Friday, April 20, 2007

Goalkeeping Explained

Simply put, there's a difference between a "shot stopper," and a "true goalkeeper." Goalkeeping is a game of angles, just like pool. It is also a position that requires assuredness, certainty, commitment and daring. You also need to impose your authority. I was surprised in coming here, that at my small college, I actually had my OWN goalkeeping coach!!!! I LEARNED A LOT, ESPECDIALLY HOW TO ACTUALLY BE A GOOD GOALKEEPER VERSUS BEING A SHOT STOPPER. Here are some things folks need to pause, read and understand about keeping:

1) The 18 is yours alone. Period. A true keeper will run through HIS OWN PLAYER to get the ball. The message must be clear that he/she owns that space. Classic Example: Peter Schmeichel. Many a United Defender quickly learned what followed the yell "my ball!";

2) 8 out of 10 fantastic saves - diving or otherwise - ARE A RESULT OF THE KEEPER NOT BEING PROPERLY POSITIONED!!!!! 2 out 0f 10 times, the shot was incredibly spectacular and dipping, swerving, deflected etc. You should be more impressed with a keeper who always seems to make saves routine, comfortable, and ALWAYS HAS HIS/HER body behind the ball. The key thing here is that the keeper READS IMPENDING PLAYS AND THE ATTACKER'S OPTIONS WELL, in order to judge where he/she needs to be. Also needs to be cognizant of where his/her defenders are in relation to a) the ball, b) the attackers, c) the boundary lines. This is how he/she mentally sets up which position to take, because he/she has already factored in the paths of approach. Even if an individual m oment of brilliance, messes things up, having established path A makes it easier to quickly establish path B and adjust accordingly. Classic Example: Richard Kingston and Peter Cech. Kingston's numerous saves against Brazil in the WC and the friendly last month, as well as many such saves in various games. He is EXCELLENT at narrowing angles and cutting them offf. Cech's three saves against Ghana in WC. He knew the player's options, was aware of where his help was, and played the angles brilliantly. Game would have ended 7-0 otherwise.;

3) Goalkeeping crimes are crimes of OMISSION , not COMMISSION. A keeper must always authoritatively commit. Not taking initiative leaves both defender and keeper in no-man's land, and makes strikers incredibly happy. Classic Example: Van Der Saar's gaffe against Boro when Rio clearly played back softly and EVDS was at sixes and sevens;

4) Having said that, once committed, a keeper should NEVER disengage. If you miss, you miss with authority, and you may even have to take a smart penalty. Classic Example: Jose Reina this past weekend coming out to the sideline to snuff out an attack. if he stopped, he would be in no man's land. He just kept on going.;

5) Keepers must be ABSOLUTELY confident with crosses, and not be shaky. Classic Examples: Cech and Schwartzer on crosses. Try and think how many times they've failed to snuff out whipped crosses when they come out.;

6) The psychological impact of an un-assured keeper is damaging to THE NTH DEGREE!!! Once a chink is perceived by HIS/HER OWN DEFENDERS, it starts a snowball of bad effects. For one, the denfenders are now more concerned with covering for their goalkeeper, than actually focusing on defending. Attendantly, you see bad plays, yelling, over-elaboration from the back, stupid fouls etc., etc. Classic Example: Fabien Barthez in his last season at United. The defenders spent most of their time worrying about his positioning and gaffes, rather than focusing on playing their game. As such, a lot of cheap goals conceded in panic.;

7) When ball is in play, keepers must effectively become sweepers. In that regard, they move up to the edge of the 18 and track play. It is easier to come out quickly to thwart over the top balls, to cut down angles, or to help defenders re-position in counter attacks - think ease of communication. You also shorten the field of attack - of course, a good player will try to chip you, but refer to point #2. Classic Example Tim Howard and Pepe Reina(sometimes) will often sit at edge of 18 when play is upfield so if you notice, in event of a retreat or recover, back passes are shorter to them.

8) Keepers must COMPETENTLY POSITION WALLS - either themselves or using a field player, or both - AND TAKE THE RIGHT GOALLINE STANCE. Classic Example: Mark Schwartzer. He has George Boateng double line from the striker's position after he himself has lined up.;

9) Keepers MUST start counter attacks with precision. A punt when the opposition is running back to their side puts pressure on their last line of defense, as well as causes fatigue and confusion when the players tracking back are having to contend both with finding the ball as well as man marking...on the run! Long throws or brilliant long punts are highly effective. Classic Example: Paul Robinson to Robbie Keane last week. Watch Paul's outlets: always to a person or attempt to anyway, not just pointless booms. Also, Peter Cech mostly throws and punts to a player, not an area.;

10) Last but not least, the incredibly obvious but often flubbed chocie to parry shots....TO THE SIDE AND AWAY FROM ONCOMING PLAYERS!!!! Good Classic Example: Cech. Bad Classic Example: Van Der Saar.

Given the above, my top 4 goalkeepers in the world right now are:

Peter Cech - Czech Republic
Tim Howard - USA (he has made a GREAT transition from shot-stopper to goalkeeper)
Richard Kingston - Ghana
Mark Schwartzer - Australia


Glendon said...

Classic Barthez positioning!

The Gaffer said...

I wonder how many of those we will find on Fabien Barthez... What a cow and to think that he actually was at Old Trafford... Blimey!!!

So in other words VDS sucks right now. We'll see if Ben Foster can wrestle him for that position next season.

Glendon said...

Ben Foster is a fantastic goalkeeper. He's come around this year over at Watford. It may have something to do with the 350 shots he gets on him per match!