It comes as no secret that La Liga behemoths Barcelona are enjoying a brilliant campaign this season with Ernesto Valverde’s men pushing strong on multiple fronts.
On the back of their 2-0 Copa del Rey victory over Valencia – which saw former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho open his account with the Catalans – for which Jasper Cillessen was the preferred choice on the goal line for Barcelona, it is only fair to reflect on the current form of a player who got his much-deserved rest for the midweek game – Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The 25-year-old German shot-stopper has been in fantastic form for La Liga leaders this season but his goalkeeping exploits have somewhat gone under the radar with all the limelight being focused on Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and now the Brazilian playmaker Coutinho.
It is Ter Stegen, however, who deserves plaudits for confident displays which have been the baseline of Barcelona’s success this season.
Ter Stegen Transformation
Marc-Andre ter Stegen joined the Camp Nou outfit in 2014 from Borussia Monchengladbach. Having signed a five-year deal with the Catalan giants on the back of a €12 million transfer fee, ter Stegen was unlucky to have suffered an injury ahead of the first La Liga match of the season which pretty much defined his first year in the club.
Luis Enrique was forced to turn over to Claudio Bravo who was installed as the team’s first-choice goalkeeper for La Liga, whereas ter Stegen was used for Copa del Rey and the UEFA Champions League matches.
The German was understandably frustrated with his status at the club and was determined to fight for his place in the team despite the criticism he was met with early on. It even seemed ter Stegen cost himself the starting place for Barcelona following a couple of costly mistakes against Celta Vigo, but he was dead set to make it.
With Claudio Bravo moving to Manchester City in 2016, ter Stegen was thrown into the limelight and he never looked back.
Ter Stegen has been a revelation this season – both in La Liga and the Champions League – leaving Jasper Cillessen with a severely limited playing time at Camp Nou. He has also grabbed a firm hold of his chance to usurp the injured Manuel Neuer’s place in goal for the German national side and will be looking to secure a starting place for the upcoming World Cup in Russia.
Numbers Don’t Lie
Ter Stegen has managed to keep 17 clean sheets in all competitions for Barcelona, onlytrailing behind David De Gea (18) when it comes to goalkeepers’ records across the European continent.
During this time, he only allowed 19 goals – 0.7 per game. Ter Stegen made 75 saves (2.8 per game) whereas his passing game stands as arguably the biggest talking point.
The 24-year-old goalkeeper is averaging 29.1 passes per game with a whopping pass success rate standing at 81.9% in La Liga alone. Opta stats state that ter Stegen attempted the total of 616 passes, 505 of which were successful.
His distribution success stands at 83% according to Squawka numbers which makes him the most successful goalkeeper in La Liga in front of Kiko Casilla, Keylor Navas and Tono Ramirez all with 81%.
81.9 – Marc-André ter Stegen is La Liga goalkeeper with the highest passing accuracy this season (505 from 616 passes attempted – + 2 apps). Essential. pic.twitter.com/PPzNDoxztk
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 2, 2018
Never Change, Marc-Andre!
As another great shot-stoppers in a line of modern-day sweeper-keepers, Marc-Andre ter Stegen was always going to be a perfect choice for Barcelona and their attractive brand of football.
He would never allow himself to lose confidence over poor short pass mistakes – that even allowed the late winner against Celta back in 2016 – and was adamant he would not be altering his style of football.
Slightly over a year fast-forward, Marc-Andre is still very much the same goalkeeper who is enjoying a free sweeper’s role for Barcelona under Ernesto Valverde.
With Pique at one side of the backline and Umtiti on the other, ter Stegen sits in the heart of the defence, commanding the build-up play for his team by releasing the fullbacks – Alba, Roberto, Digne and Semedo – with his precise passing.
Keeping the legacy of Johan Cruyff alive at Camp Nou, Barcelona are upgrading the legendary Dutchman’s views on football and – most notably – on goalkeeper’s role in a team with Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
“In my teams, striker is first defender and goalie is the first attacker.”, Cruyff used to say.
Sitting comfortably at the baseline of Barcelona’s build-up play, ter Stegen is enjoying the best season of his career and is en route to break Deportivo La Coruna goalkeeper Francisco Liano’s clean sheet record from 1994 when he managed 26 of those in one season.
The first chance for the German to move closer to this significant milestone comes this weekend when Barcelona play host to Getafe.
The Catalans stand at 3/4 price to win to nil with Marc-Andre ter Stegen expected to be back between the sticks.
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