23-year-old Ter Stegen is one of Germany’s gifted generation of goalkeepers, but has only been allocated cup games at Barcelona, where Claudio Bravo starts in La Liga. Despite that, Ter Stegen has been impressive in the Champions League for Barcelona and seems wasted in such a bit-part role.
So why would he join Manchester City, who already have a number one in Joe Hart? That is the million dollar question, should this move take place. Would he really go from the bench of club football’s greatest side to City’s unless he felt a great opportunity beckoned? The Telegraph states that the German, capped five times by his national team, will compete with Hart for the number one spot next season, a challenge that Joe will ‘no doubt relish’.
On paper, Ter-Stegen is much more of a Pep Guardiola goalkeeper than Joe Hart. We all know Joe is a fantastic goalkeeper, one of the best in the Premier League over the past five years, but some of his weaknesses are exactly what Guardiola will frown at – particularly his distribution, which has improved but is still lacking.
So, who exactly would be Pep’s number one? First instinct is that it’ll be Hart in the league and Ter Stegen in the cups to start with, with the two putting each other under the most intense pressure. But I’m not so sure.
Let’s compare the two, using Hart’s Premier League and Ter Stegen’s Champions League performances, where they have made the majority of their appearances. It’s difficult to compare the Premier League to Champions League, but let’s go with the stats that are available (via Squawka).
Ter Stegen averages 2.88 saves per 90 minutes, compared to Joe Hart’s 2.03, while he also concedes fewer goals (0.62 vs. Hart’s 0.98) in this comparison. Joe favours punching the ball, with 0.98 punches per game, while Ter Stegen rarely feels the need to punch, using his fists only 0.12 times per 90. Ter Stegen makes 3.12 catches per game, compared to Joe’s 2.76. These are all interesting numbers, but tell us very little.
The next three stats are very important when thinking about a Pep Guardiola team. Joe Hart favours a longer distribution at an average of 35m, compared to Ter Stegen’s 27m. At Barcelona, the goalkeeper must almost always use his feet, even when pressed by the opposition, and passes it around like an outfield player. The German makes 19.88 passes per game, quite a few more than Hart, who manages 10.56. Here’s the big one: Joe Hart’s distribution accuracy is only 61%, while Ter Stegen’s is an outstanding 88% – that’s even higher than Manuel Neuer’s in the same competition, for the record!
There’s no doubt that Ter Stegen is a more technically gifted ‘sweeper keeper’, the type Pep really likes to work with. He’s comfortable with the ball and can distribute it very well. Like with Neuer at his current club, Guardiola will want his goalkeeper to be able to start the process of creating a goal.
Those outstanding skills don’t necessarily guarantee that Ter Stegen would be a hit in the Premier League, where Hart has so much experience and also carries a height advantage. It’s a different game in England, and despite his preference for technical excellence all over the pitch, Pep may have to make adjustments to his usual approach just as he did when in Germany. Ter Stegen, too, would have to adjust to what can be a very harsh and unforgiving league.
So what we have here, should Ter Stegen arrive at the Etihad, is a true battle for City’s number one spot. Pantilimon and Caballero (forever a hero after Wembley) are competent goalkeepers, but Ter Stegen is something else, a player Liverpool are also willing to splash out £20 million for to make their number one. Perhaps Joe Hart will relish the challenge and become better than ever.
My own view, one that I’m sure many will disagree with, is that if Ter Stegen were to adapt to the demands of the Premier League, he would soon replace Joe Hart as City’s first choice goalkeeper. Guardiola is not one for sentiment and won’t care what nationality Joe is or what he means to the City fans. He’s here to build a winning machine and that may mean unpopular decisions along the way, something we saw from him at both Barca and Bayern. Putting emotion and sentiment aside, Ter Stegen simply seems more of a “Pep Guardiola goalkeeper” than Joe Hart. But let’s see what happens – after all, the deal isn’t even done yet!