Erling Haaland bagging two goals on his Premier League debut; Aleksandar Mitrovic bullying Liverpool in his return to the English top flight; Lionel Messi scoring an overhead kick in the first game of the Ligue 1 season.
It's hard to believe the 2022-23 season has already kicked off. It feels like just yesterday that Manchester City won the Premier League on the final matchday of the season, and Real Madrid, Eintracht Frankfurt and AS Roma clinched some historic European silverware.
Now it's time to do it all again: to watch new teams write history, new players make a name for themselves and new stories come to life. To celebrate the start of a new European football season, I've compiled a list of some of my goalkeeper predictions for the 2022-23 season -- but with a twist. Instead of going the safe route, I've added a little bit of spice to my predictions. From a star goalkeeper losing his starting position to a World Cup record getting broken, here are some of my boldest goalkeeper takes for the new season.
Inaki Pena will take Marc-Andre ter Stegen's spot at Barcelona by season's end
The prediction: After a short loan spell at Galatasaray, Inaki Pena is back with Barcelona, replacing Neto as the club's backup goalkeeper. But the promotions won't stop there for Pena. I predict that by the end of the 2022-23 season, Pena will have supplanted long-time starter Marc-Andre ter Stegen as the club's No. 1.
Why it'll come true: There was a point in time when Marc-Andre ter Stegen was undisputed as one of the world's top goalkeepers. But since his career season in 2017-18, the German's performances have dipped. His league save percentage has dropped each season since his Barcelona career high of 79.7% in 2018, down to 70.9% last season; he's failed to keep more than 11 league clean sheets in each of his past two seasons; and his expected league goals saved above average has been below zero for the past three seasons.
He's also been involved in some humiliating losses, such as the Liverpool comeback in 2019 and Bayern Munich's 8-2 dismantling of Barcelona in 2020. Ter Stegen hasn't been able to find his composure since these losses, and his inability to bounce back has led to some fans calling for him to be replaced. This is why I believe the 23-year-old Pena is poised to take over Barcelona's starting duties by the end of the 2022-23 season.
The Alicante native is one of the brightest prospects in Spanish goalkeeping. He's displayed great agility and aerial dominance throughout his development, and his quick footwork and steely composure have made him an excellent sweeper-keeper for both the Barcelona and Spain youth ranks.
Pena is not a finished product, nor will he be one by the end of the season. And for the time being, the starting position isn't Pena's. But what happens if Ter Stegen's numbers don't improve over the first half of this season? What if his save percentage continues to dip? What if Ter Stegen continues to play at the level that has plagued him in recent years?
These are all legitimate concerns, and if Pena impresses in the limited Copa Del Rey minutes he's likely going to get, I can see Xavi Hernandez giving the youngster a chance.
With Barcelona back in win-now mode after Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha's signings (among others), they need a goalkeeper who can provide them with the same consistency, game-stealing performances, mental stability and drive for success they relied on a few seasons ago. This is something I'm afraid Ter Stegen can no longer do (at least, not over a full season, and certainly not in the Champions League).
The club has to look ahead to a future without Ter Stegen as their first-choice goalkeeper, and by easing Pena into the No. 1 role by the end of this season, I think they'd be setting themselves up for success in both 2023 and beyond.
The World Cup penalties saved record will be broken this year
The prediction: In the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic matched the World Cup's all-time penalties saved record when he stopped four penalties in seven appearances. It was an incredible achievement -- but this year, it will be bested. I predict a goalkeeper will break the all-time penalties saved record in the World Cup.
Why it'll come true: Penalties are a tough thing to predict when it comes to major international tournaments. Since most of these tournaments only require a team to play a maximum of seven games from start to finish, goalkeepers don't tend to face a lot of penalties. This is especially true for the average goalkeeper, since most teams tend to play four or fewer games in a single international tournament and might not qualify for another World Cup for years.
But even with that context, I can't shake off the feeling that four is a beatable number. The numbers also suggest that more penalties are being taken at World Cups, leading to more chances for a goalkeeper to break the record. We see this in the rise of the number of World Cup penalty shootouts.
The record for most penalty shootouts in a single World Cup is four, set initially in the 1990 World Cup. Three of the past four World Cups have matched that mark, including each of the past two World Cups. This isn't a World Cup-specific occurrence either. Though no Copa America has matched the shootout record set in 1995 (also four), four of the past five Copa Americas have seen three shootouts take place. In Europe, Euro 2020 matched the all-time single-tournament shootout record (also four, seeing a pattern?), and Euro 2016 hit the three shootout mark for the first time since 1996.
Another number that seems to lean in favour of this prediction is penalty conversion percentage. Since the first shootout took place in a World Cup in 1982, only four World Cups have seen players record a total shootout conversion percentage below 70%. One of those World Cups was the 2018 edition (66.7%), and two others were World Cups that took place in the 21st century (2006: 63.6%, and 2022: 68.4%).
Penalty conversion rates seem to be on the decline elsewhere too. In the Premier League, penalty conversions have dropped significantly since the 1990s; and the 2021 Copa America had the lowest percentage of successful shootout penalties (62%) since 1997.
Though these percentages include off-target penalties, I reckon it also has to do with improvements in penalty knowledge and gamesmanship in goalkeeping. Given the talent today's goalkeepers have as well as the numbers presented above, I'm confident this prediction will come true.
Premier League's Golden Glove will be won by a goalkeeper not representing a top-3 club
The prediction: The Premier League Golden Glove is awarded annually to the league's goalkeeper who kept the most clean sheets in a specific season. Usually, this is a goalkeeper playing for one of the season's top clubs. But this season will be different because the award will be won by a goalkeeper not representing a top-three club.
Why it'll come true: To understand just how bold of a prediction this is, we need to understand how exclusive the Premier League Golden Glove award is.
Since the award's inception in 2005, the Golden Glove has been awarded 18 times. Over that time, nine different goalkeepers have won the award, representing one of just five different clubs: Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. Only two goalkeepers -- Pepe Reina in 2008 and Wojciech Szczesny in 2014 -- have won the award while representing a club that finished outside of the top three that season and in both cases, their club finished fourth.
Given this context, what makes me think things will be different this season? First, although the winner has almost always been a goalkeeper representing a top-three club, the runner-ups, while still largely made up of goalkeepers from the top three clubs, aren't nearly as exclusive.
Of the 54 goalkeepers who have finished first, second or third in a Golden Glove race, 23 of them represented a club that finished outside of the top three that season. These include goalkeepers who were playing for a club outside of the top six, like Emiliano Martinez in 2021 (Aston Villa finished 11th), Nick Pope in 2020 (Burnley finished 10th) and Fraser Forster in 2017 (Southampton finished 8th).
Many of these goalkeepers came in second place too. In fact, eight of the 18 Golden Glove silver medallists were goalkeepers who played for non top-three clubs. These include two of the past three runner-ups.
Although the winners of the award have almost exclusively been goalkeepers representing a top-three team, the podium has a much healthier dose of goalkeepers representing non top-three clubs. So it's not unreasonable to think one such goalkeeper could have a good year and finish the race on top -- especially when you consider the current crop of talented goalkeepers the Premier League boasts.
In the past, most of the Premier League's top goalkeepers were those playing for one of the league's big five or six clubs. In the 2010-11 season, for example, only five goalkeepers hit the 10 clean sheet mark -- and of those five goalkeepers, four of them were playing for a club that finished in the top six (Mark Schwarzer played for 8th-placed Fulham).
Another example is the 2016-17 season, which only saw six goalkeepers hit the 10 clean sheet mark. Again, four of those goalkeepers were representing a top-six club (Forster played for 8th-placed Southampton and Tom Heaton played for 16th-placed Burnley).
Fast-forward to the 2020-21 season, though, and 13 different goalkeepers hit the 10 clean sheet mark -- a record in the 38-game Premier League era. These goalkeepers ranged from Premier League winner Ederson to Nick Pope and Robert Sanchez, whose clubs finished in 17th and 16th.
Many of those goalkeepers are still in the Premier League, in some cases with their same club, and I can see them not only breaking the 10 clean sheet barrier again but challenging for the Golden Glove too. Last season, only four clean sheets separated Alisson and Ederson from Lloris (whose Tottenham finished fourth). If a couple of bounces worked Lloris' way or against Alisson and Ederson, it might've been Lloris lifting the Golden Glove last season.
Throw in some of the new faces we'll see this season (such as Thomas Strakosha, now at Brentford) and I think there's a decent pool of goalkeepers outside of the top three to bet on to win the Premier League Golden Glove.