FEATURE | Mike Maignan – next great European goalkeeper

When Chelsea were looking for a goalkeeper from the Emergency First Team to replace error-prone Kepa Arrizabalaga, Sky Sports confirmed they were watching two Ligue 1 goalkeepers: Edouard Mendy from Rennes and Mike Maignan from Lille. If there is one thing former Lille president Gérard Lopez has done well, it is to assess the London side of a possible transfer.

Chelsea were asked to pay £ 32million for Mike Maignan, and they decided the money would be better spent on Mendy. Now that the honeymoon period is over, it’s clear Chelsea missed out on a fantastic offer. Maignan has not only been potentially the best goalkeeper in France, but played up there with the best in Europe, in 2020/21.

Maignan’s headline statistics are huge. He has played every league minute for Lille over the past three seasons. In 2020/21, Maignan had saved 19 of the first 22 shots on target he faced in the league. He has kept 21 clean sheets from his last 47 Ligue 1 games. The 25-year-old has been superb. He is clearly number one in the queue to replace Hugo Lloris in the national team, when the form of the Tottenham goalkeeper finally starts to drop.

Statistics taken from FBREF. Post shot XG (X axis). Consider unblocked and on target shots. Or 50 PSXG, – 45 goals conceded = 5 goals saved. Show if GK concedes more / less than you should have expected. Errors + Pens conceded (Y Axis) – Direct errors leading to the goal / shot, + times the goalkeeper has fouled an opponent inside the box.

Mike Maignan, however, is on the bright side of this metric. As shown in this graphic above, Maignan has saved Lille two goals since August 2019. FBREF say Maignan faced enough shots to concede 39 goals, but Maignan only conceded 37. In terms of Europe’s top goalkeepers, that puts Maignan on par with Keylor Navas, 34, and ahead of David by Gea & Marc Andre Ter-Stegen.

Stats improve when watching shots on target only from open play. Maignan was expected to concede 31 goals in Ligue 1 in this period, but he left only 25. That’s a massive outperformance from Maignan.

Maignan is also the second youngest goalkeeper in the table above. Only the generational talent of Gianluigi Donnarumma is younger than Mike Maignan. Ederson is two years his senior. In a position that rewards experience, Maignan excels with just four seasons of Ligue 1 football.

The calming presence of Maignan

Although he’s only 6ft 2, relatively short for a goalie, Maignan is extremely good at making the goal smaller for forwards. This is due to the way he uses his body. Maignan is rarely forced to make great one-handed saves. His positioning is smart enough to allow him to place his body behind the ball in most cases. Maignan is a very sane goalkeeper, and rarely surprised when he looks silly.

When Chelsea recently gave away a penalty against Everton it was in a situation that would never have happened with Mike Maignan in goal. Edouard Mendy charged on a deep pass and knocked out Dominic Calvert Lewin inside the box. Maignan meanwhile, has made only one mistake in the past 16 months, and has never given a penalty in his entire career.

This clearly gives confidence to his Lille teammates. Jose Fonte and Sven Botman can be calm and relaxed on the ball, knowing they have a keeper behind them who will save their skin.

Maignan is also a chic distributor. Lille are a team that enjoys possession, with their keeper touching the ball around 27 times per game. In 2020/21, Maignan has yet to lose a short pass and has failed with just two passes that have traveled up to 30 yards.

Areas for improvement

Like David de Gea during his time in the Premier League, Mike Maignan has a glaring weakness. He showed his near-perfect positioning collapsed on crosses and corners.

This was demonstrated against Marseille in September 2020. Lille won with five minutes to lose, and a Marseille corner came from Thauvin. The cross curved towards the nearest post. Maignan made the mistake of trying to rush for the ball out of his line, and Valère Germain headed for an empty net. You can see the sequence of events below.

A similar event occurred in Lille’s 3-2 loss to Brest. A cross came from open play this time around, and Maignan made a late decision to head for the ball’s flight path. However, he came out too little too late, and Pierre-Ronael Gabriel’s header buckled on the French goalkeeper and into the far corner.

The numbers back it up too; XG suggests Maignan should have conceded 3.2 league goals from the corners. Maignan conceded six in 2020/21. Obviously, this is something that Lille manager Christophe Galtier needs to deepen.

Overall, however, Maignan is an incredibly talented goalkeeper. The average age of a first team goalkeeper in France and England is 29 years old. Yet Mike Maignan has already fully established himself as a premium goalkeeper six months after turning 25.e anniversary. If the clubs are preparing to attack Lille in this January transfer window, Mike Maignan should be the player who will receive the most attention.

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