Why Megan Walsh must be in conversation for elite WSL goalkeepers


If you watched the most recent match between Chelsea and Brighton, two distinctive things came to the surface. Chelsea’s inability to score a goal and the fantastic display from Brighton’s goalkeeper Megan Walsh.

In this article, I will zoom into her performances this season and why she is someone to keep an eye on.

The 27-year-old played in the Aston Villa Academy before making the step into senior football with the Villans. After that, she played for Everton, Notts County and Yeovil Town, before joining Brighton and Hove Albion in 2019.

Walsh has played 12 games this season so far in which she conceded 16 goals from 16,5 PsxG, according to Statsbomb. She has faced 62 shots on target so far with a save percentage of 74,2%.

On average, she concedes 1,33 goals per 90.

FBRef’s scouting report with Statsbomb data of Megan Walsh

As you can see in the scouting report by FBRef, Walsh has performed quite well over the last 365 days. She scores above average in almost every metric, except the Goals Against, Post-Shot Expected/Shot on Target and the Save percentage of Penalty Kicks.

She really does excel in Touches and Defensive Actions Outside Penalty Area.

We have seen the data of her performances and she certainly is a goalkeeper who performs above average when we look at the data, but goalkeeper analysis is tricky in that sense. Data can give us an indication of her abilities, but technical analysis is much important in this type of analysis.

I will look at three different parts of her skills for the technical analysis — regular saves, saves with reflexes, and leaving the line.

Regular saves (42)

According to Wyscout, Megan Walsh has 42 saves this season. In this segment, we will look at the regular saves, which will be shots from a medium distance or where she can see the situation coming beforehand — regular shot-stopping.

In the video above, you can see Brighton defending as the opposition comes close. A through pass goes past the defenders and leaves the opposition in a dangerous 1v1 with the goalkeeper.

Walsh doesn’t rush out and instead makes the area between the near post and herself smaller — forcing the striker to go for the far post or go for a hard shot at the near post.

In this clip, the ball goes towards the far post and Walsh reacts very well with her feet and saves the shot. It’s difficult to react from such a short distance, but she does well to keep the ball out.

In the video above you can see Brighton in the game against Manchester United and they are conceding an attack. The defence has difficulties dealing with high through balls, which means there will be a 1v1 situation quite often.

In this particular clip, we see something similar happened, but this time she leaves no room at the near post. She forces the striker to go long, and again Walsh manages to save with her feet. She uses her left leg to remain forceful near the post and the right leg is more flexible and can save or kick the ball out.

In the video above, we see Brighton under pressure from kick-off. Another long ball is given over the defence and again a 1v1 situation arises. This time Walsh doesn’t back down and defends the near post, but she moves a bit forward. She does this to make the target smaller in order to have a bigger chance of saving the shot, which she does. But it does give questions, she doesn’t fully commit to going forward — which means the striker can chip it or play it around here and have a great chance.

In the game against Tottenham, we see Brighton defending and winning balls in the penalty area. In the clip, we see how Spurs attack the ball from outside the penalty area and blast a shot towards Walsh’s goal. She does see it late and it’s turning away from here, making the save a bit more difficult as well.

The save is good, the exit of the ball is more difficult, but it’s to the side and this means the defenders can rush out and help Walsh.

Saves with reflexes (22)

According to Wyscout, Walsh had 22 saves with reflexes in this particular season. In this segment, we will look at saves that have been completed with reflexes.

Unexpected shots, or shots from very close range — which will test her ability to react and use her reflexes.

In the video above, we see Brighton in their game against Manchester United and they are defending. United have a cross coming in from the left flank and this is attacking on the penalty spot. The reflex provided by Walsh made sure the ball didn’t go in.

Her initial reaction is decent but doesn’t deal with the ball correctly, meaning she has to make another save. The two following saves are excellent and neutralise the attack, because of her sharp reactions and reflexes.

In the video above you see Brighton in their game against Chelsea. In this particular example, Chelsea capitalise on the transition and move up from the left flank, cutting the Brighton defence open.

Just before the shot comes, Walsh rushes out to make the target as small as possible. This is a difficult situation as there is so much space, but Walsh just throws herself in the line of the shot.

As soon as the attacker has taken the shot, she dives in front of the ball — rather than remaining standing — making sure that she gets the save.

It’s a really good save, but if the attacker had chosen to keep the ball on the ground, this would have been a goal for Chelsea.

In the video above, you can see Brighton in their game against Birmingham City. A long ball is won by the Blues and they progress quite easily through the defence. This gives the striker a little advantage going forward and she will come close to the keeper.

Walsh is situated well and although it’s from close range, she manages to save this ball with her reflexes. What makes it more difficult is the fact that the strikers shoot hard from a short distance, which gives her less time to react to the shot.

Leaving the line (11)

According to Wyscout, Walsh has left her line 11 times this season. In this segment, we look at how Walsh comes to claim crosses and set pieces, and how well she does that.

In the video above, you Brighton defending in their game against Everton, when the Toffees have an attacking corner.

As soon as the corner is kicked, Walsh tries to create space in order to catch the ball, but that is slightly difficult because of the number of players in and around the six-yard box. She can’t catch and punches it slightly, which means that the danger hasn’t been cleared and Everton almost profit from this situation.

In the video above, you can see Brighton in their game against Tottenham Hotspur. We see a throw-in being taken on the left side, after which a cross comes into the penalty area.

Walsh recognises where the ball is coming from, is confident in getting there and catches the ball resolute, before any opponent can get there.

In this final clip, you see Brighton in their game against Chelsea. There is an inswinging corner from the left side, which means that the ball moves toward the goalkeeper, rather than away.

This high ball is always a 50/50 chance for a goalkeeper. Do they come and claim it or let the defenders deal with it?

Whichever choice a goalkeeper makes, they must fully commit to it. Walsh doesn’t here and therefore is beaten with a header, resulting in a goal for Chelsea.

Final thoughts

When we look at the heroics where Walsh was exceptional against Chelsea in the 0-0 draw, we can of course claim she is one of the best in the league. But that isn’t the whole story. S

he is an excellent shot-stopping keeper and does well with saving shots from long distance and with short distance reflexes. But if she really wants to make that next step in her career, the claiming of crosses, corners and throw-ins, they need work.

If she still can develop that side of her performances, she moves from being a good keeper to being a great keeper. And then, the top clubs can’t look away anymore.

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