In Safe Hands: The Numbers Behind José Sá’s Season So Far

José Sá has been a revelation since joining Wolverhampton Wanderers from Olympiacos. Uncapped at national team level, Sá was brought in to replace Rui Patrício, Portugal’s undisputed number one and a man with over a century of caps for A Seleção. Big boots, and gloves, to fill.

However, the Braga-born man has taken the Premier League by storm in his first season so far, with a string of magnificent all-round performances. His shot stopping, distribution and overall confidence between the sticks has led to widespread acclaim both from supporters and from high-profile names in the media such as Gary Neville, who recently dubbed Sá ‘the signing of the season’ so far. 

José Sá is awarded the Wolves Player of the Month award for September, winning with 40% of the votes.

His performances raise the question regarding him and his position within the Seleção. Is Sá, who started the season as Portugal’s fourth choice goalkeeper behind Patrício, Anthony Lopes and Diogo Costa, ready for a chance between the sticks for his nation? 

Aaron Barton for Próxima Jornada looks at the numbers behind José Sá’s season so far. 

(All statistics are up to date as of January 6th, 2022. Statistics are taken from the StatsPerform database)

Wolves’ league position, a very healthy 8th place, is largely down to their excellent defence. Whilst they may have struggled to find the back of the net, only Manchester City have conceded less goals than Wolves’ 14 with 13. Keeping clean sheets is a team effort, and it helps when players such as Conor Coady and Max Kilman are in inspired form. Sá however, has more than played his part. 

He currently has the best save percentage in the league for shots faced in the box with a whopping 78.18%. To give that statistic some context, Liverpool keeper Allison has saved 69.23% of shots faced in the box, Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale has a 67.44% save percentage and City’s Ederson has 64.52%. He is also outdoing his predecessor, Patrício’s save percentage for shots in the box in his final season was 58.62%. Sá is ahead of them all, and quite comfortably so.

With Sá topping the table for saves faced in the box, it is no surprise to see that he also tops the table for goals prevented with 4.9†.

Sá currently has 8 clean sheets, the fourth most in the Premier League, but clean sheets alone do not tell the full story, Sá has been excellent in games Wolves have conceded in also. Perhaps the biggest example of this came in Wolves’ 1-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City where Sá put in a brilliant performance. He made eight saves in total, with six of those coming from shots taken inside the box. When Wolves were reduced to 10 men just before half-time, Sá’s job increased in difficulty tenfold. City had 75% possession in the second half, took 17 shots and 10 corners. Sá and the Wolves defence withstood the assault on goal magnificently and were unlucky to come away without a clean sheet. The one goal Sá did concede, was a Raheem Sterling penalty after João Moutinho was bizarrely adjudged to have handballed inside the box, despite replays showing it didn’t hit his arm. 

In September, Sá was voted the clubs Player of the Month by the Wolves supporters for his impressive performances, with an overwhelming 39.15% of the vote. He kept two clean sheets in three Premier League games, the pick of the bunch being his all-action display vs Southampton. His performance was the perfect example of the modern keeper, in addition to making six saves, including a wonderful double save to deny Ché Adams and Mohamed Elyounoussi, his distribution was superb. He played 10 accurate long passes, with the pick of the bunch and the highlight of the afternoon being the assist he provided for Raúl Jimenez. At the time of writing, Sá and Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster are the only goalkeepers to provide a Premier League assist this season.  

In November, in the match against West Ham United, Sá again provided a delicious ball, this time into the diminutive Daniel Podence who couldn’t quite get the ball under his spell. If he had, it could well have been a second assist for the season for Sá.

In the following match against Norwich, Sá was once again at his shot-stopping best, making 4 saves, successfully completing 3 high claims and finishing with a very respectable 69.6% pass accuracy.

If Wolves are to push for Europe this season under Bruno Lage, they will have to find the back of the net more often. With Pedro Neto returning to training in January and Hwang Hee-Chan expected to return in February, theres every chance Wolves can get themselves firing in front of goal. In the meantime, one thing they don’t need an improvement on, is their goalkeeper.

†StatsPerform defines Goal Prevented as ‘the number of goals that a goalkeeper was expected to concede compared to the number that they actually conceded, according to xGOT. Calculated as xGOT conceded from shots on target faced, minus goals conceded.’ 

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