Premier League Penalty Stoppers: The Champs, The Chumps And Everything In-Between
Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea ended an embarrassing streak last weekend when he saved an extra-time penalty from West Ham's Mark Noble to preserve the win for the Red Devils.
That stop marked the first time since 2016 that de Gea had saved a penalty — with that save coming against Everton's Romelu Lukaku in an FA Cup semifinal. It was also the first time since 2014 that the Spaniard had kept out a penalty during a Premier League match (which, ironically, also came against Everton).
DE GEA SAVES THE PENALTY TO WIN IT FOR UNITED. pic.twitter.com/HTPmhqaARF— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) September 19, 2021
De Gea — who is known for his cat-like reflexes and explosive dives — had faced 40 penalties in all competitions and 21 spot kicks in the Premier League without making a save.
Over his Manchester United career, de Gea has saved just four of the 32 penalties he has faced in the Premier League, good for a mediocre save percentage of just 12.5 percent.
Yet surprisingly, the Spaniard isn't even close to the worst penalty save percentage in league history. In fact there are 21 goalkeepers who have faced at least 10 penalties that have inferior save stats to de Gea.
As of January, 2021, the all-time save rate on penalties in the EPL is just under 17 percent (includes shots that missed the target completely), which means de Gea isn't actually too far off the league average.
This made us wonder about the extreme ends of the penalty-saving spectrum: which keepers could be defined as penalty specialists and which ones might as well not even be in the goal.
Well we sifted through nearly three decades worth of Premier League play to determine the best penalty stoppers, the worst penalty stoppers and everything in-between.
*Note: Apparently penalties is one statistic that the Premier League hasn't really bothered to keep close track of. For example: the Premier League website says that Alisson has only saved one penalty in the Premier League, Transfermarkt says that he has five PK saves, and FBref has him down for one save and four misses. This discrepancy only gets worse as we go further back in time, making this project very frustrating.
I've used a combination of these three sources to piece together penalty save statistics (FYI misses still count as saves in my book) and give the most accurate totals possible.*
Best Penalty Save Percentage in EPL History (Minimum 10 PK's Faced)
* Denotes Still Active In EPL
10) Mark Bosnich (Aston Villa)
Penalties Saved in the Premier League: 6/18
Save Percentage: 33.3
The Australian was a brick wall during the 1995/96 campaign when he saved five of the six penalties he faced in all competitions — including a fantastic stop against Deportivo de La Coruña in the second round of the UEFA Cup.
10) Jordan Pickford* (Everton, Sunderland)
Penalties Saved: 7/21
Save Percentage: 33.3
An excellent 18/19 campaign in which he saved three of the five penalties he faced has buoyed Pickford's solid penalty record.
8) Simon Mignolet (Liverpool, Sunderland)
Penalties Saved: 10/28
Save Percentage: 35.7
Although labeled as mistake-prone during his time at Anfield, the Belgian actually saved over 40 percent of his penalties for Liverpool.
7) Sam Johnstone (West Brom)
Penalties Saved: 4/11
Save Percentage: 36.4
Johnstone faced a whopping 11 penalties in his debut Premier League season in 2020/21, and while his save percentage is impressive, two of them were actually misses off the woodwork. Both of them happened during West Brom's 1-0 victory over Brighton in February in one of the most bizarre matches of the season.
6) Fraser Forster* (Southampton)
Penalties Saved: 5/13
Save Percentage: 38.5
Saving penalties is much easier when you're a 6-7 giant like Forster — as spot kicks cater to the skillset of a player who is known much more for his towering frame rather than his foot speed.
5) Bryan Gunn (Norwich)
Penalties Saved: 4/10
Save Percentage: 40
The father of current Norwich City backup keeper Angus Gunn, Bryan began his career under Sir Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen before spending a dozen seasons himself at Norwich. He played a key part in the Canaries' third-place finish in the Premier League in 1992/93.
4) Pavel Srníček (Newcastle, Sheffield Wednesday)
Penalties Saved: 5/12
Save Percentage: 41.7
Srníček was Newcastle's starting keeper during the club's heyday in the mid-1990's, during which he was the longest-serving foreign player in Magpies history.
3) Manuel Almunia (Arsenal)
Penalties Saved: 6/14
Save Percentage: 42.9
Almunia's most famous penalty save came in that Championship Playoff Semifinal with Watford in 2013, but the Spaniard also saved nearly half of the penalties he faced in the Premier League.
2) Dmitri Kharine (Chelsea)
Penalties Saved: 5/11
Save Percentage: 45.5
Long before the takeover by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, Kharine was one of the first players from the former Soviet Union to play in the EPL. He won the FA Cup with the Blues in 96/97 and then the League Cup the following season.
1) Alisson* (Liverpool)
Penalties Saved: 5/10
Save Percentage: 50.0
The Brazilian shot-stopper has benefited from four missed penalties against him in his EPL career, but that's the type of pressure you put on an opponent when you're one of the best keepers in the world.
Worst Penalty Save Percentage in EPL History (Minimum 10 PK's Faced)
5) Steve Ogrizovic (Coventry)
Penalties Saved: 1/20
Save Percentage: 5.0
Also a talented cricketer, Ogrizovic is considered the best English keeper to not earn an international cap.
3) Paul Jones (Southampton, Liverpool)
Penalties Saved: 1/21
Save Percentage: 4.8
Jones spent the first five years of his career playing for non-league Kidderminster Harriers and didn't make his top-flight debut until he was 30, but he enjoyed seven strong seasons in the Premier League during the latter part of his career. He also tied for the EPL lead in shutouts in 2000/01. It's also worth noting that his only EPL penalty save came against the Premier League's all-time leading goal-scorer, Alan Shearer.
3) Dean Kiely (Charlton, Portsmouth)
Penalties Saved: 1/21
Save Percentage: 4.8
A steady keeper who made over 700 appearances in all competitions, the Irishman is currently the goalkeeper coach for Crystal Palace.
2) Kevin Pressman (Sheffield Wednesday)
Penalties Saved: 1/25
Save Percentage: 4.0
Despite 19 seasons at Wednesday, including eight in the EPL, Pressman only saved one of the 25 penalties he faced in the Premier League.
1) Neil Sullivan (Wimbledon, Tottenham)
Penalties Saved: 1/26
Save Percentage: 3.8
Sullivan is most well-known as being the goalkeeper for Wimbledon during the Crazy Gang's improbable eight-season run in the Premier League.
Other Notable Penalty Statistics:
Most Penalties Faced:
Shay Given (Newcastle, Manchester City, Aston Villa, Stoke City)
Penalties Saved: 10/66
Save Percentage: 15.1
Given has the second-most international caps in Republic of Ireland history with 134.
Most Penalties Saved:
David James (Liverpool, Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City, Portsmouth)
Penalties Saved: 13/63
Save Percentage: 20.6
Despite 25 years in English football, James only has two trophies to his name.
Most Penalties Saved by an American:
Brad Friedel (Spurs, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Liverpool)
Penalties Saved: 10/51
Save Percentage: 19.6
Friedel is one of only six keepers to score a goal in the history of the Premier League.
Lowest Save Percentage of Active EPL Keeper:
Alex McCarthy (Southampton, QPR)
Penalties Saved: 1/12
Save Percentage: 8.3
Based on the shots he faced, McCarthy allowed 8.1 more goals than expected in the Premier League last year — worst in the league.
Highest Save Percentage With at Least 10 Saves Made:
Heurelho Gomes (Watford, Tottenham)
Penalties Saved: 11/35
Save Percentage: 31.4
A long-time veteran with Spurs and later Watfrod, Gomes has a pair of matches in which he has saved two penalties — one for each of his clubs (the only player to do so). The Brazilian's 11 penalty stops also rank amongst the best in Premier League history, with his PK save percentage falling just outside the top 10.