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Is it Time for Borussia Dortmund to Part Ways with Roman Burki?

Have Roman Burki’s performances this season declined to a point that it is time for Borussia Dortmund to replace him?

Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Last week I analyzed Roman Burki’s performances in the last four seasons (here and here), and compared Borussia Dortmund’s #1 with other goalkeepers in the big five leagues. In this article I will evaluate his performances so far this season. I will compare his performances with previous seasons, again with goalkeepers across the big five leagues.

It is worth noting that there is a degree of uncertainty with these numbers, and this is a greater issue with this analysis than with the previous two articles. Half a season’s worth of data is a relatively limited sample, and that’s especially true with measures like PSxG, which incur high degrees of uncertainty anyway. Therefore, this article should be taken with a large pinch of salt. That doesn’t render the conclusions useless, but it does mean anything that is significantly different from the general trends seen in the previous articles should be viewed with a little skepticism.

How has Roman Burki Performed this Season?

While he is currently out injured, Burki has played a total of 16 games so far this season, conceding 26 goals. That is about 1.6 goals a game, which isn’t great for a top team like Borussia Dortmund.

As has been discussed in previous articles, the Borussia Dortmund defense has done Roman Burki no favors. However, there have been a number of occasions this season that have led fans to criticize the goalkeeper too. There’s definitely a sense that this season has seen Burki’s worst qualities amplified, and the best part of his game have become much less prominent. Lets look at how things have changed.

Shot-Stopping

Simply put, Burki’s shot-stopping has been terrible so far this season. He ranks 4th worst out of 82 goalkeepers, with a PSxG % underperformance of -20.4%. This means Burki has conceded a little over 5 goals more than PSxG suggests the average keeper would concede. He’s averaging an underperformance of -0.33 per 90, which is really bad.

PSxG %
Paul Johnson

It’s certainly possible that Burki’s numbers will even out a little bit, as the season progresses. But the underperformance is concerning, and it is definitely contributing to BVB’s woes this season.

Burki’s PSxG/Shot has decreased slightly, from around 0.33 to 0.28, but the number of shots he is facing has increased from 3.8 to 4.5 shots on target per 90, which is also above average for the season.

Goalkeeper Workload
Paul Johnson

So while the shot quality Burki is facing is slightly lower, he is also facing more shots, which seems to even things out.

The impression that I’ve had so far this season is that Burki hasn’t made a lot of glaring errors, but there has been a number of incidents where it feels like he should have done better. That seems to be supported by the PSxG numbers. There are few games this season where Roman Burki has conceded considerably more goals than his PSxG, but he rarely overperforms, and this has gradually chipped away at his PSxG %, leaving a really poor overall performance.

An example of a game where he considerably underperformed PSxG is the 4-2 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach. While Burki conceded four goals, the PSxG for the game was 2.3. This -1.7 deficit is likely driven by the third and fourth goals, but I think the second goal deserves some attention too, because it highlights an issue he has had on occasion in previous seasons.

In this particular incident, I think Burki gets minimal sight on the ball, thanks to Reus and Can standing together in a secondary wall, and seeing it late makes things very difficult for the goalkeeper. This gives Burki very little time to react, and leads to his parrying the ball into the opponent’s path. Nonetheless, this is something Burki has struggled with on occasion, sometimes misjudging the flight of the ball and parrying it back into the opponent’s path.

Shot Prevention & Distribution

While there has been a significant decline in his shot-stopping, the rest of Burki’s game looks similar to previous seasons.

Shot prevention was a mixed bag for Burki, and that has been the case this season too. He ranks 34th for percentage of crosses stopped but he also sits in the top 20 for goals scored from set pieces as a share of total goals against. This was also on display against Gladbach.

As is the case with almost all of the examples I’ve used so far, Burki is not solely to blame for what happens here. First, it is a quality delivery, and a very well-placed header. It’s also made a lot easier by the fact that Can is late to follow the run (though it’s not clear to me if that is actually his man, he may have picked up that someone else had let him go). Burki doesn’t help himself though. He appears to consider coming out to the cross, and he commits quite heavily, and has to get back in place. He is back in position by the time the header heads goalwards, but perhaps if he hadn’t strayed initially, he would have been better placed to make an attempt at a save.

Interestingly, Burki ranks 75th of 82 goalkeepers for defensive actions outside the penalty area (#OPA/90). I’m not sure what to make of this really. But it’s an interesting change from previous seasons, when he was among the highest for #OPA/90.

Finally, when it comes to distribution, Burki’s performances are again relatively similar to previous seasons. However, he has been performing slightly better when playing long passes. He ranks 11th in terms of pass completion, 45th for touches per 90, and 30th for long pass completion.

The shot prevention and distribution performances this season are pretty similar to previous seasons. I think it’s fair to consider Burki’s performances in this regard as about the same as previous seasons. However, the significant decline in shot-stopping is the biggest issue.

What Next for BVB & Burki?

Based on reports coming out of West Germany, and the litany of rumors linking Borussia Dortmund to goalkeepers all over Europe, it seems highly likely that the club are ready to move on from Roman Burki. But is this the right call?

On the balance of evidence presented over the course of the analysis in this series, I think it is the right call. I like Burki, and as Parts 1 & 2 showed, he does do a lot of things well, and he is not solely responsible for Borussia Dortmund’s defensive issues. However, I think Burki and the BVB defense are a bad fit, and a new face might improve the situation. Burki seems to have some confidence issues, and this impacts his performances. Playing behind a leaky, error-prone defense and in a team that capitulates under the slightest pressure is surely not a recipe for success. I think BVB need a goalkeeper that can lead the defense, and someone that has an unshakeable confidence and conviction in their actions.

Regardless, Burki’s performances this season have been poor. It’s possible that his shot-stopping will improve, but it’s not as though he has been lights out in previous seasons. Borussia Dortmund need a world class goalkeeper that can dig them out of holes and win them games. I don’t think Burki is that guy, so I think they should look for an upgrade. In the final article in the series, I will identify several names that I think the club should pursue as Burki’s replacement in the summer.

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