Leicester City: Why everyone should know the name Kirstie Levell

Kirstie Levell of Leicester City looks on during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Chelsea Women and Leicester City Women (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

Let’s all take a moment to admit that goalkeepers are incredibly underrated. There are instances where a keeper is having a great performance, but it’s overshadowed by goals being scored or the final result. We need to ignore all of that for a second to acknowledge how strong Kirstie Levell has been for Leicester City.

Levell made her senior debut with Everton in 2015 at 18 years old. In 2020, she went on to join Leicester City to help clinch the Championship title. After gaining promotion, Levell extended her contract with the Foxes in July 2021, keeping her at the club for their inaugural Women’s Super League season. 

Looking back at the title winning campaign

Last season felt like a dream. I could tune into games with no stress and full confidence, knowing that the team would secure the points. Of course, there were some difficult results, but those almost felt rare for this squad. And I think it’s safe to say that I owe a part of that feeling of confidence to Levell.

During the Foxes’ journey to gaining promotion, Levell was the only Leicester City player to start in every single league match throughout the entire season.

After playing in 20 matches and obtaining 10 clean sheets, Levell was awarded with the Golden Glove. The award was shared with Sheffield United’s Fran Kitching and Durham’s Megan Borthwick. 

By the end of the season, Leicester clinched the title with only two losses in the league. When looking at Levell’s stats, it is safe to say that she played a huge part in those results. 

On average per game, Levell played 96.25 minutes, having 2.6 shots against her and making 1.75 saves with 0.8 goals conceded. 

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Facing a new challenge in the WSL

Having played six games in the league leading up to the international break, Leicester have yet to secure a point from their results. However, this has not stopped Levell from having some phenomenal performances that have made me jump from my seat.

The level of competition is a lot higher in the WSL, with some of the top players in the world playing in the league. These players surely haven’t made things easy for Leicester or Levell, but the keeper has had several moments of making key saves to keep the team in the game. 

The Foxes have taken on Aston Villa, Man United, West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, and Man City so far in the league. Each of the results differ in playing style and circumstances, but throughout each game, Levell was always there to capitalise. Specifically, we need to have a conversation about her performances against Chelsea and Man City.

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Back to back shot-stopping performances

Going into a match against the Champions of England and European finalists, I think any supporter of any club would be nervous. Chelsea are an incredibly strong side with the results to show for it.

However, Leicester did not make it easy for the Blues by any means. The Foxes pushed and kept Chelsea out until the 84th minute and I’d say that Levell had one of the greatest performances of her career.

The Blues put nine shots on target against Levell — seven of which she saved and the last two were conceded. Let’s not forget she made a phenomenal save to block Sam Kerr from putting one in.

We can all agree that it is not easy to stop a strike from a player as strong as Sam Kerr. 

Looking at the most recent result against Man City, Levell was once again on top of the game and kept out as much as possible. With 11 shots against her and 7 saves made, Levell continues to show consistency during each game, no matter the level of opposition or the final result. You can pretty much always rely on her or expect her to make some type of impressive save to keep the foxes in the game.

Taking a look at her stats from the last six matches in the league, on average per game she has played 99 minutes, with 8.7 shots against her, making 5.8 saves with 2.8 conceded. After only six fixtures, this differs immensely from last season.

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Comparing the two seasons

After looking at her stats over the past two seasons in each league, there’s a clear difference and they show a higher demand from Levell.

Looking back at the 20/21 season, we can ask how much her teammates contributed in order to prevent so many shots from being against her during games. Even if that were the case, we are seeing massive performances from her this season from strong opposition. 

The fact that Levell is coming off of a season that may have not demanded as much from her, to performing at such a high level against such strong opposition, is highly impressive. We aren’t just talking picking up a tap-in, we’re talking making stellar saves with massive reflexes coming from incredibly talented players. 

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We need to talk more about goalkeepers

Levell has been nominated for October’s WSL Player of the Month award and is the only goalkeeper among the nominees. This raised many questions from different supporters as to why a keeper without a clean sheet has been nominated. I think we need stop only looking at clean sheets when viewing a keeper and start placing a focus on their overall performances. 

A clean sheet does not necessarily determine how the keeper themselves performed. Not every goal conceded is due to goalkeeping, it can be a result of many different factors. Whether that be due to poor defending, an act of brilliance from the opposition, etc. There can even be instances where the keeper would have no chance of making the save. 

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Goalkeepers make saves every single game and sometimes have performances so outstanding that they could result in a clean sheet. But if that is not the case, we should not dismiss how well they played for the team. What I’m trying to get across is that goalkeepers are incredibly underrated. We need to start recognizing them more for everything they do when having a good performance, rather than only if they go an entire match without conceding a goal. 

Levell is highly underrated and deserves recognition for how much she has stepped up for Leicester since coming up from the Championship. I can’t imagine it being easy coming from the second division and having to block shots from some of the best players week in and week out. That is why you should know the name Kirstie Levell.

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