed to FCB’s 6.8) 61% possession on offense, and a league leading 47 goals scored should also help the defense. This is the very same defense that features the strong centerback duo of Hummels and Sokratis and very capable wingbacks in Ginter, Schmelzer and Piszczek. The argument, thus, is that behind such a generally outstanding team, Bürki has had to do very little – basically 2 saves per game- yet he managed to commit several horrendous blunders (check out the videos above) which cost his team anywhere from 2 to 6 points (Bayern would have beaten them anyway, but the Cologne game was very winnable). Diving deeper into the numbers, we can see some interesting trends. In the Squawka rankings for goalkeepers, Bürki is a disastrous 15th out of 18 keepers, despite being ranked 3rd in posession with a + 104 (Manuel Neuer is 1st with +186, Diego Benaglio is 2nd with +145). In defensive contributions, he ranks 16th with a negative 151 rating.
Overall, the biggest problems for Bürki are positioning and awareness. If I’m being generous I can attribute it to a lack of experience at the very top level (Zürich and Freiburg are not quite BVB – I think we can agree) and the relative infrequency, with which Dortmund and Bürki really have to defend, given the team’s offensive prowess. Unfortunately, when you have goalies like Manuel Neuer, whose team dominates the Bundesliga in all facets of the game, and who faces even fewer shots per game, it kind of invalidates the complacency-unluckiness argument. It also doesn’t help that in our current social media era, any mistake Bürki makes (and he has made 4-5 of them this year) ends up on the Internet in 2 seconds.
As the contemporary thinker, Nassim Nicholas Taleb says “Stop trying to “restore confidence” by denying rumors. If you have to “restore confidence,” it’s because you’re weak.”
Well, then are Dortmund really all that strong at the goalkeeper position?
Let us know in your comments and stay tuned for part 2, where we will look at the worst defenders.