Appearances: 39 starts (none as substitute).
Minutes: 3,240 in Premier League; 270 in domestic cups;.
Statistics (per 90 minutes, Premier League): 0.78 goals conceded (Chelsea career low); 1.61 saves; 69% passing accuracy.
Heading into the 2016-17 season, Chelsea's theme was one of recovery. Having grown used to fighting for titles, the team's historically poor attempt at defending the Premier League title had lowered expectations dramatically. Fortunately for us, the individual and team performances that followed shattered our predictions instead.
Thibaut Courtois was certainly one of those players. His 2015-16 season had been relatively, and remarkably bad for a player who had built himself into a world class goalkeeper and a serial winner. After a year marred by injury and bad form, the new season with a new coach would be the opportunity for him to show that the previous term was only a glitch. And that he certainly did.
Throughout the season, Courtois rarely gave a bad performance between the posts, and even when he made the rare glaring error (such as the giveaway against Manchester City), he quickly made up for it. His save with the tip of the finger against Sunderland will certainly stand the test of time as far as key moments of the season are concerned.
However, a modern goalkeeper's job does not consist solely of shot-stopping and ball-catching — two areas in which Courtois was already excellent. This season he also improved his distribution and his play with his feet (crediting, in part, the recovery work done last season following his injury), and was a crucial part of Conte’s emphasis on building play from the back. His long distribution, while not critical, seemed more accurate than before, especially when targeting wing-backs Alonso and, early in the season, Ivanović.
A goalkeeper is often only as good as the defence and the midfield in front of him of course, so credit is due to them for keeping T-Bo’s workload relatively light. The 8.5 shots against per match was the Premier League’s third lowest, matching the team’s ranking in goals conceded for the season as well. With 16 clean sheets, Courtois ended the season with the Premier League’s Golden Glove, besting Tottenham's Hugo Lloris in the process.
The Good: 16 clean sheets in 38 games in the Premier League, including six in a row at the start of the club-record 13-game winning streak that more or less won Chelsea the title.
The Bad: Giving away another penalty to Swansea way back in September.
The Best: As he himself opined, Courtois’ save against former Chelsea trainee Patrick van Aanholt at the Stadium of Light was his best of the season, preventing a certain draw and keeping the aforementioned winning-streak going.
Verdict: Courtois inarguably reaffirmed himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world this season. While he received major help from Conte's three-man back line and the midfield in front of them, several key performances helped keep Chelsea ahead in the race for the title and himself ahead in the race for clean sheets.
In the meantime, Courtois’ relationship with the fans seemed to be improve as well, even as Real Madrid rumors continued to periodically make the rounds. Both Courtois and Conte talked about using Gianluigi Buffon as his inspiration, both in terms of longevity and loyalty. The latter is a two-way road, and there should be an important contract extension waiting for the 25-year-old this summer.
Courtois is an obvious keep, and one for whom we should fight tooth and nail should Real Madrid circle back around in the near future.
What would you do with Thibaut Courtois next season?
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