Garth Crooks has heaped praise on Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier for his display against Sheffield United on Sunday – and rightly so. 

The BBC pundit included the young French stopper in his Team of the Week, as well as praising him for his “remarkable” performance.

Speaking to BBC Sport, he said: “I must be honest, I didn’t know an awful lot about Illan Meslier but by the end of the game I knew everything I needed to know.

leeds united“The Leeds keeper made two remarkable saves from John Lundstram and another from George Baldock in a first half full of commitment from both sides.

“The more I saw of him the better he got.

“I haven’t seen a Leeds keeper with this sort of promise since I first watched a young Mervyn Day 40 years ago.”

These are big words from Crooks, but Meslier performance certainly justified them.

The 20-year-old faced an xCG of 1.92 against the Blades, and did remarkably well to keep a clean sheet given the difficulty of some of the stops he made.

Of course, the standout save – and one mentioned by Crooks – was the wonderful stop he made to deny Lundstram.

Marked on the graphic above as number one, that effort had an individual xG of 0.86, meaning that you would expect it to go in more than four times out of five.

And it was absurdly good.

As the ball is played in from out wide, Lundstram is making that third man run into the box that is so hard to track as defensive team.

This is significant because it means that when the ball does come across the face, the midfielder is essentially given a free shot at goal.

At the point at which Lundstram strikes the ball, he is less than 12 yards out, but has the added advantage of running onto a moving target.

While that might make it harder to get a pure connection, it does mean that the shot is a lot more likely to have more power and momentum on it.

And so it proves here.

Lundstram absolutely leathers this one, and it takes a world class stop to prevent it from hitting the back of the net.

There are three reasons why this is such a good save.

Firstly, the speed of reflex it takes to get anything on it at all is superb, and Meslier’s sharpness is the cornerstone of his success here.

Secondly, the strength in his wrist is admirable.

Many a lesser keeper would have only been able to parry such a ferocious effort into their own net, but Meslier is able to turn it around the post brilliantly.

Thirdly, and finally, the proximity of the shot to the keeper’s body actually makes this a harder save than you would initially think.

People talk about full-stretch dives, and granted, has Lundstram hit one of the corners the Leeds man might not have had a chance of saving it at all.

But because this shot is much closer to Meslier’s torso, it means that he has to contort himself into a more unnatural position to effectively stop it.

As count-intuitive as it may seem, the fact that it is closer to the keeper probably makes it more difficult.

In short, it was a world class save to put the cherry on top of a world class performance from the starlet, and if he keeps this up, he could become one of the gems of the season.

In other Leeds United news, ‘You don’t turn him down’ – Exclusive: Pundit would love to see Leeds seal big attacker deal.


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