I know I am not going to make too many fans with the article I am about to write. I have been a fan of David de Gea since the time he arrived at Man United. Looking back now, he won us many trophies and made some key saves in every single season he has played in. The analytical side of my mind feels he is not made for the system we have been playing since Sir Alex Ferguson pulled the curtains to his illustrious career spanning 27 years. I am about to explain the reasons why I feel Romero seems a better choice as #1 than David de Gea.
Shot-stopping or Shot-prevention?
De Gea is one of the best shot stoppers in the world if not the best. His reflexes are top class and he is as good at saving shots with his feet as he with his hands. This gives his team a huge deal of security when there is a defensive lapse and an opposition player finds himself free. However, De Gea is not the best at anticipating the next move of the opponent and often he stays flat footed on his line. This means that he invites a scoring chance for the opposition when a more proactive keeper would have prevented the shot by charging out of his line. As De Gea is not one of those proactive keepers, he is often left to save shots which could have been avoided in the first place. Romero is one of those proactive keepers who has to save very few shots because he does not stay flat footed on the goal line. This also means that the defensive line can play further up the pitch to suffocate the opposition when Romero plays. Given the amount of chances United have failed to convert this season, this could have meant a few more chances for Man United to score in crucial games this season. And who knows what might have happened with those additional 3-4 chances!
Poor selection of passes when building up from the back
There have been many games this season when teams have tried to press Man United high up the pitch when they were trying to set up attacks from deep. Often there would be situations when the two CBs of Man United would be pressed by two opposition CFs. De Gea would be a safe passing outlet for the two CBs in such cases. De Gea would then find himself in enough time to allow a midfielder to drop deeper into the space between the two CBs. However he would often select a long pass to the wing or a hopeless punt upfield where the probability of the opposition winning the ball was much higher(especially teams like Burnley,West Brom and Watford excel in such situations). This meant a cheap loss of possession in critical phases of the game when United desperately needed a goal.
Often a CB would make himself free when De Gea had the ball by drifting wide only to find De Gea looping it long instead of passing it to him. As Juanma Lillo says “The faster the ball goes forward,the faster it comes back”, it is no surprise that such situations often present the best scoring probabilities for the opposition.
Romero on the other hand looks composed when on the ball. Even the long balls he attempts are delivered perfectly(trajectory as well as range of his passes are much better than De Gea). In the away game against Celta Vigo, he launched many counter attacks with his quick distribution to the Man United wingers. He imparts a different dynamic to Manchester United’s counterattacking plans.
Stop the headers or intercept the crosses?
A lot of goals De Gea concedes are from set pieces. This is mostly due to his reluctance to venture out his line. Romero, on the other hand, is comfortable coming out of his line and intercepts the long balls by punching them or collecting them before an opponent player can head the cross in. This means that he concedes much less goals from set pieces. There is an occasional risk of making an error when a keeper ventures out of his line but it is not everyday that such errors happen.
Because De Gea does not come out of his line during set pieces, if an opponent player gets a header in , De Gea has to stop the shot. However, these headers are often made from close range which does not give a keeper enough time to stop the shot from going in. One can then only bank on De Gea’s reflexes to save a certain goal. But more often than not, even De Gea cannot save such shots. An example of such a situation is the goal Danny Welbeck scored against De Gea at the Emirates recently. Had De Gea come off his line to punch the cross away, he would have surely prevented a shot and the resulting goal. However,he decided to stay put and gave himself no chance to save the bullet header from Welbeck.
Romero on the other hand has found himself in such situations many times over the course of his Europa campaign. Because he intercepts those crosses before an opposition player can get to them,it does not get recorded as a save. As a result, he does not get as much glory as De Gea gets for the saves the latter makes. But if you think with an unbiased mind, both of these situations (preventing the shot and saving it) help in avoiding a goal. So should they not be equally assessed?
Romero has had 11 clean sheets in 17 games this season having conceded just 6. It is no coincidence that he gets so many cleansheets whenever he starts. I feel he needs to be a regular starter and maybe De Gea going to Madrid may not be a disaster after all for the Red Side of Manchester.