Stats that prove Sam Johnstone will be key to West Brom’s survival
If West Brom is to have any chance of remaining in the Premier League this season, they will need more great performances from star goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
In no game has Johnstone’s importance to Sam Allardyce’s side been more evident than the Baggies’ stunning 1-1 draw with Manchester City in December.
Before the contest, no one gave West Brom hope. Even though Pep Guardiola’s side may seem gentler at times this season, getting to the Etihad Stadium remains one of the most intimidating journeys in world football.
It was a Baggies side, it’s also a disastrous form. Their only victory of the campaign had come against unfortunate Sheffield United, and even that was fortuitous. They had also dispatched five goals to a team containing Christian Benteke two games previously.
Despite all the signs of a City win, the Baggies managed to earn a point, thanks in large part to a few goalie heroics from Johnstone. Overall he made seven saves, but it was in the finals that he really showed his worth.
In the final 15 minutes he made two quick saves from Kevin De Bruyne – one from close range and one from free kick – before thwarting the Belgian again by preventing his incredible cross from being brought home by Raheem Sterling. He would then repeat the trick a few minutes later, trying to keep Sterling from waving to the winner.
His display was purposeful and composed, typical of a goalkeeper once on Manchester United’s books. Johnstone’s route to the summit was not the most conventional. Bouncing back into the lower leagues on various loans, he eventually made a name for himself at Aston Villa between 2017 and 2018.
When he was finally released by United, it would be another Midlands club West Brom that he would make his permanent home. A heart-wrenching playoff semi-final outing at the hands of his former team Villa would follow in his debut season, before he finally made it to the top of the pecking order last season.
His rescue performance against City wasn’t the only time Johnstone has garnered attention this season. In the Baggies’ 3-3 draw with Chelsea, he made an amazing eight saves to help the Baggies secure their first points of the season.
His side’s 1-0 loss to childhood club United would have been much more embarrassing without him, too, between the sticks. In this contest, Johnstone saved a penalty and registered a post-shot xG of 3.1. Put simply, that means he saved his team two goals in total.
Several other statistics reflect Johnstone very favorably. During the season, only six goalkeepers (Emiliano Martinez, Nick Pope, Alphonse Areola, Hugo Lloris, Alisson and Kasper Schmeichel) recorded a better PSxG figure with fewer goals against than him.
Also, in terms of the amount of saves, Johnstone leads the way with 77-10 more than second scorer Karl Darlow.
All of this leads to one conclusion: Without Johnstone, West Brom’s situation would be much worse than it already is. If Big Sam is to continue his remarkable track record of bringing teams back from the brink, his star goalie will play a decisive role.