Goalkeeper Making Save Against Net

Who Are The All-Time Best Premier League Goalkeepers?

Since the Premier League’s inaugural season in 1992/93, fans have enjoyed tens of thousands of goals. But in this article, we’re focusing on the men whose job it has been to stop the ball from hitting the back of the net: the goalkeepers.

We’ll run through some of the key goalkeeping stats and take a look at some of the shot-stopping heroes who helped their teams to glory in the Premier League era. And where else to start but with clean sheets?

Most Premier League Clean Sheets

Just as a striker is paid to score goals, a goalkeeper is paid to stop them. Although much depends on the defence and midfield ahead of them, a goalkeeper can make the difference between a team winning and losing. And if a keeper maintains a clean sheet, he knows the worst his side can get is a draw. So let’s take a look at the stoppers with the most clean sheets in Premier League history.

Chart That Shows the Premier League Goalkeepers with the Most Clean Sheets Up To and Including March 2023

*Denotes a goalkeeper still playing in the Premier League at the time of writing.

So it is Chelsea (and to a lesser extent, Arsenal) legend Petr Čech who tops the goalkeeping charts when it comes to the number of clean sheets in the Premier League. His cause was of course helped – as with most of the keepers on the list – by playing for very successful teams. And also having Jose Mourinho as his manager for a good chunk of his Chelsea career also helped his cause given’s Mourinho’s rather conservative tactics at times.

David James is second on the list and that perhaps says more about his longevity than his ability to keep the ball out of the goal (as we’ll see later in the article). We’re not suggesting that James wasn’t a top-class keeper, of course, just that he didn’t have the luxury of playing for the best clubs in the land.

Best Clean Sheet to Games Ratio

Although the above figures give us a good indication of how well the goalkeepers performed, it makes sense to compare the number of clean sheets to how many games they played in the Premier League. As such, here are the leading keepers when it comes to the percentage of games in which they kept clean sheets. Note that we’ll limit this to goalkeepers who’ve kept more than 100 clean sheets in the Premier League, so we know we’re dealing with those at the top of the game.

Chart That Shows the Premier League Goalkeepers with the Best Clean Sheet to Games Ratio Up To and Including March 2023

*Denotes a goalkeeper still playing in the Premier League at the time of writing.

As we can see, Petr Čech loses his top spot on this metric, and it is the current Man City stopper Ederson who leads the way. Of course, given that he’s still playing, it’s possible he could fall down the rankings. But realistically, given the standards set by City boss Pep Guardiola, we can’t see him lasting long in the first team if he starts letting in loads of goals.

Interestingly, Pepe Reine also sneaks ahead of Čech here, despite being at Liverpool when they finished outside of the top four in the Premier League on several occasions. Peter Schmeichel is significantly higher up the list too, while David Seaman and Edwin van der Sar are the only other keepers with 100+ clean sheets in the Premier League to have a clean sheet rate greater than 40%.

Most Premier League Appearances by Goalkeepers

Chart That Shows the Premier League Goalkeepers with the Most Appearances Up To and Including March 2023

David James is the goalkeeper with the most Premier League appearances to date. He got around a bit in terms of the clubs he played for, but he totted up an impressive appearances total that is only bettered by four outfield players: James Milner (608), Frank Lampard (609), Ryan Giggs (632) and Gareth Barry (652). Čech once again makes the cut, this time as one of the few keepers to have made more than 400 Premier League appearances.

Other Factors to Consider

Silhouette of Goalkeeper Making Save

As said previously, the players in front of you make all the difference for a goalkeeper. Those who have played for teams who’ve dominated the Premier League or generally been towards the top of the table will generally have had fewer shots to save. That doesn’t mean they weren’t the “best” goalkeepers, but if the opposition doesn’t get a single shot on target, they would of course (almost always!) keep a clean sheet by default.

As such, it would potentially be worth looking at other statistics than those we’ve chosen, such as the number of saves made in a given season. The problem here is that the Premier League only began recording and publishing those stats from the 2006/07 season onwards. And as we’re looking at the whole Premier League era, it would therefore be unfair to use stats that would necessarily exclude those who played before that season.

Interestingly, though, looking at the saves made statistics in recent seasons does show that keepers at some of the smaller clubs certainly earn their crust. For instance, the leading keeper based on saves made in the 2021/22 season was Illan Meslier of Leeds United (with 143 verified saves). The season before that it was Sam Johnstone of West Brom (who got relegated despite their keeper’s 166 saves). The leading goalkeeper based on saves made has also come from Newcastle United, West Ham United, Stoke City and Watford in recent seasons.

Another stat that came in for the 2006/07 season was the number of penalties saved. Brad Friedel saved the most (four) that season, while in the 2020/21 season, no keeper saved more than one spot-kick in the Premier League.

Who is the Premier League’s Best Goalkeeper?

When attempting to assess the best goalkeepers to have graced the Premier League we’ve looked at the stats that have existed and been published since the league’s inception. But that is not to say that they are necessarily the best measures when assessing the effectiveness or even talent of the goalkeepers featured.

Of course, earning your team(s) more than 200 clean sheets is only possible if you are a top-class goalkeeper. And certainly Petr Čech has to be up there as one of the greatest Premier League keepers. But then Man City’s Ederson might well eclipse him if he sticks around and stays fit.

Only time will tell on that front. But we are confident that the lists mentioned above definitely represent a solid summary of the best stoppers in Premier League history. As to who is the best of the best, ultimately – like many things in football – it could well come down to personal opinion.