Goalkeepers nowadays are so much more than a preventative measure. They are just as likely to get involved in building a passage out of play from the back as they are to collect a cross or make a sprawling save.
But for all the revolutions the position has gone through, it’s clean sheets that remain a goalkeeper’s bread and butter. If you can shut the opposition out for a full match, you’ve done your job as well as you can.
In the Premier League, one of the most competitive in the world since its inception in 1992, clean sheets are a particularly valuable commodity.
Here we take a look at the ten goalkeepers to have kept the most Premier League clean sheets.
Most Clean Sheets in Premier League History
10. Peter Schmeichel (Manchester United, Aston Villa, Manchester City) – 128
Given his profile within the game and particularly within the Premier League, people might be surprised to see Peter Schmeichel is not further up this list. The Dane played 310 times in the Premier League, with the vast majority of these appearances coming for Manchester United between 1992 and 1999.
He won five league titles at Old Trafford before he left for Sporting in Portugal. Clearly, he felt he had unfinished business in the division as he returned two years later to play for Aston Villa.
After one season with the Villains, he joined United’s rivals, Manchester City where he was famously snubbed for a handshake in the tunnel by Gary Neville.
His influence in the league continues through his son, Kasper, who has kept 65 clean sheets for Leicester City.
9. Brad Friedel (Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur) – 132
When he wasn’t stopping shots, Brad Friedel was rarely seen without a Starbucks in hand. The American was one of the first Stateside players to raise the profile of the game in his home country by coming to play in the Premier League.
He is fondly remembered by fans of every club he played for, but particularly with the Blackburn Rovers faithful. There, he kept 77 of his 132 clean sheets after moving from Liverpool in 2000.
He would later sign for Aston Villa and Spurs. In his Premier League career, Friedel achieved the remarkable feat of playing in 310 consecutive Premier League matches.
8. Tim Howard (Manchester United, Everton) – 132
Like his countryman Brad Friedel, Tim Howard also kept exactly 132 clean sheets in the Premier League in a career which saw him play 399 times in the division. While he might be slightly frustrated at not making it a nice round 400, he can look back with pride at a stellar career in England.
He left the MLS to play for Manchester United in 2003. He was first-choice keeper for his first season but was made to play second fiddle to World Cup winner Fabien Barthez for the remainder of his United career.
Howard was loaned to Everton in 2006-07 and the move was made permanent not long after. He played 354 times for the Toffees, scoring one goal in the 11-12 campaign as a gust of wind boosted a long punt upfield over the head of Bolton Wanderers keeper Adam Bogdan.
7. Edwin van der Sar (Fulham, Manchester United) – 132
Another keeper who kept exactly 132 clean sheets, Edwin van der Sar finds himself further up the list than Friedel and Howard courtesy of his clean sheets per game ratio.
The affable Dutchman began his Premier League career in London with Fulham before a string of impressive performances between 2001 and 2005 brought him up north to Manchester United. It was at Old Trafford where he became an icon of the division.
Van der Sar was a superb shot-stopper and had magnificent command of his area. He inspired confidence in the defenders in front of him and helped United establish a solid base that would go on to win four titles, including three in a row between 2007 and 2009.
He retired in 2010-11 and was replaced by the young David De Gea, the Spaniard who will find himself further up this list come the end of his career.
6. Pepe Reina (Liverpool, Aston Villa) – 136
Pepe Reina already had an impressive CV before joining Liverpool. He had come through the world-renowned Barcelona youth academy and made his debut for the club in 2000. Across the next couple of seasons, he would make 30 appearances before signing for Villareal in 2002. It was there that he established himself as one of the finest keepers in Europe. Liverpool took notice and brought him to the club in 2005.
At Anfield, fans took to him immediately. Not only was Reina brilliant between the sticks, but he built up a natural rapport with the Liverpool supporters. He was first choice for the entirety of his time with the club, not missing a game in the 07-08, 08-09, 09-10 and 10-11 campaigns.
He would later join Napoli and Inter Milan before returning to the Premier League with Aston Villa for a loan spell in 19-20.
5. Nigel Martyn (Crystal Palace, Leeds United, Everton) – 137
One of three Englishmen on the list, Nigel Martyn earned 23 caps for his country across a ten-year spell between 1992 and 2002. Had it not been for the likes of David Seaman, it’s like this figure would be far higher.
Martyn was around right at the beginning of the Premier League in 1992. He began his career with Bristol Rovers before moving to Crystal Palace in the 1989-90 season. After seven years with the club, Martyn moved to a strong Leeds United side in 1996. He would spend a further seven season at Elland Road before moving again, this time to Everton where he would see out his career playing at the top level.
4. David Seaman (Arsenal, Manchester City) – 141
One of the finest English goalkeepers in recent memory, David Seaman’s clean sheet tally is made all the more impressive when one considers that more than half his career had passed before the creation of the Premier League in 1992.
He played started off at Leeds United before moving to play first-team football in the lower leagues with Peterborough United. He moved again to Birmingham City who won promotion to the First Division with Seaman between the sticks in 1986. He would later sign for QPR where he would play for four years before joining Arsenal in 1990.
Two years later, the Premier League was formed, and David Seaman was one of its most able and well-liked goalkeepers. He kept a clean sheet in over 40% of his 344 Premier League matches for Arsenal, winning the league twice in the process.
3. Mark Schwarzer (Middlesbrough, Fulham, Chelsea, Leicester City) – 151
Now a regular figure in television and radio punditry in the United Kingdom, Mark Schwarzer was playing the Premier League as recently as 2016.
The first of 514 English top-flight appearances – more than all but one goalkeeper on this list – came for Middlesbrough in 1996. Boro were relegated that season but would bounce back at the first time of asking with Schwarzer getting his first extended run between the sticks in the process. From that moment on, he would barely miss a match in the Premier League for the next 15 years.
The Australian moved to Fulham after a decade of service for Boro in 2008. He maintained a high standard there before seeing out the remainder of his Premier League days as a backup goalkeeper for Chelsea and latterly, Leicester. In a fateful twist, he won the Premier League with Leicester in his final season as a pro.
2. David James (Liverpool, Aston Villa, West Ham United, Manchester City, Portsmouth) – 169
Goalkeepers are rarely described as “journeymen.” If a keeper moves around too much, one assumes it’s because he hasn’t taken to life at his new club, often with disastrous consequences in terms of results. But for David James, this wasn’t the case. He was simply a much sought-after stopper and was only too happy to relocate again and again.
James played for five Premier League clubs in his time, more than any other keeper in this top ten. The first of 169 clean sheets came for Liverpool in 1992. It was there that James, an eccentric but brilliant goalkeeper, kept the majority of his clean sheets, shutting out the opposition on 72 occasions.
He would later sign for Aston Villa in 1999 where he would spend a couple of seasons before switching to West Ham. After relegation with the Hammers at the end of the 02-03 campaign, James spent a brief period in the Championship before returning to the big time with Manchester City. He spent three seasons there, just missing out on their current mega-rich era before moving to Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth in 06-07. The keeper played some of his best football with Pompey before stepping down in 2010.
1. Petr Cech (Chelsea, Arsenal) – 202
In some circles, Petr Cech perhaps does not get the respect that he deserves. This is partly due to the fact that his incredibly high standards declined towards the end of his career. But for the vast majority of his Premier League life, the Czech goalkeeper was simply without peer.
Not only has he kept by far the most clean sheets in Premier League history, but he has the highest clean sheet percentage too – he kept one in over 45% of his matches.
Cech signed for Chelsea in 2004 and played a major part in them winning four Premier League titles. It was the most successful period in the club’s history. A serious head injury in the 06-07 season meant he might never play football again, but he made an astonishing recovery and returned to action the following season. He did so sporting that iconic headgear with which he has become so synonymous.
After being usurped by Thibaut Courtois towards the end of his Chelsea career, Cech joined Arsenal where he spent four seasons before hanging up his gloves.