Goalkeeper: a unique position

There's no other position like it in football. An essential but isolated figure on the pitch, goalkeepers are often seen as special and unique. But how do you spot a good goalkeeper?          

There's no other position like it in football. An essential but isolated figure on the pitch, goalkeepers are often seen as special and unique. But how do you spot a good goalkeeper?


Mental toughness

4-4-2. 4-3-3. 3-5-2. When we talk tactics, we are usually only referring to 10 players. Interchangeable, moving, these are the outfield players that everyone focuses on. The goalkeeper is never mentioned because it's a given that they'll always be there, in front of the goal. As if their position could be summed up as just protecting their team's net. However, in modern football, the goalie's role is much more comprehensive. Here is a (non-exhaustive) review of the skills they need.

The first quality of a good goalkeeper is mental toughness: they need to stay focused at all times. That may seem obvious but, with this position, the smallest mistake can be fatal. The goalkeepers are more exposed and can rarely count on a teammate to catch their blunders. Just ask Luis Arconada, Loris Karius or even David James.



Communication and commitment

The goalkeeper has a considerable advantage over their teammates: they have the game in front of them. They can also relay valuable information to their teammates, helping them get into position to defend the goal and combat their opponents. Here, we're getting down to one of the most important qualities of a goalkeeper: good communication. They shouldn't be afraid to talk throughout the entire match, even if it means shouting to make themselves heard. 

Being heard is important, being seen is equally so. A goalkeeper should try their hardest to inspire fear in the opposing team. For this, they have to be totally engaged, especially when jumping to block the ball (without going overboard like Schumacher). You don't have to be tall to get things done! Above all, you need to have the drive and, most importantly, good reflexes. Being able to read the game helps the goalie get in a good position to make a diving save, without risking injury.

The goalkeeper is essential to the game, they shouldn't be passive, stuck to the line, waiting on the opposing team's defence. They should participate in the game with their movements. Rather than staying on the line, they have to adjust their position based on what is happening on the field. This will help them intervene and better anticipate their opponents' shots and teammates' errors. 




Targeting technique and skills

Most of the time, goalkeepers train separately with "customized” training sessions. That's when they work on the physical skills that their position requires. These workouts can be physically punishing. They require complete concentration as well as intense physical abilities. Ironically, the player that trains the hardest (the goalkeeper) will have very little contact with the ball during matches. Why? They are the team's last line of defence and the slightest error could cost their team the match. Therefore, they have to constantly practise their drills to be as effective as possible for 90 minutes or longer.

A goalie needs to be light on their feet to react as quickly as possible to any situation. To protect the goal from shots down the centre, they have to have a good vertical jump so they can dominate opposing teams during saves. A good dive will improve their defence on the line.



Feet, a good goalkeeper's most useful tool

1992 was a turning point for goalkeepers. At this point, it became illegal for them to handle back passes from their teammates. Goalies could no longer just use their hands, they had to start using their feet.

It's a crucial aspect of the position today. The best goalkeepers of our time are excellent receivers, often the best on their team. They're able to offer solutions to their teammates as well as organize their team's game. Cool, calm and clean technique should be an integral part of the goalkeeper's skill set. And if their technical skills aren't up to snuff, there's only one solution: take as few risks as possible.

Christophe Lollichon (goalkeeper trainer for Chelsea FC) says it best: “The goalkeeper is an outfield player that can use their hands. This means that they shouldn't be satisfied with just being a "shot stopper'. A goalkeeper needs to understand the game like a midfielder. It's absolutely vital”.

These days, a team whose goalkeeper has a poor passing game cannot dominate their opponents. To dominate, you have to back pass and set up your game properly. It's the goalkeeper's passing skills that, in part, enable their team to get into position.



Emeric Meunier

Emeric of fitandfoodhealthy

A qualified sports coach and fitness trainer for the last seven years,I played club football for 12 years at regional level. Thanks to my experience, I can respond to the problems faced by individuals and to the demands of clubs. I can deliver a whole host of free sports programmes tailored to every level and responding to different objectives.

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