Talking Tactics

Why Meslier is among the league's best goalkeepers

By Adrian Clarke 18 Apr 2021
Leicester City v Leeds United - Premier League

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Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier is one of the most exciting young Premier League talents to have blossomed during 2020/21.

The Frenchman only turned 21 in March but has started 30 of 31 league matches for Marcelo Bielsa’s side.

Keeping nine clean sheets, Meslier’s form has steadily improved.

His progress is such that he boasts a superior save ratio to Alisson, his opposite number for Liverpool at Elland Road on Monday.

Meslier’s performances have matched Alisson, making twice as many saves as the Brazilian.

Meslier v Alisson
2020/21 Meslier Alisson
Mins played 2,700 2,340
Clean sheets 9 7
Saves 121 61
Saves from shots in box 74 43
Save ratio 71.3% 69.3%
Catches 17 8
Punches 22 9

In addition to being an agile goalkeeper, Meslier’s domination of his penalty area has also improved a lot.

His confidence when coming out to clear balls helps Leeds to take the sting out of attacks.

Karl Darlow and Alphonse Areola are the only top-flight goalkeepers to have made more punches, and Meslier is also excellent at making high claims.

If Liverpool float crosses into the area, Meslier has the conviction to come off his line to attack the ball.

Keeping busy

Leeds' positive style of play under Bielsa can leave their defence and goalkeeper exposed.

Meslier has had to make five or more saves in 11 of his 31 matches and he will expect another busy evening against a Liverpool team chasing a top-four place.

The France Under-21 international made eight saves in the 1-0 win at Everton this season, a tally he has matched twice, in a 6-2 defeat at Manchester United and in the goalless draw at home to Chelsea.

Meslier saves v Everton

Meslier also made seven stops in a 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge and in a superb 3-1 success at Leicester City.

Top goalkeepers in 2020/21
Saves Saves from shots in box Save ratio
Johnstone 124 Johnstone 76 Martinez 77.2%
Meslier 121 Meslier 74 Pope 75.2%
Ramsdale 115 Pope 69 Lloris 71.8%
Martinez 113 Ramsdale 68 Meslier 71.3%
Pope 107 Areola 67 Sanchez 71.2%

*Min. 10 starts

He has made errors but has also consistently produced top-quality saves.

His reaction speed is outstanding; he is especially adept at getting low to push shots around the posts.

In his first full senior campaign, Leeds' No 1 should feel proud that just three PL 'keepers boast a superior save percentage.

With enormous scope for development in his game, Meslier is among the best in the division.

To claim a first home win against a top-half side this season, Leeds will require a match-winning display from their goalkeeper, and Meslier is capable of delivering at Elland Road.

His future at the highest level looks bright.

Also in this series

Part 1: Everton full-backs are the biggest threat to Spurs
Part 2: Saint-Maximin can trouble West Ham's top-four hopes
Part 3: Andersen's passing accuracy can unpick Arsenal

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