If goalkeeping is an art, surely Jan Oblak’s performances in the past 7 years will feature as centerpiece in the museum. Jan Oblak has been instrumental to Atletico de Madrid’s success and their defensive performances. In this analysis the focus will be on Jan Oblak’s performances from the 2016/2017 season to the 2020/2021 season, the latter seeing Atletico crowned champions of Spain.
In this analysis I will focus on a few things. I will use data to assess how well Jan Oblak has been doing in the 2020/2021 season in comparison with his peers and I will use data in general to illustrate the performances in numbers. Next to that I will look at video to assess his abilities on the line, leaving the line and the ability to give a long ball. The data and video used in this piece come from Wyscout.
This will be a five-part series with today starting with 2016/2017 season with Atletico de Madrid.
Jan Oblak played 30 games in La Liga of which 15 games resulted in a clean sheet for the goalkeeper, that’s exactly 50% of the games. He played 11 games in the Champions League in which he had 6 clean sheets, resulting in a percentage of 55%.
In the graph above you can see four metrics by which we can measure the data performance of Jan Oblak. In this particular season, Jan Oblak had 89 shots against in La Liga by different teams. The quality of the shots and the probability of them being converted into a goal would suggest that 25,26 would result in a goal – which is 28,38% of the shots. In reality, Oblak conceded 21 goals in this La Liga season, which means that he’s overperforming by 4 goals less conceded than thought.
He concedes 0,69 goals per game in this particular season, making him the best performing keeper in this sense that has played over 30 games that season. It’s not completely foolproof as this doesn’t incorporate the likeability of a goal being scored or how well the defence has performed, but Jan Oblak did extremely well in this metric.
Saves with reflexes
In the video below you see Atletico de Madrid conceding an attack against Real Betis. A cross from the left is cut back and the Atletico defence doesn’t deal with it properly leaving it to be a shot for Betis. The volley is guided to the far post within the penalty area and it needs a swift and strong response from Oblak. Not only to keep it out but also to push it sideways, so that the opposition can not profit from a rebound.
In the video above we see Atletico de Madrid conceding an attack against Espanyol to the right. The ball is not dealt with properly and Espanyol can take control of the ball and attack with 5v7, but make the most of the situation by going to the right side of the penalty area. It seems like a free shooting opportunity for the home side, but the actions by Oblak make it very difficult for the attacking side. He rushes out from his line in order to make the goal smaller for the attacker. Combined with his reflexes after a hard hit shot, he makes sure to save this particular shot and make sure the instant danger is gone.
In the video above you can see Atletico de Madrid conceding an attack to the left from Real Madrid. Real Madrid combine through the central zones, setting up Benzema in the middle to shoot on target. This doesn’t seem like too difficult a shot to save when you look at the angle, but the reflexes in this case are quite good. When facing a shot from that close range, you will have to bet which side the ball will go. Oblak initially chooses another side, but in his reflex manages to block the ball still, and saves it.
In the video above we see Barcelona having an attacking corner from the right which swings out, meaning it will be more difficult to leave the line and makes the most of the ball, for Oblak. In this case, the ball goes to a Barca player who heads the ball to the far post and to the ground. What makes it difficult to save the ball is that you need to time your dive well otherwise the ball will bounce off you or go underneath you. And, secondly, the ball had such speed and force, that it needs strength from the keeper to get the ball behind his body and make sure it’s saved before the goal line.
Leaving the line
Above we assessed Oblak’s performance and technique while on the line or with reflexes. Another aspect of a goalkeeper’s game is to assess whether he/she can leave the line and clear the ball after a cross, corner, or freekick.
In the video above we see Villareal with a freekick against Atletico de Madrid and it is taken from the right. The ball swings out but will go near to the six-yard box into the goalkeeper zone. In these moments you have to be certain of your decision. Oblak is determined to punch the ball away and does that convincingly. If he had hesitated and not fully committed to this ball, Atletico de Madrid would be very likely to concede from this freekick.
In the video above you can see Oblak defending a corner from the left, which eventually leads into a high cross into the goalkeeper zone. Because the ball is traveling a long time, it’s easier to anticipate and due to the aerial height of Oblak, he can catch it quite easily.
In the video above you can see Atletico de Madrid in the game against Real Madrid when a cross comes from the left. The cross goes deep past the far post zone, but it could be a dangerous situation if Real Madrid wins the first contact. Oblak really needs to get hold of the ball because otherwise the goal is empty and the opposition can make the most of the situation. He rises high and gets to the ball, which allows Atletico de Madrid to start building their attack again.
In the video above you can see Atletico de Madrid in their game against Real Sociedad when they have a cross from the left. It’s again a high ball that gives Oblak the time and space to execute his action. In this case, the defenders prevent the attacking players from progressing up the pitch, leading to an easy save.
These are some of the characteristic saves by Jan Oblak which we have seen over the past few years. My mission is to look at some of the same sorts of saves in later seasons and see if there is a continuation of technique or that he has evolved and tried new things. We will start the comparison in the next piece when we look at the 2017/2018 season of Jan Oblak with Atletico de Madrid.