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Avoiding the goalkeeping dead zone

There is a big change happening under the radar in the world of goalkeeping, it’s very easy to miss but is a fundamental change in goalkeeping at the top level as well as what is being coached in the academies of the biggest clubs.

For many years – perhaps even decades, keepers have been coached to narrow the angle and get down the line of the ball to reduce the shooting area for the attacker. But over the last few years this theory has been challenged with a new theory which looks specifically at avoiding the ‘dead zone’ and more recently there have been a few keepers who have been using a completely different positioning style based on it.

So firstly, what is the dead zone in relation to goalkeeping and why does it matter? It’s actually a very simple and pretty obvious theory based on the position of the ball, goalkeeper and the goal.

The basic premise being, unless you are close enough to drastically reduce the ability for the striker to hit the target then you are actually better off staying further away from the ball/closer to your goal and giving yourself the extra few milliseconds of reaction time whilst the ball is travelling through the air.

Think about when a striker lashes the ball hard straight at the keeper but it goes through their legs because they can’t react fast enough, it isn’t a technically hard save to make, they just don’t have the reaction time in order to make the save so the ball is past them before they can close their legs.

Another example is penalty kicks, even from 12 yards you don’t have enough time to react to a shot and therefore have to make a decision just before it is kicked based on any clues you can pick up.

So unless the keeper is close enough to have a good chance of the ball being struck either straight at them, or they guess where the ball is going to be hit and dive before reading the ball then the better option would be to stay as far back as possible to give them more time to react.

Hugo Lloris is probably the best example of this in the Premier League, watch how deep he plays compared to most goalkeepers – he is often seen right on his goal line because he has decided his agility and reaction speed is his biggest asset and the best way for him to use this is to play from a deep position.

So how can you use the theory? Unfortunately it isn’t an exact science yet, firstly it has to be based on your own strengths as a goalkeeper – Lloris uses it because he is a fast goalkeeper and doesn’t have a particularly large frame so it is a great fit for him.

If you aren’t agile and are fortunate enough to be 6ft 5 and 4ft wide then you may find that you have more success closing the shooter down.

The basics though come down to two things, you either decide to come and close the ball right down or you stay deep and enjoy the extra reaction time.

If you are coming to close the ball down, you need to be getting at least within around 3 yards of the striker before they shoot.

If you are caught between 4 – 10 yards of the ball then you are unlikely to be able to react in time if the striker does their job properly, and this is called the dead zone.

There are a lot of areas of goalkeeping where you can start to think about making sure you don’t end up in the dead zone i.e. dealing with cut backs from the by line and some scenarios where you have no choice but to end up in the dead zone at some point.

One vs ones are a prime example where you often have no choice but to come through the dead zone but you can use positions and techniques to help you improve your chances of saving the shot and we will be covering these in our forthcoming guides.

Let us know your thoughts on the dead zone either in the comments or on social media!

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Daz @ KeeperPortal

Owner and creator of Keeper Portal, an FA qualified goalkeeping coach as well as being pretty impressive at keeping balls out of a net.

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