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Roman Weidenfeller: Flashes of Brilliance Among Struggles

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Real Madrid CF v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Last season, when Roman Weidenfeller signed a one-year contract, most people (myself included) expected this year to be his last year. While he has since signed another extension, throughout the year it was uncertain whether or not he would get a chance to play again. For most of the season he was relegated to the DFB-Pokal, save for a month or so when Roman Bürki was injured. While he had some brilliant performances, especially against Real Madrid, he definitely showed why Bürki is considered the number one keeper at the club.

The Good

When Roman Bürki went down with an injury ahead of the Champions League Match against Real Madrid, things looked a bit precarious. Even though Dortmund had clinched their passage to the knockout round, winning the group was dependent on the club’s performance against Real Madrid. Weidenfeller saved his best for that day, when he almost singlehandedly kept BVB in the match until Reus pulled the club level.

Here are some highlights from the home leg:

I don’t know about you, but that video gave me flashbacks to 2013, when Weidenfeller helped stonewall Real Madrid en route to the Champions League Final.

The Bad

While Weidenfeller performed spectacularly in the Champions League, his Bundesliga performances left a lot to be desired. In the Bundesliga he had a save percentage of 57%, a full 11% behind Roman Bürki’s save percentage of 68%. To put that in perspective, let’s say that Dortmund surrender five shots on goal on average, per game. That 11% makes a huge difference, because at that rate, Weidenfeller would give up one additional goal every two games. That might not seem that significant, but it adds up over the course of a season.

In addition, Weidenfeller surrendered more goals than Dortmund surrendered expected goals. I used this same graph in my Bürki review, which shows the goals surrendered compared to expected goals. As in the Bürki review, these stats are a bit out of date, having been last updated in March:

As you can see, Weidenfeller surrendered 1.53 goals per 90 minutes, compared to Roman Bürki, who surrendered 0.83 goals per 90 minutes. In addition, Bürki saved the rough amount of goals that were expected of him, with a [xG-G] of 0.1 per 90 minutes, whereas Weidenfeller had a [G-xG] of -0.57 per 90 minutes.

It is the defense’s job to limit expected goals by keeping the ball out of high-danger areas, and it is the keeper’s job to limit actual shots from going in, wherever they are taken from. If Weidenfeller is surrendering a high number of goals versus expected goals, it means he is letting goals in that he should be stopping.

The Future

Having signed a new contract extension in early May, Weidenfeller will be sticking around for at least one more season. He will play as a backup, unless Bürki is injured. If it is his last season, I wouldn’t mind some sort of appreciation tour, where the club can honor all that he has accomplished in Dortmund.