The anatomy of the rise & fall of Marc-André ter Stegen

A couple of seasons ago, Marc-André ter Stegen was on route to becoming Barcelona's hero. Now, however, he's hit an all-time low. But what caused this sudden demise and is there any hope of recovery?

Just as is the case with defenders, analysing goalkeepers is a very difficult job. Only recently have we started experimenting with some advanced goalkeeper data that helps us understand and explain the role better. And while we’re now beyond rating goalies just by the goals they (don’t) concede, it will still take some time until we’re finally ready to analyse them with the same attention to detail as is the case with other positions. However, in football, almost nothing can be dissected in isolation.

A great goalkeeper can minimise the damage a very bad defence can do but even such high-quality individuals can only do so much. In the end, it’s their net that’s being rattled and their individual statistics suffer because of a lacking collective. This is true for every player on the pitch but arguably affects goalkeepers the most. However, there are certain aspects that are unique to their role and completely independent from the rest of the team. Aspects such as set positions, diving techniques, timing or simply choosing how to make a save.

Marc-André ter Stegen used to be a master of all of those. Or at least, it seemed that way. The German had fought his way up the ladder, dethroning Claudio Bravo to become Barcelona’s number one goalie for the last six seasons, including the ongoing 2021/22. But just as he was supposed to enter the Catalan folklore and mark a whole era with the Azulgranas, his performances started to dip. So much so that his continuity at the club - or at the very least his starting position - is not a guarantee anymore.