keep it out

Paul Robinson's goalkeeping woes with club and country have been scrutinised by all and sundry, but nobody
has anything constructive to say about how he might pull out of this slough of despond.
Theo Wreticle takes a look at how something might help.


I think back to the time in the early Eighties, when Ray Clemence signed for Tottenham.  A few game sin and he had conceded more goals than he was accustomed to and when asked why, he said that at Liverpool, the side was set up to force opponents wide, thus resulting in them putting crosses into the box.  Thus, he was not used to facing shots, which was happening at Spurs, as the side funnelled opponents infield.

So, another England keeper and another time of goalkeeping crisis or so say the newspapers.

Is there anything to be learned from Clem's experience ?

Well, the way we seem to play at the moment is to let opponents come forward and from what we have seen so far this season, invite the shot.  Long range efforts have flown past Robinson and not all cleanly, it must be said.  Last season saw the same, with our defenders throwing themselves in the way of shots on goal, often resulting in them being deflected enough to beat our keeper.

Paul is a good shot stopper.  Witness some of the saves he has made this season to protect his goal.  So, is this the right policy ?

He is currently coming in for a lot of flak for his unfortunate knack of knocking shots down or letting the ball bounce off him in front of goal, thus giving sharp forwards an opportunity to nip in and convert the rebound.

If this is to be the preferred way of defending, then the defenders (and midfielders for that matter) must be aware of the part they have to play.

Closing down players swiftly (as we DIDN'T see against Arsenal) is a necessity to prevent them having the time to line up a shot on goal.  This means the midfield have to help out the back four in this.
Also, the men nearest the goal must be alert enough to follow in and be first to any ball which might come back off Robbo.

For the keeper's part, he must make sure that he gets the ball as far away from the goal when parrying the ball as possible.  With our defenders following up any rebound, they will need to be aware that if Paul does get a good hand on the ball and it does come forward, then they might have to take evasive action to avoid running the ball back into their own net.

If it is decided not to show opponents the whites of the posts, then they will need to be compact in the middle and force the ball wide.  This will lead to crosses coming into the Tottenham area, which might be a better option.

However, Robinson has not excelled in dealing with crosses either.  His attempts to punch are ill-advised, as he fails to convincingly come for the ball, but with a goalkeeper his size, he should be able to come through a crowd to take the ball, team-mate, opponent, referee ... in fact, anyone who gets in his way.  He also needs to take up a position where he can make a run-up to get some elevation in his jump to help him reach the ball.  This means standing a little deeper and moving forward to the ball, rather than being under the ball at it's highest point and trying to reach it from a standing leap.

Despite missing Ledley King, we should have enough height in the side to head the ball away and there are not too many goals conceded in the air this season.

Personally, I feel that the crossing option might suit the team better.

One last issue that Robinson needs to improve on is his communication with the team.  He needs to boss them about in his area and outside it, let them know what is happening and where they should be going.

Paul needs to make sure his defenders know what to expect from him.  If the ball comes into the box, they need to know that he is going to come for it and that they can expect a clattering.  That way, they will not need to go for it - especially if it when they are facing their own goal.

The back four need to know that any low ball into the area along the six yard line will be claimed by the goalie. This will stop them having to slide in and they can cover any subsequent second phase ball.

Just how the side defends must be down to the Head Coach and his assistant, who was a defender himself ... one who played in front of Ray Clemence too.  The players must be comfortable with the system and the zonal marking system has allowed players from the other side to move into areas, which have not been attacked by our players.  Maybe, some of them could be more suited to a man-to-man marking regime, but only the Coach and the players would know.

Whatever way things pan out, it will not see Robinson take the field at Newcastle, as a calf injury picked up in England's defeat in Russia will keep him out.  With Radek Cerny in goal, it will be interesting to see how he fares in goal with the same defence in front of him that Robbo had.  A different type of keeper, but only as good as the back four in front of him.

While Robinson has a blip in his form, will Cerny show that his goalkeeping skills are up to the way we play ??


- -

Back to homepage