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So Let's Talk About Thibaut Courtois

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I love rain photos. So artsy!
I love rain photos. So artsy!

In case you haven't noticed, one of Chelsea's summer signings is having himself a bit of a blinder down in Spain. Atletico Madrid's on-loan goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is yet to concede a goal this year, having last let one through against Real Betis mid-December. It's not just statistics that have Courtois as superb - reports and visual evidence both indicate that the Blues have a top young goalkeeper on their hands.

Meanwhile, Manchester United's 21-year-old David de Gea is not having such a good year. The 21-year-old summer purchase, Juan Mata save aside, has looked shockingly low on confidence this year, and has suffered the indignity of becoming second choice at United behind something called an Anders Lindegaard. De Gea's looking pretty woeful on crosses and has made his fair share of basic errors - he's not been good, and his being dropped is well deserved.

Oh, and de Gea spent last season at Atletico as well. Why not do a compare and contrast between our next great number one and United's running joke?

Player A: 1.38 goals conceded per game, 0.34 goals conceded per shot.

Player B: 1.21 goals conceded per game, 0.23 goals conceded per shot.

Player A is of course Courtois, and B is de Gea. Wait a second. That looks weird! Shouldn't Courtois be beating the pants off de Gea here? Turns out that that's not happening. You can argue that the Atleti defence was pants before Diego Simeone came in, and that's fair enough, but a shot on Courtois is fifty percent more likely to end up in the back of the net than one against de Gea in the 2010/11 season.

Of course, we don't just care about statistics - Courtois is clearly putting in a very impressive performance this year, and most observers think he's absolutely superb. But most of those watching de Gea last year would have said much the same thing about him. He didn't even have flappycrossyitis last year (that said, I think Courtois is better at commanding the area than de Gea, who's since regressed in a big way, was last season).

The lack of success de Gea's had in English football so far is a warning about those hoping to push Courtois too fast and too hard. Like most, I think that both goalkeepers will turn out as excellent players in the long run, but de Gea's initial run is some pretty compelling evidence that we should let Courtois progress at his own pace. I know Petr Cech's been somewhat lacking lately, but that's no reason to move the kid along too quickly, no matter how phenomenal his record at Atletico.