Why Nick Pope Should Win Premier League Player of the Year

Nick Pope
Nick Pope nearly won the Golden Glove | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Over the course of the 2019/20 Premier League season, only one team were mentioned as overachievers - Sheffield United.

Heading into the season, the Blades were seen as likely relegation candidates, but the ended the campaign in ninth place with a total of 54 points. That deserves a huge amount of credit, but the success of Chris Wilder's side has masked the glory of another major overachiever.

Like Sheffield United, Burnley were supposed to be in a relegation battle this year. Like Sheffield United, Burnley finished on 54 points, behind the Blades only on goal difference, and a large part of their expectation-defying performances was down to goalkeeper Nick Pope.

After a serious shoulder injury restricted Pope to just two FA Cup appearances in 2018/19, many fans had forgotten the Englishman existed. He was a low-profile player who had been forced even further out of the limelight.

Sean Dyche clearly did not forget about Pope and had so much faith in his ability to come back strong that he authorised the departure of Tom Heaton to Aston Villa to make space in the starting lineup for Pope.

What a decision that was.

Pope helped turn Burnley into one of the meanest defences in the country, and until the last day of the season, he was in the race for the Premier League's Golden Glove, ultimately losing out to Manchester City's Ederson.

Ederson is expected to win that award. He's a £35m signing in one of the best teams on the planet. He kept 16 clean sheets, stopping a team from scoring in 45.7% of his appearances last season.

Pope finished narrowly behind with 15 clean sheets - 39.5% of his appearances - but those numbers don't do him justice. Across Ederson's quest to keep 16 clean sheets, FBRef note that he only faced 92 shots on target and saved 65 of them.

For Pope, he was faced with a whopping 159 shots, making 112 saves. It was nearly twice as hard for Pope to get to that level than it was for Ederson. Those are the numbers you should care about.

When you face that many shots, you usually play in a so-called smaller team and you're not supposed to be able to hang with the big boys. Only five teams faced more than that, and four of those - Norwich, Brighton, Bournemouth and Watford - were either relegated or perilously close to the drop. But not Burnley. Not Pope.

Nick Pope
No goalkeeper has overachieved more than Pope | James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

Not only did Pope hang, but he showed the Premier League how goalkeeping is supposed to be done. There's a reason Chelsea see him as a potential saviour from their Kepa Arrizabalaga nightmare.

Sure, Pope's case for the Player of the Year award is harmed by the fact he's up against some real superstars like Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kevin De Bruyne, but club success shouldn't be a factor in this. This isn't Guy Who Was Good in the Best Team of the Year.

If we're looking at individual players who have impressed and single-handedly helped their team achieve something outstanding, Pope's name has to be towards the top of the shortlist.

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