Chelsea’s new keeper Marcus Bettinelli: Who the hell are you vol. 18

CARDIFF, WALES - OCTOBER 20: Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli in action during the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Fulham FC at Cardiff City Stadium on October 20, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - OCTOBER 20: Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli in action during the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Fulham FC at Cardiff City Stadium on October 20, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images) /

Chelsea has made its first signing of the 2021 summer transfer window; a homegrown third choice goalkeeper in Marcus Bettinelli. Bettinelli is set to join Chelsea as the third choice goalkeeper behind Edouard Mendy and Kepa Arrizabalaga. The 29-year-old spent 15 years at Fulham, joining the Cottagers at academy level before leaving to join Chelsea, but who really is he?


Bettinelli joined Fulham’s academy aged 14. He played there for four years and signed his first professional contract at the age of 18. Bettinelli went on three loans, each one at a higher level than the last, and was the starting keeper on each of the loans.

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In total, he made 120 appearances for Fulham and 118 combined loan appearances. His first loan was to non-league side Dartford FC during the 2012/13 season, where he made 35 appearances and conceded 52 goals, keeping 10 clean sheets. A season later he went to League Two side Accrington Stanley where he made 41 appearances and conceded 44 goals, keeping 11 clean sheets.

His latest loan was to Championship side Middlesbrough, where he made 42 appearances and conceded 47 goals, keeping 13 clean sheets. Bettinelli has clearly never been able to establish himself as even a second choice goalkeeper for Fulham, but his loans have shown he is at the very least a serviceable keeper. Perhaps he could still improve with better coaching.

But is he any good?

It is often difficult to say how good a keeper is, or if he is good at all. Goalkeeping is very different from outfield play in that your numbers are often more dependent on factors outside of your control. Does Alisson look as good if Fulham’s defense is in front of him? Does Petr Cech keep 200 clean sheets if he’s playing all those games for Southampton? While we may never know the answer, we have a decent idea.

Bettinelli has not broken in the Fulham starting line-up in 11 years, so this is one indication that perhaps his level is one lower than the Premier League. Evaluating Bettinelli is also difficult as there’s not enough detailed data on him to accurately judge his ability.

At Dartford, he conceded 1.5 goals per game, which is not alarming considering that he was playing in a non-league side. He did keep 10 clean sheets, which is 0.29 clean sheets per game, or clean sheets in 29 percent of his games. 0.40 – 0.45 clean sheets is considered very good for a goalkeeper. While 0.29 clean sheets per game is not good, it’s not so bad either.

At Accrington Stanley, he had a better ratio of goals conceded to games played. He conceded 1.1 goals per game while in League Two, keeping clean sheets in 27 percent of his games (11 clean sheets in 41 appearances). Considering he played 41 games, this is not good. However, when you evaluate the league he played in and the quality of the defense and defenders around him, it’s difficult to say whether or not Bettinelli kept all those clean sheets despite him, or because of him.

His loan in the Championship provides more data and this helps with his evaluation better. The standard of football in the Championship is undoubtedly better than League Two, so one can assume the standard of defending is, as well. In the Championship, Bettinelli averaged 1.1 goals conceded per game again, except this time keeping clean sheets in 32 percent of his games for Middlesbrough. Further scrutiny into Bettinelli’s Middlesbrough season shows that the team allowed the third fewest shots per game, which means that conceding the 10th most goals in the league points to a goalkeeping issue. Middlesbrough did not come in the top five for average possession last season, so its low shots allowed numbers are not a consequence of simply having the ball most of the time.

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Bettinelli made 1.9 saves per game in last season at a 65 percent save rate. A very good keeper would have above 70 percent save rate, so 65 percent is adequate for a keeper of his caliber. This save rate mainly applies to league season, so an above 70 percent save rate in a league season is top tier goalkeeping. 65 percent is good considering that goalkeepers don’t control how many times they get shot at per match. Jan Oblak has averaged 80 percent save rate for the past four league seasons, Gianluigi Donnarumma has averaged 74 percent and Nick Pope has averaged 74 percent too. Clearly Bettinelli is not an elite goalkeeper, but he’ll do a job.

What does this mean for the future of Chelsea’s keeper position?

Bettinelli is set to be Chelsea’s third choice keeper for several reasons. He is the worst of the three keepers the Blues have currently and he was brought in for that sole purpose. Bettinelli has a chance to become Chelsea’s second choice goalkeeper, but only if Arrizabalaga leaves the club, either on loan or permanently. This is because Arrizabalaga will start every non-league or Champions League game for Chelsea, so Bettinelli only gets a look if one keeper is unavailable, as things stand.

That scenario, unfortunately, is one that Chelsea can forecast. The club’s first choice keeper, Edouard Mendy, is leaving for the 2020 African Cup of Nations early in 2022. This means that Chelsea would be without one goalkeeper, and therefore, Bettinelli becomes second choice. This few weeks will give the Englishman a chance to stake his claim to be in contention for the place of second choice keeper. If Bettinelli plays so well, he could be put in competition with Arrizabalaga in the pecking order.

Moving from a spot in the depth chart at goalkeeper is very difficult because every game is different. You have to do enough to convince the manager that the shot-stopper above you should be lower down on the list, except you have only a few actions per game to do that. If you face a lot of shot on the day, you plan to stake your claim, you have to make 85-100 percent of your saves on the day to get the manager thinking. At the same time, there’s the possibility of you letting in a few goals on a day like that, and in some cases, you may even be blamed for the goal tally.

In Bettinelli, Chelsea is getting a goalkeeper that is good enough for third place with his save percentage last season being lower than Arrizabalaga’s. Bettinelli has never being tried as a Premier League—or top flight—keeper, so anything we’re saying is just speculation and calculated guesses. However, with him being homegrown, 29 years old and being a fringe player where he’s coming from, third choice keeper is perfect for him and the Blues could certainly do worse.

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