The Modern Goalkeeper

The Modern Goalkeeper
By Neil Cooper
CAPA Trainer / Coach
NC - December 2013
The Modern Goalkeeper
There have been many changes to the way the goalkeeper
plays. In the 70s and 80s when goalkeepers played, they
were simply required to keep the ball out of the goal. Since
the introduction of the back pass Law in the early 90s,
goalkeepers have had to become much better footballers,
with the ability to use their feet as much as their hands.
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Technical Changes
• “Tipping” with the top hand is now the conventional way
to save a ball to the top corner.
• Positioning from corners has changed also, with fewer
goalkeepers using defenders to cover their posts than ever
• Goalkeepers may move along their goal line when facing
penalty kicks now too and this adds to the pressure placed
on the taker.
• Each change has caused the goalkeeper to evolve and
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Position Attributes
Physical: Strength, Agility, Balance, Speed, Co-ordination,
Reaction Time, Height
Mental: Concentration, Determination, Bravery,
Technical: Footballer 1st (must be able to play field well),
Handling, footwork
Tactical: Positioning, sweeper, organization,
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Ball Line
The imaginary line that runs from the centre of the goal,
through the ball. For all goalkeepers, this is the basic starting
position that helps with narrowing the angle and making
shooting difficult for the attacker.
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Angle Arc
Angle Arc
• An imaginary line that usually starts either just outside
or at the post, and runs to the other post, peaking at the
top of the six-yard box.
• Guideline for goalkeepers as to how far they want to be
closing the ball down when a shot is coming from inside
or at the edge of the penalty area.
• Changes for every goalkeeper based on their physical,
technical and tactical attributes.
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Positions For Crosses
• Crosses from the conventional position.
• Right footed players that will provide outswinging crosses
in these instances.
• Goalkeeper is positioned about 2 yards off his line and his
body is opened up to the rest of the field.
• Keeper can move forward to collect a mishit cross to the
near post
• If the ball is centred, he’ll turn to face into the field in
order to be “set” to make a save.
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• Communicate to the man closest to the ball to apply
pressure to cut out the cross.
• Communicate with his defence their marking
• The goalkeeper is unlikely to attempt to attack the
• Most would settle with attempting to make a save from
a header 8-10 yards out.
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• In this instance, cross is from about 2 yards short of the
by line and 5 yards in from the edge of the area.
• Goalkeeper is positioned in line with near post.
• Closer to the byline, means the goalkeeper has slid closer
to his near post.
• He is about 2 yards off his line and able to cover anything
that is shot at the near post
• Also along the angle arc so that he can attack a driven
ball, or make a save if the cross is cut back.
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• In this picture, goalkeeper is a little further out (about 3 or
4 yards)
• Body is much more open and square to the middle of the
• Angle of the delivery allows him to open his body more
to see both the crosser, and the players attacking the cross.
• In middle of the goal to deal with cross to any part of the
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• Goalkeeper is more aggressive with his decision making
with this type of cross.
• More time to see the flight of the ball, judge the ball better
and attack it.
• Ball will be an outswinging cross. If the keeper does come
for the cross, catching it may prove difficult due to the swing
of the ball and the onrushing attackers so a punch is more
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Punch or Catch
• Difficult to explain whether a goalkeeper should punch or
catch the ball because every cross and circumstance is
• Easiest rule is that if there are attackers around you, you
should punch and if not, you should catch. Even this can be
deceiving or incorrect.
• The swing of the ball, the number of people in the penalty
area, the type of delivery and the area of the field the cross is
delivered from, will all impact a goalkeeper’s decision to
come and catch or punch the ball.
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• Definitely punch a long, straight ball played down the
field and you are put under pressure by an attacking
• In the picture below, Hugo Lloris attacks the ball over the
top of the centre forward and punches the ball away.
• If the ball is deeper and goes over the head of the
attacker, he would catch it due to lack of pressure.
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• The pictures below show that the free kick is delivered
from deep, and the goalkeeper has time to judge the flight
of the ball
• Due to the fact that there are no Newcastle players
applying pressure to him, he can catch the ball.
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• Hardest problem that youth goalkeepers have is that they
lack the necessary experience to successfully judge the flight
of the ball.
• Most prefer to stay on their line and let their defenders
deal with the cross instead.
• Work on crosses in training to allow plenty of
opportunities for goalkeepers to see and experience
different types of delivery
• This will give them the confidence to make the right
decisions in a game.
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Corridor of Uncertainty
If you watch a lot of soccer, a common phrase you will
hear from commentators is when they talk about the
“corridor of uncertainty” as an area on the field to which a
cross should be delivered.
But what is it?
And why is it so difficult for a goalkeeper?
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• In the picture on the next slide, Arjen Robben is breaking
down the Bayern right hand side
• He is in a position to cross the ball but how he does will
impact how the goalkeeper will handle the situation.
• High, floated ball to #9 at the back post, might see the
goalkeeper attack and look to catch or punch.
• Mishit cross to the near post allows keeper to claim easily.
• Goes to goal alone, and keeper will treat it as a shot and
move into a position where he narrows the angle to make a
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• Hardest ball for the goalkeeper to respond to is one that
is played along the ground between the 6-yard box and
penalty spot.
• The goalkeeper will be caught in two minds whether to
attack the cross, or wait and try to make a save.
• Creates the “uncertainty” in his mind that gives this 6yard space its name.
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• On the next slide Robben has found himself in a position
behind the Wolfsburg defense.
• He can play in the air to #9, go to goal alone or play
along the floor between the 6-yard box and penalty spot in
the “corridor of uncertainty”.
• Speed on the ball will make it difficult for the goalkeeper
to come out and attack the cross
• Knows that if he doesn’t, he’ll be facing a shot from the
on rushing Mandzukic from about 6 yards out.
• Creates uncertainty in his mind, and makes reacting to
the cross in this space very difficult.
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• Once uncertainty is created, the attacker not only has
the advantage in this situation but in future ones also.
• Goalkeepers cannot “cheat” over for the anticipated
cross as they may be beaten with a shot at the near post.
• He may also decide that he’s definitely not going to
attack the cross the next time, and therefore be slow off
his line, or out of position for different cross.
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• “Corridor of uncertainty” is not only created by balls
that are played along the floor
• The swing on the delivery may also be enough to create
uncertainty, as might the positioning of the defenders and
• Usually defined as that 6-yard space between 6-yard box
and penalty spot.
• Any closer than 6-yards and the goalkeeper will claim it.
Any further out than the penalty spot and you’d expect
the defenders to deal with it.
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Positioning For Shots
• Goalkeepers should be looking to be on both the ball line,
and angle arc to give themselves the chance to cover all
areas of the goal.
• Takes time and practice but points are explained in next
few slides.
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• Edwin Van Der Sar is about to face a shot from the
Spurs player at the top of the penalty area.
• He is 2 or 3 yards off his line, directly on the ball line
(shown by the red line), and is in the “set” position.
•As the ball is struck, takes a small step to lead with that
foot before extending into his dive to make the save.
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For young goalkeepers, positioning may change. Here, Van
Der Sar is dealing with a shot from a professional. This is
likely to be very accurate and struck with a great amount
of power. He will therefore need time to react to that and
make the save. This is why his starting position is where it
For youth goalkeepers, they can be another 3 or 4 yards
closer to the ball (almost at the 6), to give them a better
chance of making a save to shots in the corners of the goal.
Youth team goalkeepers often struggle with balls going
over their head too. By being further out, closer to the
forward shooting, they have a better chance of saving the
shot by getting to the ball whilst it is still rising.
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• He is at full extension to his right, which means his
initial step to save the ball would have been with his right
• Due to his size and athletic ability, 2 or 3 yards off his
line was the right position for him.
• Proof that younger goalkeepers, would need to be
further off their line in order to reach all corners of the
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Correct Angles From Shots
• With this picture sequence, we first see Hugo Lloris
getting set for the shot.
• 2 or 3 yards off his line as Van Der Saar was
• Correctly positioned on the ball line and is in the “set”
position to move to save the shot.
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• Bafetimbi Gomis has just struck his shot to Lloris’ left.
• Lloris takes a short, directional step with his left foot
before extending into his dive.
• His feet are wider than the shoulder width apart he would
have for the “set” position due to the step with his left foot.
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• With his dive, he extends through the ball to make the
save and tip it away.
• Look at his finishing position, with his wrist beyond the
• Key because he now avoids a striker bending the ball
around his hand.
• By landing with his wrist beyond the post, he shows that
he would have covered a shot that was even wider and
bent back in.
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Extension Saves
• Lloris and Van Der Sar are making the saves with the
lower hand due to the height of the ball in relation to the
• For low shots, saves should be made with the bottom
hand if only 1 can reach the ball.
• Shots into the top corners, different goalkeepers use
different styles.
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• Modern technique is to use top hand to “tip” the ball
over the crossbar.
• This is the preferred way for making saves in the top
corners of the goal because the top hand can reach further
than the bottom one.
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•This style has changed in recent years. Older keepers still
use their bottom hand even when the shot is in the top
• “Tipping” allows you to reach further in your dive, but
goalkeepers job is simply to keep the ball out of the goal.
• If preference is to go with the bottom hand, they should
be left to continue with this technique if they make
necessary saves.
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Corner Positioning
• Usually a personal preference for goalkeepers and will
change based on the position of the other players at the
• No right or wrong answers but there are common areas
of thought
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• Manuel Neuer is positioned in the middle of the goal.
• Most obvious reason seems to be that as there are no
players positioned to cover the posts
• Neuer must cover the whole goal and this is easiest to do
from the middle of it.
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• Diego Benaglio is in a deeper position.
• He is positioned off his line and about 2/3rds of the way
back in his goal.
• Easier to move forward to attack the ball than move back
to a ball going over his head.
• May be further back due to the player positioned on the
near post that can cover that portion of the goal.
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• Most important thing is that goalkeeper and defence feel
comfortable with positioning and are aware of the duties
they have.
• Recommendation is to have a player on each post and
your goalkeeper standing about 2/3rds to 3/4 back in the
• This is due to the fact that it is easier for a goalkeeper to
move forward for the ball than it is to move back.
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Positioning for Free Kicks
• Free kicks, like corners and throw-ins are when the
goalkeeper starts to move away from the ball line and angle
• Like with a corner kick, the goalkeeper’s position will
depend on a number of factors.
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•Here, due to the angle of the kick, Schmeichel positioned
slightly off the red ball line.
• Position is a conventional one for the goalkeeper behind a
• Wall will be lined up to cover the near side of the goal,
with the goalkeeper positioned just to the far side of it
where they can see the ball.
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• The kick here is very central so Paul Robinson has chosen
for the wall to defend one side of the goal and he will cover
the other side.
• He is as close to the middle of the goal as possible to be
able to cover the shot over the wall, but his position does
favor the far post slightly.
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This keeper is very close to the far post, and obviously feels
that the wall will cover the other side of the goal suitably.
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• Positioning will change dependent on where the free
kick is being taken from
• Victor Valdes has lined up two players in the wall and
has positioned himself as he would for a cross from this
• Angle means that he does not anticipate a shot and is
ready to attack any cross into the penalty area.
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Another question I am continually asked is, how many
players should there be in a wall?
The honest answer is, as many as the goalkeeper is
comfortable having. This graphic gives a visual idea
though of what is considered conventional.
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The Penalty Shot
• Pressure is with the taker and this should be reiterated to
your goalkeeper.
• They are not expected to make the save but it would be
great if they can!
• Even though the goalkeeper is not expected to make the
save, can use visual clues to give themselves a better chance
of doing so.
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• First, the goalkeepers starting position. He is positioned
in the middle of the goal with his heels touching the goal
• Laws of the game say that the goalkeeper must stay on
his line until the ball is struck
• This allows the keeper to be a little more advanced, and
appear “larger” in the goal.
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• The goalkeeper must read where the taker is going to put
the ball so that they know where to dive.
• There are many visual cues that help with that and some
are highlighted here.
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• First clue of where the penalty is going is in the run-up.
• In this instance, it is going to be very hard to bring the
ball across his body and to his right.
• More likely, he will push the ball with the side of his
foot to his left (the goalkeeper’s right).
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• Another clear visual cue here, as he is about to strike the
ball, is the position of Van Persie’s shoulders.
• One behind the other means it will be very unlikely that
he will shoot across his body.
• For that, his shoulders would need to be square to the
• Still unlikely to pull the ball across his body
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• Can also look at the angle of the taker’s hips as they strike
the ball.
• Hips and belly button almost always point in the direction
the taker wants the ball to go.
• Van Persie’s hips are pointing to the goalkeeper’s right.
• De Gea reads the cues well and is starting to move to
make the save.
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• By looking at the same visual cues it is possible to see the
subtle differences in technique when shooting to the
opposite side of the goal.
• The taker has a straighter starting position rather than the
wide angled one that Van Persie had. From this position,
he could still put the ball in either corner.
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• The other visual cues we looked at were shoulder and
hip position.
• With this taker, the number is clearer because his
shoulders are much more level as he strikes the ball.
• Due to the fact he is pulling the ball across himself, his
hips are beginning to be brought around to where he is
going to shoot the ball.
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•As he would with any shot, the keeper takes a directional
step with the foot closest to where the ball is going and
extends into the dive.
• This is especially important with penalties as that step
will take him off the line and narrow the angle for the taker
a little more.
• With penalties, this is usually as the player is about to
strike the ball as seen here.
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• Lots of information available to a youth goalkeeper
facing a penalty
• Don’t overwhelm them
• As the coach, ask them to focus on 1 cue and spend
sessions practicing penalties so that the goalkeeper can
recognise it over and over again.
• The cue I use with my goalkeepers is the position of the
player’s hips as they reach the ball
• Every coach, and every goalkeeper is different. Go with
whatever works.
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• Being a goalkeeper is hard on the body and on the mind.
• These are just a few tips and examples to help with
making sure you can give your goalkeepers the best
possible advise.
• At younger age groups, make sure everyone has a chance
to experience being a goalkeeper.
• Having everyone play the position will help with their
attitude when mistakes are made as they’ll realize just how
difficult a position it is!
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Further Information
Neil Cooper
[email protected]
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