Free Kicks….Time For a Change?

By John Cartwright

Ever since I can remember, and that’s a long time, the basic tactical set-up for free-kicks against – both from central and wide positions – has been more or less the same with the creation of space between the GK and his defenders being given priority status. This space is created in order to provide a better sight of the ball for GK’s and to keep attacking players from positioning themselves too close to the goal. There have been ‘tweakings’ with the ‘wall’ in the use of the number of players used and its construction, but that’s about it with regards to defending against free-kicks.

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But there have been significant changes regarding free-kicks against over the past few years and more so last season — footballs are now produced that are more prone to dip and swerve; lightweight footwear allows more ‘feel’ on the ball; and just last season we saw Referees use foam to mark the distance between the ball and the nearest defending player(s) — the ‘cheating’ in the past by defenders to close this space down has ended.

With all of these new, positive changes to equipment and Refereeing, defensive structures have not shown similar positive changes to offset them and the goal has become more vulnerable. Direct, frontal free-kicks (18-36 metres) from goal have become more ‘stomach-churning’ for players, coaches and supporters as more often the ball flies over or around a ‘wall’ into the half of the goal vacated by the GK who is left stranded ‘protecting’ the other half ! Similarly, at free-kicks against from wide positions, the space left by defenders for the reasons already mentioned, have become equally difficult to defend. Both in-swinging and out-swinging free-kicks placed accurately and with pace into this space causing immense problems for defending players — GK’s in particular. Free-kicks from the bye-line to 10metres in wide positions are marked as at a corner kick, but at free-kicks given further from the bye-line so the space between the GK and his defenders is increased. This space has become a significant target for attackers to deliver the ball into and defenders are generally forced to run back towards their own goal into this space with opponents providing pressure on them. A mixture of defensive problems arises: — fear of turning the ball into their own goal — allowing attackers to get to the ball in front of them — collisions between the Gk and his own defenders or opposing players — GK decisions on whether to come out or stay on his/her goal-line — and after all this, the ball defeating everyone and lodging itself in the far corner of the goal!

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It is becoming more a case of poor delivery technique by attacking teams than the efficiency of present defensive tactics that sees free-kicks not producing even more goals than they already are. Defensive space at free-kicks has become an important tactical issue that nobody seems to discuss or have ideas on changes. These defensive spaces have become less of a tactical plus and more of a physically dangerous and mistake-ridden zone.

What I’m suggesting will probably produce fierce argument and disagreement by many inside and outside of the game — change always does! I do not intend to explain in detail how I believe new defensive marking against free-kicks mentioned should be set up –I have my opinion and everyone should ‘experiment’ themselves with defensive positioning.  Overall I believe that the goal itself and the route to it must be ‘blocked off’ as much as possible…..  1. The creation of the space between GK and his defenders from free-kicks up to a certain range should be abolished. 2. Place players in selected positions in selected roles against selected opponents. 3. All players between the ball and the goal … blocking the goal and space in front of it and an area up to the penalty spot.  4. A single player used as a ‘wall’ at frontal free-kicks only. 5. Have the GK positioned forward of the goal-line to allow as much free movement as possible.

I fully appreciate that opposing players would be able to take up positions closer to the goal and that there is always the chance of ricochets, blocking off etc. — as there are now.  Careful thought regarding ‘blocking the goal’ and defensive positioning in the penalty area would drastically reduce defensive gaps against direct shots and floated aerial deliveries. It would also allow defenders to ‘attack’ the ball if necessary from both wide or frontal free-kicks rather than find themselves having to ‘scramble’ back towards their own goal as is too often the case with present defensive methods.

These changes are worth a try. Nobody it seems has come up with anything else and goals from free-kicks are becoming more frequent. Anyone with a group of players might experiment with defensive positioning against different attacking options to see if a better defensive ‘guard’ can be conceived.

To help assess distances from goal it is often possible to see at most grounds, public parks or stadiums, that the grass is often cut in 6 metre lengths across the field. The penalty area has three cuts to cover the 18 metres and the cuts continue up-field in 6 metre lengths. The new re-positioning of defenders at free-kicks against from frontal and wide positions I believe should apply up to a distance of 36 metres (6 cuts approx.) from the goal. Free-kicks, frontal and wide beyond 36 metres from goal should have some space between the Gk and his defenders, but not so far out as at present (12 metres I believe would be a sufficient distance from goal). This would reduce the mad scramble back by defenders and allow more opportunities for them to come forward to attack the ball. This extra distance of free-kick deliveries against also gives GK’s more time to deal with deliveries from this range.

Would it work? Unless time is spent experimenting with changes to the present methods we will not find out. There will be a great deal of discussion and disagreement with what I have said, but unless we show more bravery towards making changes and trying new ideas we will remain in the ‘backyard’ of world football. My book, FOOTBALL FOR THE BRAVE, was not meant to ‘fly the flag’ for physical bravery in the game, we have plenty of that anyway, but to promote the importance of mental bravery by coaches and players to develop new ideas or search to improve on existing methods of playing the game….. I hope this ‘Blog’ will reach those brave enough to confront and challenge the ever changing game of Association Football. Perhaps you could reply to this ‘blog’ if you have experimented as mentioned and comment on the reaction of your players – positive and negative as well as your own thoughts and opinions —- also pos/neg.

Best regards and good experimenting ……..John

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46 thoughts on “Free Kicks….Time For a Change?

  1. Great post. I have often thought that ‘the wall’ should be a split wall. The gap allows the GK to see the strike, take up a more central position thus allowing easier movement to either side of the goal depending on where the shot is aimed. The split wall still insists that the kicker gets around or over a wall, thus delaying the arrival of the ball but with the GK having to only move half the width of the goal instead of three quarters, it may be easier to deal with the flight.
    Direct shots through the gap (depending on distance) will, effectively, be directly at the goalkeeper, thus reducing the chance of deflections.
    With kicks from wider positions you adjust the width of the two halves of the wall with, for example, a two (short side) and a three (long side), rather than, possibly just a three man wall.

    Reduces defenders available for attacking ball and dealing with attackers but will it reduce scoring opportunities overall? It will be an interesting experiment.

    • Hi Steve.Thanks for your prompt reply. What about the defensive ‘gap’ between the GK and his defenders?is this a plus or becoming a minus at free-kicks against from the ranges i have mentioned?

  2. I recall that in 1984 England played France in Paris and England keeper Peter Shilton was beaten by a brilliant Michel Platini free kick, taken centrally from a distance of about 25 yards. After the match there was much discussion about how best to defend against such free kicks and Shilton himself said that the next time he faced a similarly placed free kick , from either Platini of another equally deadly marksman, he would set up two walls a few yards apart because the biggest problem was the difficulty in getting a clear view of the ball, often obscured by both his own players in the wall as well as opposition forwards populating the area.
    This seemed to work well for a time until the opposition filled the gap with their own ‘wall’ and broke as the kick was taken. So balls started flying past unsighted keepers into the net just as before.
    The first team I can remember using their own players tagged onto a wall to obscure the keeper’s view were Brazil in the 1970 World Cup. Rivelinho was the free kick specialist with a cannonball shot. He aimed his shot at the one or two players Brazil put on the end of the wall and they broke away at the very last moment for the ball to roar through to beat an unsighted keeper.
    Over the years the ‘dark arts’ of defenders have influenced these situations and any attacker joining a defensive wall is liable to be held in place by a cunning defender as he tries to break away. Brave decision making by the officials is required to stamp this out, but so often they turn blind eye.

  3. Hi Steve. Thanks for your prompt reply once agian. I am considering far more comprehensive changes to the present set-up. There is nothing like this in the past or at present and needs experimentation to explore the pluses and minuses. It is a great opportunity to show the football world that we are prepared to make changes to established thinking. I’m fed up with seeing large areas of the goal and penalty area left vacant for the ball, if correctly delivered, to cause all sorts of damage to present defensive tactics. It needs time and thought out on the green grass by coaches to develop new ideas to progress our game — not stay fixed in the past !

  4. Thanks for once again examining the detail that a lot of coaches need and search for. Throughout the blog you highlight ,with your articles, that these innovations are constant and attainable for the thinking coach ,if you have the coaching style that allows for it.

  5. A few years ago our U17 team would defend further back and run out as the kicker was running to leave opposition in offside positions. This worked well at amateur level for us.

  6. Hi Dave…I am interested in your comments about your U17 team’s way of exploiting the offside trap at free kicks. I think that it was the old Wimbledon FC who also used this method very successfully when they had Eric Young in their defence. He took charge of the defensive line on the 18 yard line when a free kick was awarded out wide and the ball was about to be delivered into their penalty area. On his loudly shouted command, the whole team sprinted out at just the right moment to leave the opponents standing around hopelessly. The sight of the Wimbledon players sprinting away from their penalty area was a combination of a cavalry charge and a team of sprinters. It frequently had a demoralising effect on the opposition and was a key factor in that team’s surprising success in the eighties and nineties. Timing, of course, was vital and they must have put in a lot of work at training.

  7. Hi Steve. Wimbledon had a problem with this ploy once team’s began to place two players on the ball; it produced a timing problem for them.
    I’m really surprised that ther has been a slow response to this ‘blog’. I expected a real discussion –for and against the ideas i have put forward. What’s the reasons for this lack of replies? is it that all agree with what i have stated; is it my ideas are so ridiculous a reply is not warrented; is it that nobody’s interested in changes to the present ‘scrambles’.; perhaps coaches are ‘experimenting’ and don’t yet have an answer.
    One way or another, it would be great to read the opinions of coaches, players, fans etc.

  8. Hi John…I have heard suggestions, that it might be best if the keeper did not erect a wall at all. Many keepers may feel that they have a good chance of saving a direct shot taken from anywhere outside the penalty area, without the need of a wall to block the ball but which often succeeds in only blocking his view. I think that the crowds in front of him in the penalty area, of both attacking and defending players, when a free kick is taken, presents equal problems to the keeper who is often both unsighted and distracted.

  9. newcastle conceded a equalizer against chelsea because of leaving to much space between the defenive line and goal keeper

    maybe instead of one live they should be 2 or 3 with one just in the space of the goal keeper, & the others making the opposition

    • Hi Dubs. thanks for your reply. I believe that coaches must ‘experiment’ with alternative defensive set-ups than presently used. In this way we will discover better options for use at free-kicks against.

    • Hi Ali. Thanks for the prompt reply to this ‘blog’. We wont find the answers unless we are prepared to ‘experiment’ with different options. Let me know if you find better alternative method(s).

  10. Nice in a game against Bordeaux put 4 men on the line and cleared the free kick off the line.
    Would a lack of a wall incur a low hard driven shot? Easier to block/save, one for the training ground.
    Worth trying something like a 2 man wall, with 2 tall players on the posts. Man to man marking elsewhere.
    Options to step out and catch them offside as well.

  11. Hi Dubs…Sometimes you see an indirect free kick given on the edge of the 6 yard area for the goalkeeper picking up a back pass or a similar technical infringement. Because the free kick cannot be given any closer than the edge of the 6 yard area it has been shown that the best way to defend against it, is to line up every outfield player along the goal line and the keeper stands in front of the wall. As soon as a player of the attacking team plays the ball to one side, the keeper rushes towards the ball whilst everyone in the wall stands firm. As long as no one in the wall flinches it is almost impossible for a goal to be scored.
    So in the incident which you illustrate, for an indirect free kick I think it would be worth putting all 10 outfield players on the goal line with the keeper in the forward position as shown . He therefore becomes the ‘charger’ and of course he can use his arms in the famous Schmeical ‘star fish’ leap, as he propels himself towards the player who is about to shoot. I think it would also be worth trying this method against a direct free kick, by filling up every bit of space of the goal as possible, each player firmly holding colleagues either side of him, by linking arms, to prevent flinching.

    • Hi Steve. I would not put my faith in everybody in the ‘wall’ as you propose being brave enough. My idea is the coverage of the goal and areas in the box not all players to be on the goal-line, in this way a ‘distorted’ shooting approach for a direct shot at goal would be set up.
      But we must explore the pros and cons to establish improvements in defending from the situations mentioned in the ‘blog’

  12. Having a few various options will confuse the free kick takers. If you always are on the line, teams will find a different way. Online, offside trap, goalkeeper forward are all options as well as the current system. How many players could cover the top of the goal by jumping I wonder, would a really well placed free kick still be able to penetrate past defenders on the line?

    • Hi Dubs. I agree that all of the things you mention may be offensively tried and the space at the top corners of the goal might be reachable, but until these situations have been thoroughly looked at and explored we will not have a definate answer.

  13. At lower levels and youth the standard of kick taking drops dramatically. Very few teams practice free kicks and certainly no one defends them other than a wall. If either was to be worked on for a few weeks, teams could really benefit either way.

    • Hi Dubs. Using full-size goals with young players who could not cover the top corners of the goal would provide the opportunity for the attacking to exploit the situation. But this happens now with present defensive set ups with less cover to thwart it.
      We should begin to question present defensive methods at free-kicks against as mentioned in the ‘blog’ and come up with alternatve ways of improving defensive play.
      ‘If one doesn’t look one will not find’.

  14. I seem to recall that it was in the mid 1980s that the idea was introduced by defending teams at free kicks being taken from just outside the penalty area, of a defender at the last second before the kick was taken, running back to the goal line to cover the side of the goal left open by the keeper, who stands on the side of the goal not covered by the wall. The idea being to block the ball from a swerving free kick which has been delivered onto that side and has beaten the wall. Attacking teams counter-acted this idea with one of their players running forward onto the line because he was now onside.
    I am still surprised that I don’t often see this ploy being employed these days. On the part of the defender it is a question of timing because he wants to time his run back to the line as late as possible to give the attacking team as little time as he can to exploit the situation. Also, referees and linesmen have now been told to watch out more closely for interference with play when in an offside position even if they do not touch the ball. So if the defender does decide to leave the line then the attacker could more easily be judged to be in the eye-line of the keeper, and therefore a distraction, than previously when many goals have been allowed even though there was a strong case for interference.

    • Hi john
      I must say its provoked my thoughts.
      Now for me I think that when a free kick is awarded the free kick taker will expect a wall regardless of how its constructed.
      Imagine the thought process if he doesn’t see a wall or space for the ball to go into.
      Space will always be the argument here
      The goals are 8ft high so denying total space is impossible, unless all your players can jump that high.’
      I think that stats from free kicks need to seen and then compare them to your new tried and trusted organisation.
      I did with various age groups having all my players along the goal line with the keeper in front.
      The kicker didn’t see any space so he didn’t have an idea what to do, so as usual he just kicked it as hard as possible , the outcome was that it went over the bar.
      It will take brave coaches to find different solutions to this , but it has to be centred around SPACE as that’s what the free kick taker is trying to exploit.
      Denying the space as best you can.
      It does seem strange that no one has come up with a solid solution yet.
      Love the blogs.

      • Hi Steve. Having all the players on the line is fine for indirect free-kicks against inside the box. I would question the bravery of players from direct free-kicks aimed at them. If you read my reply to Steve Haslam, you will read my opinion on the set-up of players.
        Great to see you last night. Hope you enjoyed the session and hope to see you again soon.

  15. There was a farcical situation at a free kick in Germany during the Werder Bremen – Eintracht Frankfurt match last weekend. Bremen were awarded a direct free kick just outside the penalty area. As the kicker came forward and was about to strike the ball, a Frankfurt defender sprinted back to the line on the side covered by the defensive wall. No Bremen player had time to get forward to take advantage of being onside close to the goal and as the well struck free kick beat the wall the defender appeared perfectly positioned to head the ball away. Unfortunately, he had not quite made it back to the line and the ball went agonisingly over his head into the net. What made it extra sickening for Frankfurt was that the keeper could have got to the ball because he moved quickly to that side of his goal, but the defender was in his way and he could only watch the ball enter the net.
    The keeper gave the defender a roasting for being in his way, but the defender had presumably followed instructions and had practiced the situation in training. He was just a yard short of the goal line but otherwise he would have been perfectly positioned and would have been the hero for a goal line clearance.
    I think that the key is to leave the run back to the line until the last possible second to prevent the opponents putting players forward now they cannot be offside. The timing is everything and to just get it slightly wrong, as Frankfurt did, destroys the plan.

    • Hi Steve, and all who have replied to this ‘blog’.
      I am truly amazed that this ‘blog’ on defensive change at free-kicks against has not received a much bigger response. This aspect of the game has made little change and i was expecting a great deal of ideas to be forthcoming from interested coaches etc. to either agree or disagree with what i have said, but more importantly, to discuss new ideas relating to the subject.
      Is this lack of response due to a belief that all is well with present defensive methods, or is there a general lack of ideas on the subject? In either case, this poor response is alarming as it displays a lack of enterprise and research.
      My wife always reminds me by saying, “John, nothing stays the same”. How right she is. Even football makes gradual shifts, but an exception to the rule seems to be the subject mentioned in this ‘blog’……….Where’s the change, where’s the ideas?
      I have my own ideas on method change and defensive set-up from these dangerous free-kick situations. Am i a lone believer that things need to change?

      • Hi John and Steve in giving this consideration, what about lining up if need be a smaller wall on the line protecting one side, having two men the traditional ten metres distance. Or spreading out a few players across the line and putting the keeper in front. having a fluid wall? – thus moving across the line. For firect shot in front/slightly to the side?

        [ XXXX]
        GK

        XX

        o ball

        [XX XX ]

        GK

        [X X X X ]

        Just thinking on my feet- perhaps people could put diagrams up – make it interesting

  16. Diagram doesn’t post perfectly .. Note the first one should have coverage of the right side and then the kicker on the left having the 10 yard wall of two blocking that side! [ XXXX]

  17. For free kicks out wide where the ball is delivered into the penalty area, I think that the method used by 1980s Liverpool is the most effective. That is, when keeper Bruce Grobbelaar came for all crosses, and his defenders knew this. They made sure they did not block his path, or they would be ‘clattered’, like the opposition attackers, by the keeper. Instead, they got back on the goal line so that, on the occasions when Grobbelaar did not reach the ball, they were in a position to clear the resultant header or shot off the line.
    As things are at the moment, the keeper’s defenders are just a much a problem to him in the penalty area as the opposition attackers, in causing congestion and getting in his way. If the modern keeper is going to play like Grobbelaar then the goalkeeper coaches are going to have to put an even bigger emphasis on coaching their keepers to come for crosses by dominating the whole area. Similarly, the defending players must be coached to quickly get back on the line as cover as well as reacting just as quickly to dealing with any knock downs in and around the area.

  18. Assuming that the keeper can get there first; and Steve methinks the physiology of an attacker and a goalkeeper being equal means the better placed will get their first… Just think about near post crosses! The keeper cannot make up for a head start and the initial positioning; unless he compensates – and he is not going to do that… because then h’ll get done over top against another attacker profitting at the back post because the keeper has gone to the near post. Physiologically the keeper can’t cover all the options.

  19. Hi Brazil94…..A basic area, like the near post , would still be covered by a defender.I do not mean that the defenders would station themselves on the goal line before the kick is taken, but make a beeline for it when the keeper comes for the majority of the crosses, as Grobbelaar did in the 1980s Liverpool team.
    Grobbelaar was a keeper with a very strong, charismatic personality. These qualities must be built into the modern keeper. He also had enormous courage and I feel that this is also a quality lacking in quite a number of current keepers. I personally think that keepers have become an over-protected species and are reluctant to take the knocks that their predecessors suffered.
    At the same same time as Grobbelaar was playing for Liverpool their neighbours, Everton, had Neville Southall in goal, and he was a very similar character.

  20. Still problematical …if the supposition is the keeper takes ss much as possible… 2 or 3 attackers could totally block his range of moment by being just in front, just behind and just alongside. Once one thing is done another can be applied
    X
    XGX

    or XGX

    X
    or XG

    or XG
    X

    Currently space is left for the keeper due to offside!

    Now teh ball is put where the Keeper cannot get too and arms are made redundant

  21. In 1 above Top X is directly behind G, in 3 directly behind, in 4 directly in front… the posting changes the original placement.

  22. Hi Brazil94…The attacking players would not be where you have indicated because they would be offside.
    Most defending teams play a high line when facing a free kick from out wide but then drop back into the space too soon, making it difficult for the keeper to come and deal with the cross. He is impeded in dealing with the ball by both friend and foe.

  23. Steve this blog is about the repositioning of defenders facing free kicks and if the opportunity is not there it could be a tactic to use at corners. These ideas are dependent on where the defenders are positioned. I You know that !

  24. Hi all. I think that from the replies i have read there is a reluctance to ‘think differently’ about changes to present defensive set-ups at free-kicks against as mentioned in the ‘blog’.
    My thinking is more towards a complete abandonment of the present methods and to consider a more ‘blanket’ marking situation of the goal and area from the goal line to penalty spot.
    I fully realise that opposing players could/would be able to position themselves close to the goal etc. but if carefully considered, the spaces to score into from direct shots would be more difficult–even from ricochets, and aeriel contest would be more suited to defenders who would be able to attack the ball rathher than be forced to run backwards as so frequently happens at present. The GK may find him/herself crowded, but aren’t they now with their own defs. and opposing atts. running back at them?
    The placement of defenders would be arranged so that height to fill goal space and to compete with aerial threat from opposing players. Players of lesser height would be arranged further forward of the goal in positions that would offer cover to the goal as well as allow movement by each individual defender to confront the ball if necessary should opposing players pass it prior to delivering the ball towards the goal.
    The use of all players into the defensive ‘screen’ would allow more opposing players to come forward, but there would still be an overload of defensive players as it would be unwise of them to send everyone forward in case of a failed attempt at goal lead to a fast counter-attack.
    It’s different and obviously controversial, but the more i see of the present set-ups the more i believe a change is required. The important thing is ……. Experiment! Unless we try we will not know all the ‘whys and wherefors’.

  25. The Under 17 World Cup begins in Chile tomorrow and West Ham have withdrawn their young midfield player, Reece Oxford, from the squad. Manager Slaven Bilic says that he fears the danger of burn out with Oxford now being part of West Ham’s first team squad and having played a number of Premier League matches already this season. But in addition, Bilic says that having now become a member of West Ham’s first team squad, Oxford has progressed from youth team football and wants him to concentrate his efforts on getting more games for West Ham in the Premier League.
    The FA should have stepped in and insisted that Oxford should go to Chile. Since it is a FIFA tournament then I was under the impression that the club were compelled to release players to take part. We still underestimate the importance of players learning how to play tournament football and the Germans, Spanish and Italians have always attached great importance to this. Having been National Coach of Croatia, Bilic will be well aware of this but the FA have not asserted themselves and have allowed a club to dictate its wishes over the rights of the National Team.

    • Hi Steve. This is the latest ominous example of the gradual demise of International football as we know it. TV and clubs rule the game here and it will not be too long before our already weak FA are totally excluded from international football.

  26. Hi all. England’s u/17 were beaten by a very ordinary Brazilian team in their group game in Chile. The goal came from a direct /central position free-kick that was bent over England’s ‘wall’ of 5 players into the goal off a post. The defensive set-up by England was as normal and the Brazilian player was able to place the ball into the ‘open’ part of the goal. The GK, although at full stretch, was unable to cover the ‘open’ side of his goal. …… 1-0 and defeat.
    Is anybody out there listening to what i’m saying? It’s time for coaches with guts to deal differently with free-kicks against. Allowing free deliveries at open targets is becoming an expensive habit that needs immediate attention.

  27. Hi John….Yes, the Brazilian free kick was brilliantly taken and the keeper had no chance of getting across to save it as it entered the ‘open’ side of the goal, via the post.
    A few days ago Germany played Australia in their opening match of the U17 World Cup. Australia were awarded a similar direct free kick just outside the penalty area and the German response reminded me of the free kick which I commented on after seeing it in a Bundesliga match a few weeks ago. On that occasion a defending player dropped back on to the goal line just a split second too late to cover the open side and the ball went over his head into the net. But in the U17 match, the defender got back onto the goal line just as the kick was taken and was perfectly positioned although the ball actually went narrowly over the bar. But had it been slightly lower and on target the defender would have been perfectly positioned to head it clear.
    It would seem that to drop a defender onto the line is policy in Germany. It’s not unique of course and can be seen in many countries, including England. But the Germans seem to work hard on dropping the player onto the line at the last possible second, so that the opponents haven’t time to push players forward to exploit the onside situation.
    I realise that this not the method which you favour but at least the German coaches are giving the situation some serious thought.

  28. Hi Steve. I have seen the method you describe and th e problem with it is when two players are on the ball…….when does the defender run back?
    Did you see Neuer’s mistake against Arsenal? For me it says it all about the problems of present defensive set-ups.

  29. Hi John…Yes, the first Arsenal goal against Bayern Munich highlighted the problems when facing that type of free kick. I thought that the Bayern defenders should have held their ground and let the Arsenal players run in. Neuer was caught in two minds momentarily, whether to come or leave it for his defenders. That slight hesitation was fatal and I am surprised that Bayern were not better prepared to face the situation. In the old Liverpool defensive set-up of the eighties, Grobbelaar was king and he would have insisted that no Liverpool player should obstruct his path when coming to deal with the high ball. The Liverpool players would have got round the back of their keeper to cover his goal line or get into areas where they could deal with knock downs or second balls.

  30. England have been eliminated from the U17 World Cup in Chile after achieving 2 points from 3 group matches. In none of the matches, against Guinea, Brazil and South Korea, were any of the opponents exceptional. England were organised and well drilled but sparks of real flair and creativity were non-existent from what I observed. This seemed to be particularly the case in the final third and are we really encouraging young players to produce imaginative, skilful play around the box to create and take chances in crowded areas? The Tottenham attacking midfielder, Marcus Edwards, was disappointing and did not stand out when he played. Previously when I have seen him, he has been the outstanding player in this team. As previously mentioned, Reece Oxford of West Ham was shamefully not allowed to take part by his club.
    Watching the U21 match last night, Chelsea – Man City, there were some moments of skill and imagination, but these seemed largely from foreign-born players who have been imported by the clubs and whose early development was abroad.
    Our young players still seem to be missing vitally important work in the early years and I think that when they miss this it is too late to catch up in later years. Is this because we still think that you put new, inexperienced coaches with the early years players, thinking that the more experienced, knowledgeable coaches should be with the older age groups? We have been making this mistake for years and we must start giving the 7 – 12 age range the technical skills which were once acquired in street football but must now be developed through the right type of coaching.

  31. Hi all. England’s u/17 team recently found themselves in our usual position after the qualifying stage of an international competition ——- the Departure Lounge of an airport !
    How much longer are we to believe that all is well with our game here ?

  32. John it sounds like you are looking for something totally different. This tactic may only work for younger teams and maybe at only lower levels but what if you flipped the whole thing around?
    What about putting the keeper as the wall on shorter kicks(just outside the penalty area) where they are most likely shooting? Place defending field players in the goal and marking passing options and place the keeper where the wall would typically be.

    This would make the shooting option much harder as a larger more active “wall” would force more shots high and wide. Used as a one off it would totally throw off the shooter who typically would be in a great position to score. I am sure at some level of the game it would be useless but given how close to the wall most shoots have to travel the advantage of being able to use your hands would eliminate that danger.

    I can see it working in some situations. Everyone go ahead and take your shots at this tactic…pun intended.

  33. Patrick an interesting adaptation.All of these concepts are worth trying and working through. As ever John stimulates , attracts , challenges and educates thinking coaches. He doesn t just talk the talk ,he practical delivery is outstanding as well, which is a rarity in modern coach education.

  34. I really think this is worth a shot.. I’ve always believed that new ideas, valid or unworkable,, represent nothing but progressive thinking. We don’t have to wait for Pep or Klopp to go against the grain before we act in awe.

    Kudos and Shukran!!

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