Francesco Sulas – @FraSulas
The summer arrivals of Pep Guardiola and Siniša Mihajlovic have coincided with a big revolution in their respective clubs. Both managers made it very clear how Manchester City and Torino should have managed the transfer campaign, and this also affected the goalkeeper position. Joe Hart didn’t seem to accommodate Guardiola’s possession-based style and the signing of Claudio Bravo from Barcelona for a fee of £13.75m left the No.1 England’s goalkeeper with no alternative but to leave the club.
At the same time, a thousand miles farther south from Manchester, the new Torino’s Serbian manager Siniša Mihajlovic started his own revolution, planning to sign, among the others, a new goalkeeper to replace Daniele Padelli. Finally, on August 31st Joe Hart joined Torino on a season-long loan, becoming the highest paid player in Torino’s roster (£1.1m a year), ahead of Iago Falque (£0.9m) and Ljajić (£0.7m), both new signings like the England captain.
This article is not intended to give any hasty conclusion on whether the signing of Hart has been beneficial or not for the clubs, as assessing the skills of goalkeepers is incredibly difficult. For the moment, I just try to analyse objectively the first six matches with his new side and try to imagine what can we expect from him in the near future.
Although Torino does not play a possession-oriented football, as its average possession per game is 41% (20th), Joe Hart is often called to play out of the back.
According to Whoscored the Granata’s goalkeeper has played 30.3 passes p/90 making him the fifth highest passing goalkeeper in Serie A so far. However, of these 30.3 passes p/90 only 58% have been successful and among all the goalkeepers that have played at least 6 games, Joe Hart ranked 13th.
This kind of metric is very much influenced by the length of the pass as the longer is the pass the higher is the chance to miss it. Indeed, Hart ranks 4th for average distribution length with 41 meters. Despite only 6 games played Hart numbers seems in line with those of the past season at City when he scored, according to Squawka, a 56% pass completion and 40 meters of distribution length.
Here a visualization from Stats Zone of what Hart’s distribution looks like in his last two games against Palermo and Fiorentina
One of the most used metric to evaluate goalkeepers is save percentage, but in terms of repeatability from one season to the next is really poor. So, bearing in mind that what happened last season does not almost correlate with this season, I need to focus on just six games trying to understand whether Hart and Torino’s defence have been under or over performing in respect to what we might have expected. This kind of analysis could lead to future performance predictions as a high level of variance is included in such small sample of matches.
Inspired from an Alfredo Giacobbe’s article published on the Italian website Ultimo Uomo, we can see how the Serie A teams are performing in terms of Expected Goals.
Serie A table according to xGF, GF, xGA, GA and “Luck” (update at 13th October)
Torino leads the “luck” table with a 7.6 ExpG difference. Focusing on the defence, this means that the Granata’s side conceded almost 5 goals less than expected. Moreover, Torino is also conceding a lot of high-potential opportunities, suffering a 1.6 shot per game with a higher value than 0.3 xG, that is three times the average value of all the shots of the Italian Serie A. A right mix of opponents’ low conversion rate and good saves made by Hart led to a number of goals received lower than expected.
“The Right Mix”
Another way to estimate Joe Hart’s six games is to look at % Saves (saves/shot on target) and comparing it with other Serie A goalkeepers. This metric allows us to understand how much a goalkeeper is good at avoiding goals. Obviously, with more data (i.e. Shot Position) the analysis would be much more reliable and accurate, but at the moment it is clear that Hart saves rate have played an important role on Torino’s over-performing period, leading them into its current 4th place.
Serie A Goalkeepers ranked according %Saves
Source: Scott Willis
Apart from the debut’s mistake against Atalanta, Joe Hart performance have been convincing so far and also against Slovenia, in the international break, he made some stunning saves. Unfortunately, this kind of magic can’t last forever. The underlying numbers are telling us that, if Torino will continue to perform similarly to now, it is expected to conceded more goals that will inevitably affect Hart’s magic. However, next international break will be again a good opportunity to see whether this is true or not.