I don’t think anyone here isn’t amped up about how good Fiorentina has been over the past month and a half. 7 matches unbeaten, 6 straight wins, 2 goals conceded, 5 clean sheets, and revelatory play from Riccardo Saponara, Giovanni Simeone, Germán Pezzella, and Bryan Dabo (among others) have the Viola in the Europa League places. The fans are even whispering about Champions League ball in the next few years (which of course means that catastrophe beckons).
There’s one guy who hasn’t gotten enough credit over this run, though, and that is goalkeeper Marco Sportiello, who suddenly looks like a freaking superstar. He’s kept 3 straight clean sheets and has allowed just a single goal (to Torino) over the win streak. He’s also been doing stuff like this:
SPORTIELLO POINT BLANK SAVE ON NAINGGOLAN pic.twitter.com/TF3P5r2iml— Para (@TheParacelsus) April 7, 2018
It’s a heck of a turnaround for a guy whose starting spot was in question a few months ago. Against Sampdoria, Hellas Verona, and Juventus, Sportiello was, frankly, bad. He was memorably at fault for the Federico Bernardeschi goal against Juventus, but he was pretty poor in the other two as well, leading to speculation that Bartłomiej Drągowski might take over his starting berth. Instead, Marco’s been the best goalkeeper in Serie A over the past six fixtures.
Let’s take a quick look at the numbers. I’ll start this off with the usual caveat that statistics don’t ever tell the entire story on a soccer player, and that goes double for goalkeepers. That said, Sportiello has faced 3.5 shots per match over the past 6 games; the Serie A average this year is 3.01. When you work in the single goal he’s allowed over that stretch, gives him a save percentage of 0.95; league average is 0.70, which means that, through the win streak, Fiorentina would have conceded 1.5 more goals with a league average goalie than with Sportiello.
With 3 matches in this streak that featured a 1-goal differential of victory, Marco might have saved 4 points for this team all by himself. That’s the difference between 7th and 9th, and between competing for a Europa spot and another crushingly hopeless mid-table season. The numbers don’t lie, and almost every number for Marco Sportiello is great. The only one that isn’t fantastic is the one on the back of his shirt; we still don’t believe that 57 is a number that should ever see a football pitch. If Sporty keeps this up, though, we’ll be willing to overlook it.