Can someone please explain De Gea’s overnight decline?

RashyForPM

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I think we can all agree DDG is a club legend, albeit he deserves the vehement criticism that went his way after that Everton game. But that’s not what this thread is about.

De Gea was the best keeper in the PL and the entire world in 2017-18. He made a decent team come 2nd, when we hardly had any right going by our performances to even be top 4. We eventually got 81 points. He then started 2018-19 well and prevented us from being bottom half and Mourinho from getting sacked even earlier. He made one mistake only iirc, for the Mustafi header against Arsenal, and even in that game, made a sensational point-blank save from Aubameyang. His top performances culminated in one of his best ever games away to Spurs where he made 11 saves and single-handedly won us the game.

And right after that, the very sudden decline. The mysterious, strange overnight decline. Right after that, he became an average goalkeeper who wouldn’t get into any top side in the world. Reflexes got worse, less agile, worse distribution, more cowardly. From best in the world, to mid-table goalkeeper. Absolutely mystifying.

So, as per the thread title, can people come up with an explanation as to why, because I’m at a lost when thinking about it.
 

Shiva87

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I think he is a player that does well when he has lots to do in a game. That was who we were under Jose, where he had to bail us out.

He underperforms when he is not involved for large parts and suddenly has to get active. Explains why he was never as good for Spain, even at his peak, as he was for United.
 

Mindhunter

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I think we can all agree DDG is a club legend, albeit he deserves the vehement criticism that went his way after that Everton game. But that’s not what this thread is about.

De Gea was the best keeper in the PL and the entire world in 2017-18. He made a decent team come 2nd, when we hardly had any right going by our performances to even be top 4. We eventually got 81 points. He then started 2018-19 well and prevented us from being bottom half and Mourinho from getting sacked even earlier. He made one mistake only iirc, for the Mustafi header against Arsenal, and even in that game, made a sensational point-blank save from Aubameyang. His top performances culminated in one of his best ever games away to Spurs where he made 11 saves and single-handedly won us the game.

And right after that, the very sudden decline. The mysterious, strange overnight decline. Right after that, he became an average goalkeeper who wouldn’t get into any top side in the world. Reflexes got worse, less agile, worse distribution, more cowardly. From best in the world, to mid-table goalkeeper. Absolutely mystifying.

So, as per the thread title, can people come up with an explanation as to why, because I’m at a lost when thinking about it.
The decline is anything but precipitous. His overall game has always been lacking in some critical areas like command over the box, organizing a defense, sweeping, communication, and defending set-pieces. He more than made up for it with his otherworldly shot-stopping which was insane. As that aspect of his game declined, the other aspects became more prominent and his mistakes now look flagrant.

The immediate cause for his decline IMO is his lack of motivation for improving himself. Unfortunately, he has nothing left to play for. He is on 350k so even insane performances isn't going to earn him a better contract. He made several howlers while playing for Spain and couldn't establish himself as the undisputed number one. His dream move to Real Madrid fell through because they tried to get him on a cut-price deal that backfired on them.

He is just a reluctant shadow of himself, going through the motions to earn the paycheck. I feel that his past glories make him feel sad about his decline but he doesn't see any upside in the future to really get back the hunger and improve himself.
 

SAFMUTD

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The world cup totally fecked him. He was amazing before that, but after he shit the bed there he never recovered and its been mistake after mistake ever since.
 

amolbhatia50k

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I don't believe in the notion that he was always lacking that some subscribe to. For me, he was genuinely incredible for those 3-4 years, and the best keeper on the planet at that time. His decline has been severe but it happens a lot more often that we think to many a player. Possibly earlier than one would expect in his case given his age when it began, but there may be many factors involved such as not making it big with the NT, not being able to move to Spain when he wanted to and playing way way above the level of his team. Footballers aren't machines and these things do impact human beings.
 

RashyForPM

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I don't believe in the notion that he was always lacking that some subscribe to. For me, he was genuinely incredible for those 3-4 years, and the best keeper on the planet at that time. His decline has been severe but it happens a lot more often that we think to many a player. Possibly earlier than one would expect in his case given his age when it began, but there may be many factors involved such as not making it big with the NT, not being able to move to Spain when he wanted to and playing way way above the level of his team. Footballers aren't machines and these things do impact human beings.
I just wish his best level came now with this current team. Imagine our top scoring attack with prime 2014-18 DDG. People like AWB and Lindelof’s distinct lack of quality would be rendered absolutely irrelevant. We’d win the league wouldn’t we?
 

amolbhatia50k

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I just wish his best level came now with this current team. Imagine our top scoring attack with prime 2014-18 DDG. People like AWB and Lindelof’s distinct lack of quality would be rendered absolutely irrelevant. We’d win the league wouldn’t we?
I dont think we would. A good keeper can't make up for other flaws we have that mean are behind the top teams, regardless.
 

RashyForPM

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I dont think we would. A good keeper can't make up for other flaws we have that mean are behind the top teams, regardless.
Thing is, 2014-18 DDG saved us 10-15 points every season. When keepers like Cech, Alisson and Ederson joined Arsenal, Pool and City respectively, that was the argument their clubs used as to why they would win the league with said keeper. With DDG, that was precisely the case. World class saves every single game, even in home games to fodder like Swansea.
 

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I’d genuinely say he’s embarrassed getting paid so much when he performs like that and it becomes a vicious circle. It definitely wouldn’t help spur you on if your heart wasn’t in it in the first place. The whole world knows he’s the highest paid and his output is amongst the lowest in the league. I don’t think he’s in a rut anymore though. He’s just declined and he was declining before we gave him the contract. He never seemed like a leader or someone with a super mentality. He always seemed quiet and talented, probably the worst mix when it comes to stuff like this
 
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RedRonaldo

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He was brilliant in reflex saving, but his overall game has always been lacking. Once he loss a second or half of his responsiveness in reflex, he no longer has the edge and becomes an average keeper.

Maybe he somehow loss his focus after playing for years here? Maybe he started believing in his own hype as best keeper in the world, so he is getting complacent and no longer has full focus in the game?

Some said the reason is because we’ve changed our GK coach, so no one at the club knows how to train/maintain him in his top form... or my guess is that it could just because of him eating too many dognuts, the high sugar ingredients would make him sleepy and losing focus in games.
 

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His decline didn't start after the Spurs game. He hadn't been terrible but he'd been decidedly average right from the very start of 18/19. He still had a few good matches here and there but he wasn't really doing anything that any other decent keeper wouldn't have done. The exception to that was obviously the Spurs match and from memory he also had a very good game against Arsenal (can't remember if it was 18/19 or 19/20). He continued in that 'ok' form most of that season, then absolutely fell apart in the last two months to the extent that he obviously cost us CL qualification.

19/20 he was somewhere between those points pretty much the entire season. Not as bad as he'd been during that capitulation at the end of 18/19, but worse than the 'ok' form he'd shown most of that season.

This season he started back in the 'ok' form of 18/19 again, but it looks like he's dropping off once again.

Basically De Gea hasn't been the same since the 2018 World Cup. I tend to think the pressure got to him there which caused him to make a couple of high profile mistakes, and then those mistakes combined with the pressure just destroyed his confidence and belief. If he'd managed to get a run of really good performances for us in 18/19 he might have been able to play himself out of it but that just never happened. Combine that with him getting older since then and perhaps losing a touch of his athleticism and reflexes, and he just can't get out of the rut.

The only slim chance I can see of him getting back to anywhere near his best is to be dropped for a month or two and put him in a situation to fight or flight. It'll either build the hunger to fight for his spot and prove that he is best the keeper for the club, or it'll destroy his confidence even more and he can sit on the bench on his high wage or go elsewhere to rebuild his career.
 

Zlatans Knee

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The worst part of it is, does anyone truly think that Romero would have done worse during this time than De Gea? No way he lets in the first goal v Sheffield United, and he would have made it a damn sight harder for DCL to score against Everton.
 

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I don’t think it’s an overnight decline. He’s always been a bit of a fanny and has never commanded his area with any sort of authority. Yes he’s been a world class shot stopper but even that seems to have deserted him the last couple of seasons (certainly since his awful World Cup). The game has changed in the last couple of years, a lot of high pressing meaning goalkeepers have to be quick off their line and good with there feet. I’ve said it for a while now, we’ve conceded a lot of goals in and around the 6 yard box where a brave goalkeeper would come out and take everything. His mistakes the other night cost us the game and not for the first time. He’s costing us points now, not saving us 10-15 a season. These are points that could potentially win the league as well, not just guarantee 4th place.

It’s just another case of rewarding mediocrity and the club not been ruthless enough. He should have been sold at least 2 seasons ago but instead he’s stuck on a massive contract which we’ll probably end up paying half of his wages to get rid of him.
 

cyril C

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Don't know why fans are picking on DDG. Yes it was a poor safe but nowhere near Liverpool's 2 goal keepers' level. Even City's made some mistake. And yet no-one pin point what the hell were our defenders doing on the set piece. 1st of all allowed such foul to happen, then 3 men was out-jumped by 1 Everton player, and leaving their most lethal forward unmarked.
 

NinjaZombie

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I think he is a player that does well when he has lots to do in a game. That was who we were under Jose, where he had to bail us out.

He underperforms when he is not involved for large parts and suddenly has to get active. Explains why he was never as good for Spain, even at his peak, as he was for United.
I agree. Went into the thread wanting to say this.

I think it's no coincidence that he's been terrible since Ole has come and steadied the ship a little bit. Your point on his performances for Spain I agree with as well.
 

Pexbo

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I think people fail to understand just how much of a psychological impact a bad match can have on goalkeepers. Their game is so instinctive and anything that makes them second guess their decisions is going to have a huge impact. Take Allison for a example, after those howlers against City he was never the same again and it lead to the dramatic downfall of Liverpool and years of flirting with relegation.
 

padzilla

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It's not an overnight decline. He has been average at best, and quite often poor, since the 2018 World Cup. His contract must state he starts PL games when fit.
 

rcoobc

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I think people fail to understand just how much of a psychological impact a bad match can have on goalkeepers. Their game is so instinctive and anything that makes them second guess their decisions is going to have a huge impact. Take Allison for a example, after those howlers against City he was never the same again and it lead to the dramatic downfall of Liverpool and years of flirting with relegation.
Those were sad times. Does anyone else feel that they'd like Liverpool to become a too club again? I feel that football is missing something in that rivalry
 

MadDogg

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Don't know why fans are picking on DDG. Yes it was a poor safe but nowhere near Liverpool's 2 goal keepers' level. Even City's made some mistake. And yet no-one pin point what the hell were our defenders doing on the set piece. 1st of all allowed such foul to happen, then 3 men was out-jumped by 1 Everton player, and leaving their most lethal forward unmarked.
Nobody is 'picking' on De Gea because of the mistakes he made against Everton. It's because he's been poor for two and a half seasons now. If either Liverpool or City's goalkeepers proceed to be poor for that period of time we'll all be loving it and hoping that they keep faith in those keepers.

I think people fail to understand just how much of a psychological impact a bad match can have on goalkeepers. Their game is so instinctive and anything that makes them second guess their decisions is going to have a huge impact. Take Allison for a example, after those howlers against City he was never the same again and it lead to the dramatic downfall of Liverpool and years of flirting with relegation.
:drool:
 

DuruttiColumn

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He’s definitely become that most dangerous thing: An “unreliable” keeper.

im not sure our defense knows what to expect from him now, and that uncertainty spreads throughout our back 6.
 

sglowrider

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He doesn't seem to have worked on his glaring weaknesses. Needs to be more commanding of his area and crosses to name a few, rarely comes out of his box.
After a few years, coaches know how to target his weaknesses. The maddening thing is that he just hasn't worked on them or certainly doesnt seem like it. He stayed the same.
 

Nevilles.Wear.Prada

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I think people fail to understand just how much of a psychological impact a bad match can have on goalkeepers. Their game is so instinctive and anything that makes them second guess their decisions is going to have a huge impact. Take Allison for a example, after those howlers against City he was never the same again and it lead to the dramatic downfall of Liverpool and years of flirting with relegation.
Ffs
 

elmo

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He's paid very well and knows he won't be dropped no matter what.

There's a reason why Sir Alex rarely kept players on for so long at the club without getting in potential replacements to keep them on the edge, players need competition no matter who they are.
 

RashyForPM

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I don’t think it’s an overnight decline. He’s always been a bit of a fanny and has never commanded his area with any sort of authority. Yes he’s been a world class shot stopper but even that seems to have deserted him the last couple of seasons (certainly since his awful World Cup). The game has changed in the last couple of years, a lot of high pressing meaning goalkeepers have to be quick off their line and good with there feet. I’ve said it for a while now, we’ve conceded a lot of goals in and around the 6 yard box where a brave goalkeeper would come out and take everything. His mistakes the other night cost us the game and not for the first time. He’s costing us points now, not saving us 10-15 a season. These are points that could potentially win the league as well, not just guarantee 4th place.

It’s just another case of rewarding mediocrity and the club not been ruthless enough. He should have been sold at least 2 seasons ago but instead he’s stuck on a massive contract which we’ll probably end up paying half of his wages to get rid of him.
The reason I called it an overnight decline was because even though his level dipped after the World Cup, he was still our POTY up to January imo and the reason Mourinho lasted that long. He performed while every single other player, maybe bar Martial when he hit form, faltered. Then, after the Spurs game, he absolutely fell apart and hasn’t had a single top performance since, making more mistakes than good contributions.

Aside from that, I generally agree. We should never have given him a bumper new contract when he was already on the decline :houllier: Madness, up there with the Jones renewal. We must upgrade on him soon, possibly with Henderson as I want him to be our keeper for the next 15 years and fulfil his boundless potential.
 

Carl

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Overnight? It's been a fairly noticeable decline for a few years now and is at the point currently where I'd probably take at least 10 other PL goalkeepers ahead of him.
 

Gio

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A combination of style and an early peak. Keepers of his style (reflex/spectacular rather than solid/unspectacular) rarely age well and often fall off a cliff at the back end of their careers. And then you have to consider his early peak, where he was brilliant from his late teens and held that till 27 or so. Very few keepers will hold a longer peak than what he has - his peak just came a lot earlier than the average goalie.
 

red4ever 79

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Was it an overnight decline? He came back from the World Cup made a lot of mistakes and has been poor now for what 2-3 years.
 

Champ

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Whilst not at his utmost peak, DDG has definitely not been consistently poor.
This is the issue with being a GK, if you have a bad moment, it is amplified due to its significance.
De Gea has had a few bad moments, but he's also had some very good games.
Has anyone thought that it could well be down to the relatively new senior GK coach that Ole brought in that has caused this?
 

Bebestation

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It's pretty obvious to me.

1. the general goalkeeper

It's quite well known that Goalkeepers tend to get better deep in to their age. The increase in their experience helps their understanding of handling of situations, how to control their box and their defenders, how to to anticipate dangers, how to make themselves bigger and to stop the angle alongside knowing how to play through pressure and start a counter attack.

The Goalkeeper role might be a bit different now because their needs a bit more productive energy - ie from sweeper keeper, coming out with the ball at their feet whilst playing through team pressing and pressure before making an accurate pass; however the GK role to me is still the least energy enducing role alongside it being the one that can grows with experience of situations.

2. The problem of De Gea

De gea has always been a different style Goalkeeper. As a young goalkeeper his reflexes were so good that it was viewed that we had a different goalkeeper to everyone else, a better one and a more hard to penetrate type of goal keeper. Many would argue his reflexes were so good that people thought it was a generational level talent of a goalkeeper.

However, his reflexes were as close as you could get to 100% that it ended up covering up alot of his inadequacies. He didnt have the ability to come out off his line, he can struggle to catch a ball from corners, he isnt particularly strong for a goalkeeper, he doesnt control his box or defenders and ultimately his experience in situations is singled out to being only a reflex based goalkeeper.

As he has aged he hasnt progressed on his weaknesses such as box control (other goalkeepers gain this from experience) and his reflex has started to dim down (which happens to all goalkeepers through age.)

Reflex saves relies on alot of physical and mental abilities such as saving with your foot or diving left and right or the ability to be very quick and reactive to a situation. De gea has started to show weaknesses in this aspect of a goalkeeper (as all goalkeepers do with age) but it was arguably De Gea's main and only skill he had relied upon as a goalkeeper.
 

No Spring Chicken

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It hasn't been overnight, his decline has been pretty steady to be honest. Check out his stats for the last four years. (Ranking among first choice PL goalkeepers only, out of 20)

2017-20182018-20192019-20202020-2021
Shot Stopping (PSxG-GA)2nd8th10th15th
Crosses collected16th17th16th19th
Sweeping (coming out early)14th18th17th17th
Errors leading to goals04 (3rd most)3 (3rd most)1 (Joint 5th)


De Gea is still able to pull off outstanding saves that are good for YouTube and easy to talk about in post-match. Its similar for his mistakes, when they happen they tend to stand out. As a result, arguments about De Gea tend to focus on "this amazing save" vs "that terrible mistake" with fans minutely dissecting each to try and prove a point. In truth the occasional outstanding save or terrible howler are not the real issue.

Three or four mistakes a season might seem bad, but you can live with them if a goalkeeper is otherwise outstanding. Nick Pope for example has made more mistakes leading to goals than De Gea (2 vs 1). But Nick Pope is the best shot stopper, best cross taker and 2nd best sweeper in the country. Based on xG, he's saved Burnley 8 goals that De Gea would have conceded. So mistakes can be a red herring when looking at a goalie. The real issue is that his fundamentals have gone to pot. So far this season, De Gea is among the worst keepers in the league on the basics.

This hasn't happened overnight. All that's really happened is that the fans have kind of accepted that De Gea is world class from back when he was, so they only really question that when high profile mistakes come along. Then when a good performance comes along, they tend to think that the mistakes must have been a fluke and he's back to normal. Slowly though, fans have noticed that the high profile saves seem to happen less and less, and begun to look at his performances more closely. And when they've looked at those performances, they're realised there's a bigger problem there than just the odd howler or two.
 

GazTheLegend

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I think he is a player that does well when he has lots to do in a game. That was who we were under Jose, where he had to bail us out.

He underperforms when he is not involved for large parts and suddenly has to get active. Explains why he was never as good for Spain, even at his peak, as he was for United.
Exactly how I feel. Its a concentration thing with de Gea. The less he does, the more tentative he gets. He needs to be involved, but that's no good when you're playing well.
 

Matt007a

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As his agility and shot stopping has declined with age, his other weaknesses have become more obvious. Add to that the fact that other teams now deliberately target him with in-swinging corners and free kicks dropped right into the 6 yard box.

His confidence has gone and he’s not going to learn how to be brave. That’s a trait you either have or you don’t. If he won’t contest a 50/50 ball at his age, he never will. His contract is a massive problem in terms of shifting him but it’s time to suck it up and change. Give Henderson a proper run of 10-15 games to see how he does, then decide at the end of the season whether it’s Henderson or a new signing.

No team has ever won the league with a keeper who makes regular mistakes. You can still pull it off when 1 or 2 outfield players are not quite at the level of those around them, but not a goalkeeper. If Henderson doesn’t step up when given a chance then it should become the #1 priority signing, above both CB and RW.
 

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I agree with a lot of posters, DeGea has declined slowly over the last couple of seasons. He's always had a below par for a top club defence in front of him, so no change there. Maybe it's the money, but it could just be a natural thing. Look at Torres. One of the best strikers in the world, then declined rapidly with nothing standing out why that happened. It sometimes just happens. I just hope we don't dilly dally and get either Henderson playing between the sticks, and if that don't work get another keeper in, in the summer.
 

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His decline can be "easily" explained by age, because his reactions were unreal.

The more interesting question is if he ever improved any part of his game since coming to England? He was always a fantastic shot stopper, but after all those years when his confidence is gone I still see the same boy scared of leaving his line.
 

JG3001

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He’s always been a flapper on crosses, but I don’t buy this narrative he was always terrible. At least he used to actually get into a tussle and punch the ball, these days though... He looks scared shitless to get off the line.

His distribution used to be decent as well. Think it helped having a Fellaini on the pitch for that though.

He’s gone from being a world class shot stopper who does enough in other areas, to a good shot stopper who’s awful/unreliable in every other department.

As others have pointed out, the change started after that 2018 World Cup. I too believe he just doesn’t have the drive to get back to his best.

Henderson has to start, ignore the “I’m not sure he’s the answer rhetoric”, his last season at Sheffield say he deserves a stint as first choice. Can’t write him off after 7/8 intermittent games
 

sullydnl

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Obviously he always had weaknesses (as all players do).

However, the two issues we've seen over the last few years are a) an increase in individual errors and b) a seeming decline in his previously otherworldly shot-stopping ability. And those two issues didn't happen entirely concurrently.

We've seen him go from a point where his shot stopping was still excellent but he made too many mistakes (18/19) to a point where he seems to have reduced those mistakes to a large degree but has been mediocre in terms of shot stopping (20/21).

A decline in shot-stopping could perhaps be explained by slowing reflexes but that wouldn't account for the majority of his individual errors in the 18/19 & 19/20 seasons, which came from things like miss-kicks and letting shots slip through his hands. Those errors were separate I think and presumably had to do with confidence and concentration rather than anything physical.

So basically I think he went through a spell of the yips and by the time he started slowly dragging himself out of it he may have also been in decline in terms of reflexes.
 

Isotope

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The decline is anything but precipitous. His overall game has always been lacking in some critical areas like command over the box, organizing a defense, sweeping, communication, and defending set-pieces. He more than made up for it with his otherworldly shot-stopping which was insane. As that aspect of his game declined, the other aspects became more prominent and his mistakes now look flagrant.

The immediate cause for his decline IMO is his lack of motivation for improving himself. Unfortunately, he has nothing left to play for. He is on 350k so even insane performances isn't going to earn him a better contract. He made several howlers while playing for Spain and couldn't establish himself as the undisputed number one. His dream move to Real Madrid fell through because they tried to get him on a cut-price deal that backfired on them.

He is just a reluctant shadow of himself, going through the motions to earn the paycheck. I feel that his past glories make him feel sad about his decline but he doesn't see any upside in the future to really get back the hunger and improve himself.
I saw him just shrugged it off when conceded against Sheffield at home, when we're (was it?) top of the League. You can tell he doesn't have that hunger anymore.
 

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He has always been a good 'shot stopper' and his handling is normally reliable but he has never had much command of his box and he is really not comfortable coming of his line, nor much good at it. Distribution is average aswell.

Ole has set us to be more attacking playing with a higher line rather than previous managers deeper line. Which means really we need someone who is a good sweeper and with generally less players defending the penalty area we really need someone who commands his area. Our current style highlights De Gea's biggest weaknesses. His best performances have been in backs against the wall games where he is not expected or required to come rushing out of his goal or claim crosses as we are so deep the defenders are dealing with it.
 

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Like Casillas, after the reflexes were gone, he became an average goalkeeper.