Door 12: Proactive goalkeeping

by Martin Fraisl


Excursus: Tactical theory of goalkeeping

The goalkeeper has a variety of tactical tasks, and may (or should) be an extended arm of the coach. Anticipation is essential, the goalkeeper should know and assess the performance-level of his teammates and be able to prepare for different scenarios. Accordingly, the goalkeeper can choose his position to suit the follow-up action or verbally coach the player before the action and prepare him for certain circumstances!

Interesting for me, in goalkeeping, was always the aspect of the interaction between goalkeeper and defender, because the former also has a lot of tasks to do which have to do with anticipation. In case of long balls or passes into deep by the opponent, the goalkeeper should coach his teammates at the right time. If the ball is played low, the defender should block the opponent’s player during the run, in order to enable the goalkeeper either to pick up balls  in the penalty area or to head away in front of the penalty area in order to avoid second balls in front of his own box. Of course commands have to be established, I use “BLOCK!”, and my defenders know what to do. This measure reduces the stress in your first third and makes opponents, who play many long balls, increasingly desperate.

The interaction between goalkeeper and defender is also more important when blocking shots than is often assumed. In the following video, Wojciech Szczesny and Giorgio Chiellini explain how the former reads the positioning of his team-mate and derives his own from it.



8v6 Positional game with finishing


In a positional game, the goalkeeper acts as a wall-player for the possession team, and should do so at the border of the penalty area. The goal of the offensive team is to keep the ball. If the ball is lost, the goalkeeper must quickly return to his goal and help shape the defensive action, i.e. individually consider his own positioning, and coach the defenders. The positioning of the goalkeeper is very realistic to the real game in this exercise. In possession of the ball he acts as a connecting player, while after losing the ball he has to transition quickly and find his correct position in the goal in order to carry out the collective as well as the individual defensive action appropriately.


  • Goalkeeper 1 contact, field player 2 contacts
  • In the event of a counterattack, a maximum of 3 players from the (previously) offensive team may enter the penalty area, while up to 4 players from the counterattacking team may do so.
  • If a shot is missed, held or scored, the match restarts.


Coaching points

In possession

  • Courageous and connecting positioning in relation to the other players. Distances to the other players should be chosen so that the ball presentation is supported.
  • Pre-orientation
  • Open body position
  • Always adjust your position in order to conquer the ball in space defense, i.e. to anticipate a deep pass or a delivery.
  • Verbal coaching of the players. When demanding back passes, indicate which foot the pass is supposed to be played to). Here it is mainly a matter of being able to find a quick continuation of the game or switching the sides. The foot away from the opponent should, if possible, be played on.


After ball loss

  • Anticipate potential ball loss and already be on your way back
  • Quickest possible position finding in reverse run, while facing the opponent (goalkeeper must never lose sight of opponent and ball in the entire playing field)
  • Anticipating and intercepting passes into deep, as well as deliveries
  • Save shots
  • Timing in 1v1 – build up pressure if the opponent does not lead the ball directly at the foot, but between the ball contacts (when ball is not being touched).
  • At 1v1 and attempt to shoot: “Be connected with ball and player” Make correct angle and be ready to close.


6v6+2 Positional game


The goalkeeper again acts as a wall player. The playing field is divided vertically into 3 zones, whereby the touch numbers differ depending on the zone. In this game  it is only about the behaviour in possession of the ball. The goalkeeper should be forced to switch sides under pressure if he is in one of the lateral zones. Because even if the goalkeeper is being played to on the side, he should not play into the pressing of the opponent, but help to outplay the pressing. In most cases this is possible with the help of a switch of play. The number of touches is reduced in the lateral zone, since the goalkeeper’s technical/tactical requirement profile is particularly important against opponents who press high. These aspects, as well as the perception through correctly orientating themselves, must be trained. In the middle zone “la pausa” can be used tactically to tie opponents.


In the middle zone the goalkeeper has free touches, in the lateral zones maximum 2.
If the goalkeeper is played to in one of the lateral zones, only 1 player of the possession-team may be positioned in the opposite side zone in order to be available for a switch.

Coaching points

  • Open body position
  • Pre-orientation, look to other side
  • Quick switch of sides
  • “la pausa”
  • Verbal coaching of the players


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