One thing, actually, which has not often occurred on a soccer discipline and was not even attainable till this season. And one thing which, though comparatively innocuous in itself, symbolises a small revolution in the best way the game may be performed.
Visiting striker Jaime Mata overran the ball, which went out for a goalkick. That was the sign for Getafe’s gamers, as they routinely do, to push excessive up the sector and tightly man mark their opponents, refusing to present them a easy move out from the again.
Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, quite than taking the deadball himself, handed it over to Samuel Umtiti, on the sting of the six-yard field, so the French defender may take the kick. Getafe’s gamers, understandably, had been confused. That they had by no means seen this earlier than, and Jorge Molina delayed the restart by encroaching into the realm earlier than Umtiti had taken the kick.
When everybody was set, Umtiti merely rolled the ball a few yards sq. to ter Stegen, after which – alongside with Gerard Pique to the goalkeeper’s proper – superior exterior the penalty space, giving the ball-taking part in keeper passing choices.
This new tactic – a defender taking goalkicks to the goalkeeper so he can then advance with the ball at his ft to launch a part of possession – heralded a remarkably influential efficiency from ter Stegen, who extremely ended up with extra touches of the ball and extra passes than Lionel Messi.
And his extremely energetic function within the motion may function a template for a brand new period of goalkeepers, who are actually turning into a lot, rather more than merely shot-stoppers and gatherers of crosses. In a really significant sense, keepers like ter Stegen are their staff’s most vital attacking catalysts. A quarterback contained in the penalty space. A playmaker from deep. A inventive weapon.
Let their ft do some speaking
A protected pair of palms? For goalkeepers as of late, it’s extra vital to have a trusty pair of ft.
The brand new period of goalkeeping started in 1992, when FIFA launched a brand new legislation prohibiting goalkeepers from choosing up deliberate again passes performed by the ft.
Till then – and now, a couple of many years into the long run, it’s surprisingly disconcerting to observe footage of previous video games and see this occur – a key aspect of defensive play was relieving stress by passing the ball again to the keeper, who would collect it in his arms and invariably wait for everybody to regain their positions earlier than giving the ball a giant lump downfield.
The legislation was modified as a result of it was deemed to be too simple for defenders to clear their traces with a nudge again to the keeper. Surrounded by opponents on the sting of your space? Dealing with a harmful low cross with males at your again? Sprinting again in the direction of objective alongside a speedy winger? No drawback…simply knock the ball again to the keeper, he’ll decide it up and the hazard might be safely averted.
The stability between defenders and attackers was judged to be too closely weighted in favour of the previous, with aggressive urgent of the ball within the opposition half nearly rendered meaningless by the easy possibility of returning the ball to the keeper. It was additionally a tedious time losing tactic, with defenders merely turning to their keeper and giving the ball again so he may waste a couple of seconds earlier than sending it again into play – a very tiresome sight at the 1990 World Cup and 1992 European Championships.
And so the legislation change was launched, eradicating the security valve of a lazy backpass and inspiring forwards to pile stress on defenders inside the ultimate third.
With the advantage of three many years of hindsight, we should always hail this resolution as one of the vital constructive legislation adjustments the sport has ever seen. Soccer has modified past recognition as a consequence, turning into a much more free-flowing sport as the lack to select up again passes opened up a complete world of ball-taking part in potentialities, with goalkeepers turning into additionally footballers who need to be comfy controlling and passing a ball quite than simply choosing it up and wellying it downfield.
At first, most groups most well-liked to play it protected and keep away from again passes altogether. Quite than taking the danger of giving the ball to the keeper and testing his ball-taking part in talents in a extremely harmful a part of the pitch, the extra wise possibility was to knock the ball out for a throw in or ship it lengthy downfield.
Quickly, although, it turned apparent that surrendering possession so simply was a wastefully unfavorable tactic, and a brand new era of keepers who had been technically able to receiving a ball to their ft and really utilizing it constructively began to emerge.
One of many first fashionable ‘sweeper-keepers’, ready to obtain and distribute the ball precisely in addition to merely defending his personal objective, was Gianluca Pagliuca of Sampdoria, Inter Milan and Italy. Many others adopted in his footsteps, with the technical talents of goalkeepers steadily enhancing by way of the likes of Fabien Barthez, Edwin van der Sar and Manuel Neuer to the purpose the place all goalkeepers are actually anticipated to have a sure degree of proficiency with their ft.
And, as he demonstrated on Saturday, the most recent legislation change is encouraging the artwork to achieve new heights by way of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Altering the sport
When your total philosophy of soccer is primarily based on retaining possession, it is solely logical to incorporate your goalkeeper in that course of. Why make a lot effort to maintain the ball if the person at the bottom of the staff can’t do it?
Having 10 gamers intent on dominating possession and one incapable of doing so can be fairly contradictory, and it’s subsequently completely predictable that FC Barcelona, the membership most carefully recognized with hogging the ball, turned the main pioneers within the new period of goalkeeping.
First there was Victor Valdes, then Claudio Bravo (who was subsequently taken to England as Pep Guardiola applied the brand new considering at Manchester Metropolis, to be copied earlier than lengthy by nearly ever different Premier League staff), after which, in its most excessive type but, alongside got here ter Stegen.
The German was recruited from Borussia Monchengladbach exactly due to his means to play out from the again, and his presence as first alternative starter from the summer season of 2016 onwards (he had beforehand been Bravo’s understudy and the staff’s cup keeper) instantly noticed Barca implement ‘playing out from the back’ strategies of their most radical type but.
There have been some shaky moments at first, with ter Stegen committing errors with adequate frequency to make many wonder if Barca had been simply taking issues too far. After his howling error led to a objective for Celta Vigo in October 2016, for instance, legendary Spanish TV commentator Michael Robinson sneered: “The problem is that he thinks he’s Garrincha. He isn’t half as good as he thinks.”
However ter Stegen after which-Barca boss Luis Enrique wouldn’t waver. The occasional mistake resulting in the occasional objective was greater than compensated by the way more frequent assaults sparked by ter Stegen’s icy insistence on receiving the ball below stress and on the lookout for a constructive move quite than an aimless whack.
Even in the course of the reign of Ernesto Valverde – hardly essentially the most obsession-oriented supervisor – ter Stegen’s distribution abilities stood out. He registered two assists within the opening 15 video games of this season, delivering pinpoint a by way of ball for Luis Suarez to run on and open the scoring at Getafe in September earlier than doing the identical for Antoine Griezmann at dwelling to Mallorca a couple of weeks later.
However now, with the arrival of Cruyffista (truly Michelsista, as we defined in an earlier article) par excellence Quique Setien, it seems that ter Stegen is set to revolutionise the goalkeeper place even additional.
Saturday’s assembly was an applicable setting to launch the brand new part of ter Stegen’s affect, as the sport pitted Setien’s possession obsession in opposition to Getafe boss Jose Bordalas’s mania for environment friendly use of area.
From the outset, it turned clear that ter Stegen would play an unusually distinguished function within the proceedings: with Getafe swarming excessive up the pitch to push Barca as distant from their objective as attainable, he transformed his first move after simply 16 seconds, sliding a ball by way of to Arthur in midfield, and made one other correct supply to Griezmann 14 seconds later.
The identification of the recipients of these opening passes is vital. Ter Stegen wasn’t merely offloading the ball brief to Umtiti or Pique and letting them play out from the again; Getafe’s excessive press and man-marking usually made that unattainable, so the keeper needed to search out different choices past the primary wave of stress.
He continued to take action repeatedly, all through the match, with Barca pressured to indicate nerveless persistence within the face of Getafe’s admirably sustained stress. “We’re not going to give you simple passes up the field, so you’ll have to play it long,” was the daring problem laid down by the visiting staff. “We’re not going to play it long, so we’ll go back to the keeper and bide our time,” got here the response from the hosts.
It was an interesting recreation of cat and mouse, with each groups doggedly sustaining their philosophies and trying to impose their fashion of play upon the opponent. And for Barca, a central characteristic – maybe even the central characteristic – of that strategy was the repeated willingness, when no different passing choices had been obtainable, to present the ball again to ter Stegen and begin once more.
That doesn’t imply, nevertheless, that Barca had been trying to be conservative or unfavorable. They simply needed to maintain the ball, and if that meant going backward so as to then go ahead, so be it. A again move to the keeper, in Barca’s minds, is not a defensive transfer. It is an attacking transfer as a result of it retains possession, and ter Stegen may be trusted, every time they’re obtainable, to identify and execute constructive passes which may break Getafe’s stress and discover the area to launch an assault.
This inflexible considering bore fruit shortly earlier than half-time. Simply after Antoine Griezmann had opened the scoring, Barca had possession in their very own half and, below stress, returned the ball to ter Stegen. He promptly floated a troublesome however completely positioned move over the pinnacle of an opponent and into the stride of Sergi Roberto, who was operating into area down the fitting flank. Lower than a minute later, with Getafe having made a few challenges with out gaining possession or totally breaking Barca’s rhythm, the ball was at the back of the web as Sergi Roberto swept dwelling Junior Firpo’s cross.
The transfer completed in a single penalty space, however it had began within the different, with ter Stegen.
All within the numbers
Ter Stegen’s stats from Saturday’s recreation are putting. He made 69 passes, excess of Messi’s 48 and precisely the identical as Getafe’s 4 beginning midfielders mixed (Marc Cucurella 23, Mauro Arambarri 20, Nemanja Maksimovic 14 and Peter Etebo 12).
And though a lot of these passes had been protected and brief to Pique or Umtiti, many had been way more dangerous and adventurous, reminiscent of his loft out to Sergi Roberto to spark the transfer for the second objective.
This is an unbelievable quantity of accountability to position upon a goalkeeper, and a sign of simply how far the place has come for the reason that previous days of constructing saves, catching balls and kicking lengthy. In fact, they continue to be necessities of the job as nicely, and ter Stegen does them very nicely as he demonstrated with an incredible reflex save and comply with-up scoop off the road to disclaim Angel Rodriguez a late equaliser.
And in the identical means that 1992’s change to the backpass rule pressured the hand (pardon the pun) of goalkeepers to adapt and thrive below new taking part in situations, this season’s legislation change, permitting defenders into the penalty space earlier than goalkicks are taken, will do the identical.
Barca’s innovation of central defenders getting the ball again into play for goalkeepers like ter Stegen to then direct the subsequent ahead motion will certainly be copied. Pep Guardiola may have seen it, so don’t be shocked to see Ederson doing the identical factor earlier than lengthy. Alisson at Liverpool, maybe too. And, in fact, ter Stegen’s nationwide staff rival Manuel Neuer won’t wish to be outshone.
And for ter Stegen, in fact, this is only the start. Setien’s insistence upon preserving the ball will inevitably place him at the forefront of his staff’s possession play, and the progressive scenes witnessed at the Camp Nou on Saturday might be repeated every time circumstances dictate.
Is ter Stegen the perfect goalkeeper on the planet? That depends upon your definition of ‘the best’. He’s most likely not fairly the perfect shot-stopper (Jan Oblak), doesn’t command his field in addition to some (Thibaut Courtois) and makes extra errors than others (Alisson).
However when it comes to which goalkeeper has essentially the most accountability for his or her staff’s general efficiency, the Barca keeper is exhausting to beat. And at the identical time, he may in the end show liable for taking the goalkeeper place to its subsequent degree of expectations.
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