Lukas Jensen: The Original Danish Wall

Credit Graham Burrell

I was going to try to find a witty opening for this piece based on a famous Danish dam, wall, or washing powder. As it is, the most famous Danish wall is in Germany, and none of the dams had a catchy name. 

As for washing powders (clean sheets, get it?), the most famous in Denmark is called Neutral, and trying to label our own Danish stopper as neutral would be mildly insulting. I suppose we could just call him Persil. For the sake of this article, we’ll refer to him as Lukas Jensen.

Jensen has been earning rave reviews lately, with fans feeling absolutely safe when our defence is breached. It’s not breached often, but when it is, the big keeper is there to punch, push and parry the ball to safety. Seven clean sheets in eight matches is incredible, and the fact he isn’t due to go back to a parent club next season means we’re building for the future.

Credit Graham Burrell

I think we’ve been blessed in recent seasons with keepers. Our starting keepers since 2019/20 have been Josh Vickers, Alex Palmer, Josh Griffiths, Carl Rushworth and now Lukas Jensen. You would think that with us signing Jensen, perhaps we’d given a little on quality for a permanent man of our own; after all, the possibility of signing Rushworth, Palmer and Griffiths was non-existent, so surely we couldn’t pull a keeper out of the bag who was as good as them? Surely, signing Jensen meant we got a decent keeper but not one comparable?

I think that train of thought perhaps meant that many fans weren’t convinced in the first couple of matches, which was unfair. There were plenty of grumbles around me in the first few matches, with some saying Jordan Wright should get a run out instead of Persil (okay, I couldn’t help it). I haven’t heard that a lot recently, and that’s no slur on Wright.

Credit Graham Burrell

I thought it might be a nice idea to see how the big man’s stats stack up against the other keepers we’ve had over the past few seasons. Have we compromised on quality for owning our own keeper (the answer, in case you’re wondering, is no)? If the answer isn’t enough, and you want it confirmed in numbers, then you’re in the right place.

I’ve taken League One matches only (play-offs included) and picked a number of stats across the keeper spectrum. I’ve then worked that out as a per-game figure to balance out the differing number of games played by a keeper. How does Jensen rate against the likes of Alex Palmer (now a Championship keeper) or England Under 21s like Rushworth and Griffiths?

You’re about to find out.

For those who don’t know, ‘saves with reflexes’ are saves from a shot from near distance, where the goalkeeper has to react immediately, using his reflexes to save the ball.

They’re the total numbers; some are skewed depending on the number of matches. For instance, Alex Palmer obviously played more matches, so he is likely to have conceded more goals, made more saves, etc. However, I thought it pertinent to include the figures for you to look at because some people love that type of thing.

The real drill down comes when we look at the per-game figures. That graphic will be at the end of the piece, but for now, we’ll take each keeper in turn.

Josh Vickers 2019/20

Credit Graham Burrell

Vickers has kept the second-fewest clean sheets of the five keepers but played fewer games than all but Griffiths. He also had the second-highest goals conceded per appearance figure, at 1.31 goals per game. When combined with xG faced, it actually makes him the lowest performing out of the five.

Interestingly, he faced more shots per game than all but one of our five keepers, which makes me wonder if teams felt he had a weakness when facing shots from range, given the relatively low xG per game.

Either way, there is a caveat to this – he was in goal during a turbulent season where we changed manager midway through and dropped off in terms of confidence. The 2019/20 season was one where relegation was never really put to bed, and only COVID-19 ensured we stayed in the division. We probably would have stayed up, but given this wasn’t a great City side, Josh’s figures aren’t that bad.

Alex Palmer 2020/21

Credit Graham Burrell

With 19 clean sheets, Alex Palmer does currently lead the way with Rushworth, but with eight games over Jensen and six over Rushworth. I really liked Palmer, and he’s in the middle of the road for goals conceded per game – 1.13. However, his xG faced is 1.14, so he conceded the goals he was expected to concede, which perhaps dampened the notion he was outstanding. He also had a team that were doing well, which you would think meant fewer shots – only Carl Rushworth faced fewer in his time between the sticks.

What I find really interesting is that of all the keepers I’ve looked at, Palmer made fewer saves and fewer with reflexes than any of the others, including Josh Griffiths. Of course, you can’t stat things like ‘command of area’, which I think Palmer had down to a tee.

Josh Griffiths 2021/22

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There’s no doubt Josh is a good keeper, and he was a nice lad as well, but I do feel of the five, I’m talking here about the one that had the most challenging time in a Lincoln shirt. Mind you, I recall us playing more combinations in defence than you find on a Rubik’s Cube, so it perhaps wasn’t all his fault.

Josh kept just two clean sheets in the league, and he conceded more goals per game (1.39) than any of the others. That said, he faced 1.40 xG per game, so his actual output was more or less the same as Alex Palmer. He also faced more shots per game (4.55) than any of the other keepers and made the second-highest number of saves per game (3.15).

While I think he had the toughest time, his numbers are skewed by this being a relatively poor City side, which I also said for Josh Vickers. Of course, a good keeper is going to concede if he is facing more shots than everyone else.

Carl Rushworth 2022/23

Credit Graham Burrell

Rushworth, the third of our A-star loan keepers, is perhaps my favourite keeper loanee. With 19 clean sheets in 42 matches, he leads the way for shutouts, helped by a regular back five, so he built an understanding. However, other numbers don’t lie, and whilst he faced 1.09 xG per game, he only conceded 0.88. Over a season, he stopped between eight and nine goals that would usually be expected to go in. That’s a big number – imagine if a striker had an xG of 10 but actually scored 18!

There is a number that points to Rushworth having the best defence in front of him – he faced the fewest number of shots per game (3.76) than all of the others. With 2.88 saves per game, he sits bang in the middle, but 1.98 of those were reflex saves, which is the best figure. Carl Rushworth probably comes out on top when talking about being a good ‘shot-stopper’.

Lukas Jensen 2023/24

Credit Graham Burrell

Finally, we come to Persil (I wonder if it is going to stick). Our big Danish stopper is the first keeper in four seasons we’ve owned, and his numbers stand up against all of the A-star players we’ve borrowed.

Firstly, he is just one clean sheet away from matching Palmer and Rushworth, and it is likely that with six (or maybe nine) games to go, he will find himself at the top of the pile at the end of the season. He’s faced 1.05 xG per game but conceded just 0.83 goals. That means he’s been responsible for stopping nine or ten goals that would usually have been scored over the 40 matches he’s played in – as Chris outlined on the podcast yesterday, that’s miles ahead of anyone else in this division.

He has faced the second-highest number of shots of our four keepers (4.13) but made the most saves per game (3.30), which is outstanding. In terms of reflex saves, only Carl Rushworth has a higher average. There’s no getting away from the argument that of the five, Lukas Jensen is the best we’ve had. It’s tight between him and Rushworth, very tight.

There are some interesting numbers that I haven’t included. Pass accuracy is a big one; I know people feel Jensen is a bit awry with his kicking. Actually, whilst his accuracy with long kicks is the lowest (59%), it is only marginally worse than Rushworth (60%) and Griffiths (61%). Palmer is the most accurate (68%), with Vickers on 63%. The difference is very small.

It’s interesting that Jensen (76) and Rushworth (79) have taken the fewest short goal kicks of all our keepers, whilst Palmer (261) took the most. If there’s ever a figure which lays bare the change in approach between managers, that has to be it! Also, we involve Jensen in far fewer passages of open play than almost all of the other keepers – he’s played 433 short passes, compared to 665 for Palmer and 606 with Rushworth. Again, this is a reflection of differing styles between managers, perhaps.


Credit Graham Burrell

What does all of this mean in layman’s terms? In my opinion, it means Lukas Jensen is not just a keeper we own, which makes him an asset, but there’s a big shout for him being the best we’ve had in five seasons. There’s not a huge amount between him and Carl Rushworth, but when you think Rushworth is an England Under 21 international who has played 39 times for Swansea in the Championship, that’s high praise for Persil. Or Neutral. Or Tangevaerket.

Whatever you call him, he’s a bloody good keeper.

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