Football, like any team sport, involves interaction with both opponents and teammates. This type of situation generates an almost infinite competitive complexity for both the athlete and the coaches in charge of analysing the game.
The range of professional people dedicated to football is very wide, but without a doubt, specialist coaches occupy the positions of greatest responsibility in the management of a team. Coach, assistant coach, assistants and, of course, goalkeeping coach, are figures who work alongside the players on a daily basis and their role is essential in the search for solutions to the different situations presented by the game.
Within their daily work, one of the most arduous and at the same time necessary tasks lies in studying the game and breaking it down into specific situations. This decomposition of a whole into different parts generates behavioural structures that can be transferred more easily to training.
2vs2 or 3vs3 situations in the right/left wing channel, attack-defence or defence-attack transitions, situations of numerical superiority in the central channel… are some examples of facets to which a player is exposed during competition.
In the same way, the goalkeeper in the performance of his work, due to the specificity of the position, faces a wide range of possible contexts to respond to, and this is where the great debate arises.
DO WE TRAIN TECHNICAL ACTIONS OR GAME SITUATIONS?
As goalkeeping coaches, have we ever stopped to observe the game and classify it according to the type of situation the goalkeeper is facing?
technical gestures used by the goalkeeper and to design drills to train them. However, we are wrong to think that this is the essence of training. On the contrary, this is perhaps a necessary first facet to develop, but the next step, once these concepts have been consolidated, is to train under the complexity of the game.
A single action per exercise, one action after another until fatigue sets in, only two actions… any possibility is valid as long as it is based on the previous analysis of the game and follows its internal logic.
Within the task of analysis, as we said earlier, simplifying the game to make it simpler helps to subsequently transfer the competitive context to the training context. Each coach, and especially each goalkeeping coach, has his own classification of situations. Some choose to separate between defensive and offensive, others to structure according to whether or not the goalkeeper manages to gain possession of the ball, etc.
In our case, we are committed to sectioning the pitch into different parts and extracting different game structures according to them. In conclusion, we are committed to establishing a “pitchgraph” that helps the goalkeeper to identify the area during the game and anticipate the actions that may occur.
As can be seen in the image, the division of the pitch establishes different zones and, depending on the zone, we establish the most recurrent type of situation. For example, from the wing channel, the goalkeeper normally faces cross-shot situations or passing situations in front of the defensive line. From the central channel, outside the box, he faces situations involving 50-50 ball situations and long-distance shots, or from the edge of the box. Inside the box, the goalkeeper may encounter short-distance shots situations, 1vs1 or 50-50 ball situations. Finally, we set up the baseline situations as another section to be broken down separately due to their tactical complexity.
In short, the analysis of the goalkeeper’s defensive play from our perspective leaves us with this context. This same context serves us to structure the training and also to evaluate the competitive action.
Next, and having established the above, with the firm belief that the goalkeeper responds to situations and not to technical actions, we set up our own competition evaluation template.
This template aims to compile and respond to the actions of our goalkeepers within the changing context of the game. For this reason, they start with a general classification, such as situations, and are specified according to the first action and a possible second technical action, to finish with the numerical evaluation. It is important to note that, within each situation, the range of technical and tactical actions that can occur is immense, and they can also be intertwined. In other words, who is to say that a 1vs1 approach can’t take place from the back line, or that there is a 50-50 ball situation after a front kick?
It is important to understand the meaning of the game and to interpret that the same action can originate anywhere on the pitch, and that many of them are the consequence of a first action that may have nothing to do with it. For example, an in-extremis 1vs1 preceded by a badly deflected close-range shot. The important thing here is to know how to classify the actions in order to have a logical order of evaluation and to be aware that the game itself intertwines them without an apparent logical order. From this arises the need to establish a double or even triple evaluation of the same play depending on the number of actions involved.
Football, as a collaborative-oppositional team sport, establishes an open and changing context. With the assessment templates we have to try to respond to this characteristic. Through this template we can respond to this requirement since, from an open format, it classifies the actions and gives freedom to interweave them with each other.
The numerical evaluation is set from 3 to 10 points in order to obtain a more stable value. Therefore, the average score is 7. An average value lower than 7 in any of the situations indicates that the goalkeeper has some kind of problem.
Collecting competitive information match after match gives us information about our goalkeeper’s level, strengths and weaknesses, and possible threats for future matches. Establishing data collection through templates like this one is a distinctive point as goalkeeping coaches and is distinctive both for goalkeeping and, consequently, for the performance of our goalkeepers.
As with any other example, familiarising ourselves with the use of this type of template speeds up our daily work and gives us a much more objective view of the evolution of the level of our goalkeepers. In addition, at the bottom we open a new section to finish this quantitative and qualitative evaluation with a more subjective section from the coach’s point of view. This section is used to note down those strong or weak points on which we should focus. Aspects such as the profiles to face each situation, for example the vertical and horizontal adjustment in a wing channel situation, can be useful information to note down that the template itself does not include.
The purpose of this last section is to provide us, through a few notes and a quick reading, with information on the aspects that really need to be improved in training: it is not only enough to work on the demands posed by the game. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of our goalkeepers and developing training sessions based on them is another very useful way to improve. Taking advantage of this section to draw our conclusions and our perception of what the goalkeeper is doing well or badly is essential feedback for both the goalkeeper and for us. Self-knowledge helps him to focus his attention and helps us to give one direction or another to the training.