Football Features

Peter Schmeichel: Best goalkeeper in Premier League history?

By Chris Smith

Published: 18:07, 18 November 2019

It’s somewhat fitting that the loneliest position in football is often identified as the No.1 .

That said, you can’t have a game without a goalkeeper – their importance is beyond question. Even in this role there is a difference between a great shot-stopper and a very good one.

Since the Premier League’s inception we’ve seen a number of spectacular ‘keepers. But
who are in the pantheon of Premier League goalkeepers?

Here at Squawka, we’ve taken up the extremely difficult task of ranking the top 10 stoppers in the competition’s history.

Disagree with any of our picks? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!

10. Shay Given

Club(s): Blackburn, Newcastle, Manchester City, Aston Villa, Stoke City

Premier League appearances: 451

Premier League clean sheets: 113

Premier League titles: 0

Most famously remembered for his time with Newcastle United, Shay Given was an incredibly astute shot-stopper and one of the most consistent goalkeepers the Premier League has ever seen.

Frank Lampard appointed Given as Derby County’s goalkeeping coach last year and described the Irishman’s playing career as ‘incredible’. His 113 clean sheets in England’s top flight – basically an average of one every four games – are a testament to that.

Even more remarkable is the fact that Given managed to keep 89 of those clean sheets in a Newcastle side that only finished in the top half of the Premier League four times during his 12-year stay at the club. The Magpies would surely have been in trouble much more often without the Irishman.

9. Thibaut Courtois

Club(s): Chelsea

Premier League appearances: 126

Premier League clean sheets: 48

Premier League titles: 2

Had he not swanned off to Spain to sun it up in Madrid, Thibaut Courtois may have worked his way much further up this list across future seasons.

However, the Belgian was still influential during his time at Stamford Bridge and helped Chelsea to two Premier League titles while in London.

Although he can sometimes struggle at the near post, especially in one-on-one situations, Courtois is fantastic at dealing with powerful, long-range efforts, while his cat-like reflexes pulled Chelsea out of many sticky situations during his 126 league appearances for the club.

8. Pepe Reina

Club(s): Liverpool

Premier League appearances: 285

Premier League clean sheets: 134

Premier League titles: 0

Pepe Reina’s 47.02% clean sheet average is quite frankly remarkable. That’s the highest proportion of any goalkeeper with over 100 clean sheets.

It may have been helped slightly by the fact that he played under one of the best defensive managers around in Rafa Benitez, but the Spanish shot-stopper did more than enough to contribute to that stat himself.

Reina was one of the first goalkeepers in the Premier League to truly embrace playing with the ball at his feet and his agility led to some quite breathtaking saves reminiscent of the Orca’s jump to freedom in 1993’s ‘Free Willy’.

His only real downside was a tendency to have the odd erratic moment, making Reina much more unpredictable than the seven ‘keepers ahead of him in this list. He also tailed off toward his time at Anfield, it must be said.

7. Jens Lehmann

Club(s): Arsenal

Premier League appearances: 148

Premier League clean sheets: 54

Premier League titles: 1

Let’s not beat around the bush; Jens Lehmann was absolutely bonkers. One minute, he was pulling off a barnstorming save to keep Arsenal in a game, the next he’s throwing water at an official in the Highbury tunnel.

However, Lehmann played all 38 games in Arsenal’s invincible title-winning season in 2003/04, keeping 21 clean sheets in the process. At his glorious best, the former Germany international could intimidate opposition strikers into making totally uncharacteristic errors in front of goal and commanded his box as well as any ‘keeper you could come across.

His mercurial nature pushes him down this list a little. But, let’s be honest, he wouldn’t be the Lehmann we all know and love (or hate) without it.

6. Joe Hart

Club(s): Man City, Birmingham (loan), West Ham (loan), Burnley

Premier League appearances: 340

Premier League clean sheets: 127

Premier League titles: 2

Joe Hart may have suffered Wall Street-esque crash in recent years, but you would be a fool to forget just how good the 32-year-old was at the peak of his powers.

As many as 109 of Hart’s 127 Premier League clean sheets came during his trophy-laden time with Manchester City, helping the club to two league titles among those honours.

Hart was – and still kind of is – agile, vocal and can stop an Exocet missile on his day; that accursed left-hand side has been the only thing to let him down over the years. Hart has, however, made 77 saves for Burnley last season, one more than Liverpool’s shot-stopper Alisson.

5. David de Gea

Club(s): Manchester United

Premier League appearances: 287

Premier League clean sheets: 102

Premier League titles: 1

When the spindly, fragile figure of David de Gea walked through the doors at Old Trafford in 2011, few could have predicted just how good he would become.

But despite some shaky performances early on, it didn’t take long for the Spaniard to start proving his doubters wrong and by 2013, he was a Premier League champion.

The 29-year-old has kept over 100 clean sheets in the English top flight so far and just when you thought his confidence may have taken a knock, he’s capable of pulling out a show-stopping performance like he did in Man United’s 1-0 away win over Tottenham Hotspur earlier this year, making no fewer than 11 saves to keep Harry Kane and co. at bay.

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4. Edwin van der Sar

Club(s): Fulham, Manchester United

Premier League appearances: 313

Premier League clean sheets: 132

Premier League titles: 4

After struggling for form during a two-year stay with Juventus, Edwin van der Sar rocked up at Fulham in 2001 and set about restoring his reputation as one of Europe’s most consistent goalkeepers. His 127 appearances for the Cottagers did just that, as well as helping the Londoners extend their stay in the Premier League far longer than many expected. It also eventually earned a move back to the top with Manchester United.

There, Van der Sar helped the Red Devils re-assert their dominance in the Premier League, winning the title four times among a host of other honours, and the flying Dutchman was often regarded as the ‘first world-class Man United goalkeeper since Peter Schmeichel’.

With a clean sheet average of 42.17%, it’s quite hard to argue with that statement.

3. David Seaman

Club(s): Arsenal, Manchester City

Premier League appearances: 344

Premier League clean sheets: 140

Premier League titles: 2

A rock of consistency behind a water-tight Arsenal defence, David Seaman was an unbelievable goalkeeper on the pitch and an absolute gentleman off it.

Seaman helped the Gunners to two Premier League titles during his time between the sticks at Highbury and while he wasn’t the best with the ball at his feet, as was the case for ‘keepers at the time, his shot-stopping capabilities knew almost no bounds.

Seaman also exuded an air of calm behind the Arsenal back four that was only really restored when Petr Cech made the switch to north London from Chelsea (more on him below).

2. Petr Cech

Club(s): Chelsea, Arsenal

Premier League appearances: 443

Premier League clean sheets: 202

Premier League titles: 4

He may have announced his retirement from playing football, but Petr Cech isn’t quite done yet having entered Chelsea’s boardroom as well as dabbling in ice hockey.

No goalkeeper has kept more Premier League clean sheets (202) and only Ben Foster (1,102) made more saves (1,005) than Cech, while his exploits also helped Chelsea to four titles between 2004 and 2015.

Cech was arguably at the peak of his powers during his first season with the Blues in 2004/05, breaking the record for most clean sheets (24) in a single season, while also going 10 consecutive games without conceding a goal.

However, with 443 appearances in the English top flight under his belt to date, his longevity is mightily impressive. No wonder Iker Casillas described Cech as ‘one of the best goalkeepers he has ever seen.’

Honourable mentions:

Before we bring you our number one, here are some honourable mentions that couldn’t be left out completely: David James, Neville Southall, Paul Robinson, Hugo Lloris, Brad Friedel, Carlo Cudicini, Tim Howard, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Mark Schwarzer, Nigel Martyn, Thomas Sorensen.

1. Peter Schmeichel

Club(s): Manchester United, Aston Villa, Manchester City

Premier League appearances: 310

Premier League clean sheets: 128

Premier League titles: 5

An absolute colossus. You would have to travel quite far to find someone who doesn’t regard Peter Schmeichel as the Premier League’s greatest goalkeeper of all time.

While the introduction of the back-pass rule may have highlighted a slight weakness with the ball at Schmeichel’s feet, the Dane was actually one of the biggest advocates of the rule change and the way it revolutionised the game. And in turn, with his trademark starfish save, Schmeichel had the same effect on the art of goalkeeping, making it a truly specialised position.

The 6ft 3in stopper was a key part of five of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Premier League title winning sides, including the treble-winners of 1999, and his overarm sling sent Manchester United on their way to many goalscoring counter attacks. And if that wasn’t enough, Schmeichel even got himself on the scoresheet during a 3-2 away defeat at Everton while playing for Aston Villa in 2001, becoming the first Premier League ‘keeper to do so.