Guglielmo Vicario has instantly impressed since making the move to Tottenham, threatening to take Gianluigi Donnarumma’s spot in the Italy squad, Apollo Heyes highlights.
The 26-year-old Italian goalkeeper spent years bouncing around various provincial sides before finally being given the chance to impress on the main stage this summer, when he left Empoli for Spurs in a deal worth around €20m plus add-ons.
He has immediately slotted into Ange Postecoglou’s system, playing every available minute in Tottenham’s opening six Premier League outings. In these six games, the Italian has kept two clean sheets – against Manchester United and Bournemouth – and conceded seven goals.
Vicario has immediately managed to impress following his high-profile move to North London and it’s hardly a surprise he’s quickly proven himself to Postecoglou and the fans when looking at the underlying numbers.
The graph above perfectly displays Vicario’s various qualities and why he’s such a perfect fit for Postecoglou’s fast-moving system at Tottenham. It shows that he’s not only an intelligent and solid shot-stopper, but also the right man to kickstart attacking moves and build-up play from the back.
Vicario boasts the highest save percentage in the Premier League this season when looking at players who’ve taken part in at least 300 minutes of action – stopping 82.8% of shots faced – making 23 saves and conceding seven.
He also has the third-highest PSxG-GA (post-shot expected goals minus goals allowed) in the Premier League with +2.9, which shows that he’s essentially denied three goals more than expected based on the quality of shots faced.
Compared to his peers, Vicario takes incredibly short goal-kicks on average at 22.9 yards, the lowest out of any Premier League goalkeeper with over 300 minutes played this season. This shows his comfort with the ball at his feet and his ability to be the first man in a build-up move.
The 26-year-old’s capabilities to act as a sweeper are also highlighted in the graph above, making him a great option for progressive teams who play with a high line, something Luciano Spalletti will likely make a regular feature of his new-look Azzurri side.
All of the above implies that Vicario would be a strong option to be Italy’s next starting keeper, but what about the one man who has no interest in seeing that happen – Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Once the darling of Milan, Donnarumma’s career has certainly taken a twist since he helped Italy lift the European Championship at Wembley in July 2021. Since then, he’s left Milan in a rather acrimonious fashion on a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain and has struggled to look convincing for both club and country.
A number of high-profile mistakes, mostly when the ball was at his feet, have marred his time in the French capital and many supporters now believe that it could be time for changes to be made in the national team, especially with Spalletti’s arrival and the shift in direction.
The graph above compares Vicario and Donnarumma’s stats for the 2023-24 season, a sample size of 540 minutes across their respective opening six league outings. Immediately, a few elements jump out and show the differences between the pair.
The first of which is Donnarumma’s comfort (or lack thereof) acting as a sweeper keeper. The former Milan man hardly ventures outside his penalty area, making just 0.17 defensive actions outside the box per 90 minutes this season. His defensive actions in general average at a distance of 10.4 yards from goal per 90.
In comparison, Vicario averages 2.33 defensive actions outside the box per 90 minutes and his defensive actions in general average at a distance of 19.7 yards from goal per 90, showing a goalkeeper who is far more capable of breaking away from his line to shut down attacks when needed.
Another key difference between the duo is their involvement in the match; Vicario has had 44.0 touches per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season, whilst Donnarumma has only taken 33.17 touches per 90 in Ligue 1, generally contributing less with the ball at his feet.
The Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper also plays less passes than his Spurs counterpart, 25.83 per 90 compared to 36.0 per 90, signposting how Vicario is able to switch play and involve his teammates more often, providing another starting point for the squad.
There are a few similarities between Vicario and Donnarumma, however. Both are incredibly competent shot stoppers, with the former having a save percentage of 82.8% and the latter 81.8%, and both regularly take short goal kicks, having essentially the same average distance played of 22.9 yards to 20.2.
In summary, Vicario’s incredible start to life with Tottenham represents a great opportunity for Spalletti and Italy, adding a fresh option to liven up the squad and add a new layer to their build-up play, reducing the reliance on Donnarumma and his shakiness with the ball at his feet.
At 26, the Spurs man is only slightly older than his PSG counterpart and would certainly be capable of spending a long time in Spalletti’s project, assuming he maintains this growth pattern and ability to perform when called upon.
With Euro 2024 less than 10 months away, now seems like the perfect time to give Vicario some chances to shine with the Azzurri and start his integration into the squad. Italy’s precarious position in their qualifying group may make Spalletti more risk-averse, however, so only time will tell.