15 June 2015

On Adam Bogdan

As of Friday, Adam Bogdan is Liverpool's third signing of the summer, the third out-of-contract player with Premier League experience, and will officially join the club on July 1. Just like James Milner, just like Danny Ings.

You've heard the jokes. Liverpool only signed Bogdan because he had an excellent game against Liverpool in the FA Cup: saving nine shots, keeping a clean sheet, and earning a replay. Which Bolton lost when Bogdan was replaced by Lonergan – because of an injury, because that seems to often happen to Bogdan – and Liverpool scored two late goals. It's the easy joke given the (probably rightful) criticism of Liverpool's transfer committee.

And, to be fair, while Bogdan clearly played well in that FA Cup match, Liverpool's shooting left something to be desired. Which, as you may remember, happened a lot last season.

The backup goalkeeper isn't going to make or break any club. But whether you're pleased with the transfer probably comes down to whether you think Liverpool need a straight replacement for Brad Jones or competition to potentially unseat Simon Mignolet.

Well, Adam Bogdan may be the compromise between those two poles, may be the best of both worlds.

Let's be blunt. Brad Jones was not good. He's certainly a nice guy. But he's a mediocre goalkeeper, at best. You can't help but remember Jones embarrassingly diving the wrong way for Rooney's opener at Old Trafford in December, the beginning of a 0-3 loss, Jones' first league start of the season. You can't help but look at Jones' record: 27 starts over five seasons, just 11 in the league. 1.3 goals allowed per game in all competitions, 1.45 in the league. Even when Mignolet was at his worst this fall and winter, Mignolet was still better than Brad Jones. And Adam Bogdan will almost certainly be better than that.

When available, that is. Bogdan has missed extended spells in the last two seasons, damaging knee ligaments in 2013-14 and both fracturing a finger and straining an ankle in 2014-15. All three have been "unlucky" injuries suffered in training, which makes you wonder whether it's a problem with the player or Bolton's training. He played just 851 minutes in the Championship last season, and played 2610 minutes – 29 matches – the season before. Which is barely more than Simon Mignolet played in the Premier League last season. That doesn't exactly bode well.

But, when available, how does Bogdan compare to Mignolet?

To be fair, one goalkeeper is facing Championship sides, the other Premier League sides. Championship-level strikers versus Premiership-level strikers. There is a bit of a difference.

But still, Bogdan faced one less Clear Cut Chance over the last two seasons, but saved two more than Mignolet. Bogdan saved more Danger Zone shots and a much higher proportion of shots from outside the box as well. Mignolet was more consistent zone-to-zone, Mignolet saved two penalties to Bogdan's one. And Liverpool allowed fewer shots on-target, fewer Danger Zone shots on-target; who knows how Bogdan will react to being less involved in the action. Their Goals Conceded per 90 numbers – Mignolet last season, Bogdan the last two seasons – were almost exactly equal. Which probably says more about Liverpool's defense than either goalkeeper.

Neither keeper is especially good with their feet: Mignolet's pass accuracy is much better, Mignolet makes more short passes and fewer longer passes. But that could well be due to the different styles of each team. Mignolet prefers to punch, Bogdan prefers to claim; ever since Pepe Reina, through the three different goalkeeping coaches and all the different keepers (Reina, Cavalieri, Doni, Jones, Mignolet), Liverpool seems to prefer its keepers to punch.

One is an established, if second choice, international with a good deal of Premier League experience. The other has mainly played in the Championship and has only recently became the second (sometimes third) choice for Hungary behind 39-year-old Gabor Kiraly.

Liverpool are clearly working within a budget this summer. Unsurprisingly. By adding Milner, Ings, and Bodgan, addressing need positions early, they've left funds for a big signing or two to come. A Maty Ryan, Mattia Perin, or Timo Horn would have been a sexier, more lauded signing, but also a more expensive one; the wages would be similar but there'd also be a transfer fee involved. Liverpool see challenging Mignolet as less of a need than the many other needs.

Adam Bogdan has the ability to be a perfectly capable backup keeper. Does he have the potential to be more than that? Yeah, maybe. He seems a very good shot-stopper, albeit against Championship opposition. He's only 27, just a few months older than Mignolet and still quite young in goalkeeper years, but with less experience and having had less of an opportunity to prove himself.

So, while my first instinct is to mock and to joke, like with Milner, like with Ings, this seems a decent bit of business. Not heart-stopping, press-stopping, I've got the vapors and we'll win the league business, but reasonable, okay that'll do, at least Liverpool are marginally improving business. This is the reality we live in.

Granted, Liverpool still has a lot of work to do this summer. Granted, Bogdan still has a lot of growing to do to displace Mignolet. But, looking at the statistics, you can see why Liverpool decided to go in this direction. And it certainly wasn't because of a single match against a misfiring, mediocre Liverpool team.

No comments :