Die-hard football fans are familiar with every position on the field, and the role it plays in a game. But for the casual and even some dedicated fans, some positions can sound completely foreign – and in some cases, they are.
After all, what exactly is a trequartista, or a false nine? In this series, we will provide a simple, clear explanation for each position on the pitch, as well as the famous styles associated with each role.
We will begin with arguably the most important: goalkeeper.
A goalkeeper’s role, on the surface, is easy to explain. They are tasked with stopping the other team from scoring. As a result, goalkeepers need to have fast reflexes and excellent positional awareness.
Since goalkeepers spend most of their time in and around their box, they have an ideal view of the pitch and the action, and can provide instruction to his/her teammates when defending.
To be a successful goalkeeper, you have to be good at saving shots from point-blank range, sometimes with only a split-second to react. This is where positional awareness comes into play. Oftentimes fans will claim that a keeper had an easy save to make as the shot was straight at them, but that’s typically because the keeper knew where to put their body before the attacker got the shot off. The best shot-stoppers are easy to identify – they have a high saves-to-shots ratio, or save percentage.
Sweeper-keepers tend to take a more active role behind their back-line by keeping far closer to them. This enables them to control the space behind the defenders, quickly snuff out long-ball attacks from opponents and instigate counterattacks quickly. Essentially, they act as an eleventh outfield player.
Sweeper-keepers are good with the ball at their feet and are brave, since they often charge out from their box head-first to stop a developing attack. This also means they have to be self-aware of the situation and their positioning, and know when to come out and when to stay put.