The debate for player of the season will be between two men this year. Martin Dubravka and Allan Saint-Maximin have stood out amongst the squad, as we have stuttered our way towards Premier League survival.
Although they have both had good seasons, it has been for very differing reasons.
Dubravka has performed consistently and was key in winning a large amount of our points, especially in the first half of the campaign. During the period in which we played with a 5-4-1, he was called into action a lot. Without his heroics, we may not have been a Premier League team next season.
The following stats taken from FB Ref (powered by Statsbomb) show how Dubravka compares to the rest of the league and the value he adds to the team. The Slovakian has faced shots worth a post-shot expected goals total (PSxG) of 61.5. This means that it would be expected that a goalkeeper would concede 61.5 goals based on the quality of the shots he has faced.
From these shots, Dubravka has conceded 55 times, two of which were own goals. Therefore, he has a PSxG minus goals conceded (PSxG+/-) of +8.5, highlighting his value between the sticks. Only Hugo Lloris (+9.8) has had a greater impact across the current season.
It is true that Dubravka faces more shots than any goalkeeper in the league, therefore it would be expected that he would have a greater impact on his team. He has faced 184 shots on target and saved 131 of those, leading both of these stats in the Premier League. His total of 11 clean sheets have laid the platform for us to get results, even when we haven’t been playing well.
However, his quality is again shown by the more detailed metrics. Dubravka’s PSxG+/- per ninety minutes is +0.23. This ranks him as the fourth best in the Premier League within this metric. The Slovakian has been overworked and showed an impressive consistency to keep out more shots then an average goalkeeper would have.
One minor disappointment for Dubravka is that he has made five errors leading to goals. This is the most of any player in the Premier League. However, as stated above, he has been the most overworked goalkeeper in the league. If a keeper has more to do, they are likely to make more mistakes, especially with concentration levels needing to be high at all times. He will want to improve on this, but his value to the team outweighs this.
On the other hand, Saint-Maximin has provided electricity to the team performances. His end product has been criticised at times, but there has been a steady improvement across the campaign. The Frenchman adds a dimension to our game that nobody else can. Since the change in formation, he has been much more effective in the final third too.
The Frenchman has contributed three goals and four assists, which doesn’t stand out. According to FB Ref (powered by Statsbomb) he has averaged 4.26 shot creating actions per ninety minutes, which is significantly more than any other player in the squad. Further to this, his expected assists (xA) of 3.6 is the highest of anyone in the squad.
The excitement that he has been most known for is his ability to carry the ball. According to Sofascore, Saint-Maximin averages 4.8 successful dribbles per game with a success rate of 67%. He trails only Adama Traore when it comes to dribbling with the football.
However, those that watch us regularly will know that Saint-Maximin’s impact can’t be best shown by the numbers.
Newcastle have been a much better team with the Frenchman on the pitch. His points per match is 1.52, better than any player except Andy Carroll (1.61) and Ciaran Clark (1.64), albeit both have featured less often than Saint-Maximin.
Our goal difference with Saint-Maximin on the pitch is +4. No other player has a positive goal difference when they are on the pitch. This best emphasises his importance and contribution this season.
Either player would be a worthy winner and it is difficult to compare a goalkeeper with an attacker. For his consistency and quality when we needed it most, Dubravka would get the nod from me. It is difficult to ignore the excitement of Saint-Maximin, but the goalkeeper has kept us in games when we perhaps had no right to take points from them.