In football, formations show how players are positioned on a pitch and are generally presented either diagrammatically or numerically. Numerically, they more often than not follow a general pattern of stating the number of defenders, midfielders, and forwards, as seen in 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 4-5-1, and so on.
It is easy to see that the numbers do not match the requirements of 11 players and this is because there is a position so important it is ignored: the goalkeeper position. The essentiality of this position to the beautiful game is best portrayed in red card situations whereby whenever an outfield player is red carded, play can continue as long as the dismissed player has left the pitch. However, if a goalkeeper is dismissed, an outfield player must be taken off to bring in a substitute keeper or in the event of substitutions not being available, an outfield player must wear the goalkeeper kit and occupy that position before play is to continue.
In the third part of this editorial series, we take a closer look at the goalkeeper position.
Distinguishing the shot-stopper from the sweeper-keeper
A goalkeeper is the last man tasked with the responsibility of preventing the ball from crossing his goal line. By default, this primary role gave rise to the conventional shot-stopper. A shot-stopper must possess outstanding reflexes, ball handling, agility, athleticism, and hand-eye coordination to be able to carry out his duties effectively. A very good example of this type of keeper is David de Gea.
However, in the course of history, there has been a gradual metamorphosis of the conventional role of the goalkeeper which has birthed the rise of a new breed of goalkeepers known as the sweeper-keeper. Early pioneers of this role include the Hungarian, Gyula Grosics, and the only goalkeeper to win the Ballon d’Or, Lev Yashin. These goalkeepers must possess respectable technical abilities, accurate timing in coming off their lines, good passing, and ball distribution.
How systems influence the choice of a shot-stopper or a sweeper
In concluding this article, it is important to point out how the choice of goalkeepers for different teams and coaches is dependent on the preferred style of play. Logically, a team that plays possession-based football would prefer a goalkeeper with the skillsets of a sweeper keeper. Ederson Moraes’ shot-stopping ability is probably not his greatest strength. However, he is regarded as one of the best sweeper keepers in the history of his game possessing technical abilities to rival even some of the most technical outfield players. Simply put, he is Manchester City’s first attacker.
Petr Cech is reputed as one of the best shot-stoppers in the history of the Premier League and he rose to prominence under Jose Mourinho in Chelsea’s 2004/2005, 2005/2006 title-winning seasons. In the earlier season, Chelsea remarkably ended the Premier League season conceding only 15 goals! Cech’s shot-stopping ability and the defensive setup of the team complimented each other to achieve this unprecedented feat.
Now, imagine Cech playing for Pep or Ederson for Mourinho.
Manuel Neuer is a hybrid of the shot-stopper and the sweeper. Over the years, he has excelled in both roles and there is a feeling that ideal goalkeeper in the near future would be one like Neuer who has enough in his arsenal to pose as both.