Making of a modern-day goalkeeper  

Naveed Ashfaque   | Saturday, 23 January 2021

In football, goalkeeping has always been the most thankless job. The goalkeepers make saves after saves and people just say, “They’re doing their job”. But for one tiny blunder, they are showered with criticism. However, nowadays football is not what it was even five years back. With all those changes in footballing styles and dynamics, modern day goalkeepers had to come out of their traditional responsibilities. As modern day goalkeepers are more engaged with their team’s gameplay, their contributions are now more visible. So what makes one a modern day goalkeeper?

Football has evolved in many ways such as changes in roles of players, styles of playing and many formations have become obsolete. In recent years, football has focused highly on building the game from the back and intense energised pressing. This has led to the inevitable ascent of keepers with more than just nerve-wracking shot-stopping ability and Spiderman-like reflexes. Modern keepers play a more involved and visible role. But still they end up becoming unsung heroes of the team.

Keepers nowadays are playing three crucial roles apart from shot stopping-- handling, reflex saves, and aerial control. These implicit demands asked of keepers are namely the ability to make do-or-die decisions. To illustrate with an example, let us look at Manuel Neuer of Bayern Munich, who goes yards off the penalty box to ‘sweep’ the ball almost immediately when it has been lost. Here, lies a crucial difference; the ability to go for a 50-50 sweep with the risk of letting the opposition score at open post is something not dares many do.

Execution of the effort is also a key in this type of situations. It’s not only just coming off the lines but also recognising one on one situation, what type of pass to make at which end of the play and many more. German keepers have excelled in this particular feat. With Neuer already mentioned, Ter Stegn of Barcelona is an expert in the humble execution of this craft.

The next crucial role, as per recent judgment of styles of play, is distribution which is a major determinant of a team's smooth transition from defence to attack. Keepers like Allison (Liverpool) and Ederson (Manchester City) have become pivotal to their team’s style of play. These two uniquely gifted keepers with the ability of pin-point distribution have, time and again, saved their teams from layers of press from the opposition.

As possession-based game reigns in modern style, keepers must understand when to make what type of pass, and they must excel in the execution as well. Keepers are expected to be more comfortable with their feet more than ever before. Meaning, they need to be comfortable under pressure while playing with either feet. Ederson ranks top among keepers with the ability of immaculate distribution with the feet while Courtois (Real Madrid) is there when it comes to distributing with immediate quick release off the arm.

The last roles to discuss are the ability to command the box and handle the ball together. Stopping the shot is perhaps the most basic ability of a keeper, be it punching it away or tucking it over the bar. This is a trait that is accentuated by a keeper’s ability to command the box in times of congestion or counter attacks. Alisson, with a heightened sense of positioning, ranks high when it comes to both of these abilities. He has been able to make breathtaking saves look normal and has almost always handled any ball shot at him with ease. This means almost all opposition attacks are neutered when the keeper handles the ball, leaving no room for them to pounce on a loose ball.

To conclude, we can try to understand which keeper makes the best fit for modern style of football. While there are many names in contention, the top two are possibly Alisson and Ederson as these two Brazilians exhibit most of the traits needed to survive in the modern dynamics of the game.

Naveed is a student of marketing at BUP. Reach him at- [email protected]