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Goalkeeper and defenders: an essential synergy in modern football

Goalkeeper and defenders: an essential synergy in modern football

How to create a modern defensive unit: individual features and collective tasks converge to perform a proactive, concrete play
In this article we are going to examine the defensive unit including defenders and goalkeeper regardless of kind of module, in order to analyse individual characteristics and tactical tasks in the two phases of play.

The role of the defensive block has changed over the years. First of all, a different defender style has been created. The game evolution has brought about a different demand for individual skills: not only defending but also attacking skills. Today outside defenders are able to play low or high thanks to their skill in 1v1 in the two phases of play. The role of the defensive midfielder has also changed, today he must be skilled also in play construction and possession. When in possession, the defensive unit seek to move the ball rapidly so as to catch the opposition while “unprepared” but, at the same time, the unit are ready to compensate for a negative transition by ensuring that preventive covering is always provided. In the defending phase the higher play speed demands greater attention to be paid to the distances between players, and marking is also being attentively studied by technicians.

The goalkeepers’ role has also changed during the past few years. Today footwork is very important because it improves the goalkeeper’s balance and reactivity. A reactive goalkeeper has a better chance to contrast the attackers’ speed.

Under a tactical point of view, the goalkeeper’s position in the two phases of play, possession and non possession, and in transition is more aggressive today than in  the past. The goalkeeper increasingly seeks advance and often he is also involved in game construction. Physical stature has increased considerably, in the last U23 Football World championship the average stature of goalkeepers was 1,93. As concerns the psychological aspect, I think that these “new” demands require a less isolated goalkeeper that take an active part in the defensive and attacking tactics of the defensive unit.
Nel dettaglio le caratteristiche  che deve avere il difensore moderno sono:
  • Here are the main requirements of a today’s goalkeeper: 
  1. in 1vs1, in both phases
  2. in losing your marker, toinsert with the right timings and with the right speed
  3. they should be quick and strong, but also agile and reactive
  4. they must be fast in anticipating
  5. make cross passes running
  6. be able to shoot closely or from afar
  7. to foresee a covered ball or uncovered
  8. should be proactive, have a great deal of initiative
  • Central defenders should be skilful:
  1. to foresee a covered ball or uncovered
  2. in man marking and covering
  3. in aerial play
  4. in long ball and elaborate construction
  5. should be reactive
  6. should have explosive strenght 
  7. be fast
  8. should be charismatic, with an aptitude for leadeship
In the offensive phase the defensive block should primarily grant covering whenever needed but also create numerical superiority in the zone near the ball. The outside defenders in turn should always support the play going up when the ball is in their section. The insertion of outside defenders always creates unpredictability to the offensive moves and, when made quickly it often catches the opposition unprepared.
The central defender plays a key role in supporting the defensive block, in that he should keep a rearward position behind the attacking action, as a diagonal back support, and be ready to help the defensive block in case of negative transition. In fact, in the case of losing the ball, the defensive block will not withdraw if the team is in a position to attack the ball at once; instead, if the team don’t try at once to conquer the ball and give space to the opposition, the defenders will be obliged to withdraw and lose field space.
In the defensive phase the “defensive block” should create numerical superiority in the central zone so as to greatly reduce the opposition playing spaces. Cross should be prevented  and marking in the penalty area could be performed if necessary. As a unit, defenders always run backwards  when in numerical inferiority, take time (to allow for a teammate recovery) in case of numerical equality, and attack when in numerical superiority. Of course, the match score and what time of the match is being played have to be considered, too.

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Defensive line: negative transaction


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