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Is Ciprian Tatarusanu a good goalkeeper?

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We never seem to talk about the Viola and Romania number 1, so let’s put the spotlight on him and the other goalkeepers in Serie A.

ACF Fiorentina v Atalanta BC - Serie A
Just standing around, as per usual.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

The consensus on Ciprian Tatarusanu is that he’s a perfectly solid, unremarkable goalkeeper, probably somewhere just above a replacement-level player. He’s rarely spectacular, but rather a steady and calming influence between the sticks. The only time we really mention him, actually, is in regards to his frequently dicey but recently improving distribution.

Since we’ve got this whole international break to kill, though, it got me wondering if he’s actually a good goalie. I ran some numbers from WhoScored to see what they’d tell me. Basically, I figured out how many saves each starting Serie A goalkeeper (which I defined as any goalkeeper who’s started more than 5 matches) made per 90 minutes, then worked out how many on-target shots they faced per 90 minutes. I’ve ranked them by save percentage and used saves per 90 minutes then shots faced per 90 minutes as the tie-breakers.

Goalkeeper Team Shots faced Shots on target Shots off target Goals conceded Saves made Save percentage
Skorupski Empoli 16.8 5.08 11.72 1.08 4 79%
Marchetti Lazio 13.4 4.78 8.62 1.08 3.7 79%
Szczesny AS Roma 13.5 4.3 9.2 1 3.3 78%
da Costa Bologna 15.1 5.8 9.3 1.5 4.3 74%
Donnarumma AC Milan 14.6 4.75 9.85 1.25 3.5 74%
Cordaz Crotone 17.8 7.1 10.7 2 5.1 72%
Berisha Atalanta 11 3.88 8.12 1.08 2.8 72%
Hart Torino 11.17 4.63 14.8 1.33 3.3 71%
Sorrentino Chievo Verona 11.2 3.97 8.23 1.17 2.8 71%
Handanovic Inter Milan 9.7 3.97 6.73 1.17 2.8 71%
Tatarusanu Fiorentina 12.4 3.4 9 1 2.4 71%
Bizzari Pescara 15.5 5.37 11.13 1.67 3.7 69%
Posevac Palermo 15.8 5.82 9.98 1.92 3.9 67%
Storari Cagliari 18.8 7.12 11.68 2.42 4.7 66%
Reina Napoli 9.5 3.18 6.32 1.08 2.1 66%
Buffon Juventus 7.7 2.15 5.55 0.75 1.4 65%
Viviano Sampdoria 11.8 3.91 8.89 1.41 2.5 64%
Consigli Sassuolo 13.4 4.93 8.47 1.83 3.1 63%
Karnezis Udinese 14.8 4.28 10.52 1.58 2.7 63%
Perin Genoa 10.2 4.4 5.8 1 3.4 59%

First, a few caveats. Save percentage is hardly the best indicator of a goalkeeper’s quality, as evidenced by where Gianluigi Buffon is on this table. A big part of that is that there’s not really a metric I’ve been able to find or develop to determine how difficult a shot is to stop.

My theory is that teams that tend to dominate possession often concede fewer shots, but that those shots they do concede tend to be via the counter and harder for a goalkeeper to stop. There does seem to be a loose correlation in the data when you look at these numbers against possession statistics, but it’d require a lot more research that frankly I don’t have the time or energy to do right now.

So, let’s return to our original question of, “Is Ciprian Tatarusanu actually a good goalkeeper?” According to this analysis, he’s tied for 8th-best in save percentage, which is pretty middle of the road. If you buy into the argument that goalkeepers on possession-based teams face more difficult shots than goalkeepers who play on counter-attacking teams, he should probably be bumped up a few notches.

Our conclusion, then, is that Tata is, in fact, a bit better than league average. Sometimes, the numbers back up the eye test.