Analysis of Goalkeepers’ Distribution in Youth Academy Football

The primary function of match analysis is to provide the coach with information about team or individual performances. In this way, both the coach and the players receive valuable feedback about previous performances and so are provided with detailed information on aspects of play that may need to be improved upon. Although an abundant amount of research has been conducted on outfield players, analysis concerning goalkeepers has generally been limited. Recently, Williams and colleagues (1999) analysed goalkeeper distribution patterns across 40 F.A. Premier League games played in the 1997/98 season. They concluded that the clearance was the most frequently employed distribution and that typically goalkeepers are in possession of the ball for periods of less than 2 seconds. It has also been shown by Hughes (1990) that long distributions, such as goal kicks, lead to and produce the most goal-coring opportunities. In Football Academies, more emphasis should be placed on the technical development of each individual player rather then the actual outcome of a game. In order for players to develop technically it is essential for outfield players to be in contact with the ball as often as possible so as to increase the total number of touches per game. In this way key technical aspects of the game such as first touch, control and passing are likely to improve. Whilst in the modern game the goalkeeper’s distribution can serve as one of the most effective tools in producing goal scoring moves, more importantly for Football Academies this can also be the beginning of a passing sequence which requires outfield players to perform a range of technical skills. For these reasons the distribution of a goalkeeper is an important factor in contributing to the overall development of outfield players. The aims of the present study were: (a) to determine what types of goalkeeping distributions are successful and unsuccessful in relation to maintaining possession, and (b) to determine which type of distribution produces the highest number of consecutive passing sequences. Results should provide detailed information concerning which type of distribution is most likely to result in an opportunity for outfield players to gain and retain possession of the ball. This information could then be used to increase the range of technical skills required of players during match situations.

James Morton and Michael Court

A specific hand based notation system was designed for analysing each game. When analysing the goalkeepers’ distribution the area from which the ball was distributed and the area to where the ball was projected were recorded. In order for this to be noted the pitch was coded as shown in Figure 1.
Direction of play










Figure 1 Coded diagram of the pitch for analysis.

Distributions were analysed to determine whether they were successful or unsuccessful. A distribution was deemed to be successful if the ball was received by a teammate and was deemed unsuccessful if it was not received by a teammate. If the ball was miscontrolled by a teammate and possession lost, the distribution was still regarded as being successful as it was not the distribution that was at fault but rather the control of the receiving player. The number of resulting passes from each successful distribution and the locations of possession loss were recorded. The following types of goalkeepers’ distribution were analysed:
● ● ● ● ● ●

Long overarm throw Short overarm throw Underarm throw Long goal kick Short goal kick Drop kick

● ● ● ● ●

Long pass Short pass Long free kick Short free kick Clearance

Nine F.A. Premier League Football Academy games were analysed across three age groups (U12, U14 and U15). Three games were analysed within age group. Each game was of the same duration. The games were recorded using a Panasonic video camera. The camera was placed near the half way line and above ground level. At a later date the games were replayed on a television monitor for analysis. In this preliminary study specific instructions given to goalkeepers with regard to the tactics of the team or the environmental conditions were not made available. A total of nine games were considered an adequate sample from which valid generalisable conclusions could be made. 20 “Insight” - The F.A. Coaches Association Journal

A distribution was deemed to be long if it reached the middle or attacking third of the pitch. A distribution was deemed to be short if it was distributed solely into the defending third. It was important to distinguish between a pass and a clearance. A clearance referred to the goalkeeper distributing the ball due to pressure imposed by an opponent. A pass referred to the goalkeeper distributing the ball when he was under no pressure from an opponent and actually looked up with the intention passing the ball to a team mate.

Age Group No. Successful No. Unsuccessful Total U-12 11.3 (58.5%) 8.0 (41.5%) 19.3 (100%) U-14 13.6 (50.6%) 13.3 (49.4%) 27 (100%) U-15 9.6 (50.0%) 9.6 (50.0%) 19.3 (100%)

Table 1 Mean number of successful and unsuccessful goalkeeper distributions per match across each age group. Percentages are presented in parenthesis

3.5 3 2.5 1 0. Average passes produced 80 Distribution type 12 10 8 Figure 6 Average passes per game produced following each type of distribution for the U15s. Direction of play Average passes produced 75% 6 4 53% 100% 100% 2 0 35% 67% 100% 55% 33% Distribution type Figure 4 Average passes per game produced following each type of distribution for the U12s Figure 7 Percentage success rate of delivering the ball to specific areas of the pitch.5 2 1. Issue 3 .14 6 12 Average distributions per game Average passes produced Unsuccessful Short Long 5 4 3 2 1 0 10 8 6 4 2 0 Successful Outcome of distribution Figure 2 Average number of successful and unsuccessful goalkeeper distributions per game 100 Distribution type Figure 5 Average passes per game produced following each type of distribution for the U14s.5 0 Percentage success rate 60 40 20 0 Distribution type Figure 3 Percentage success rate of each distribution type.Volume 5 Summer 2002 21 .

goalkeepers should be discouraged from distributing the ball over long distances where only a 39. M. Although implications for coaches are outlined below. 22 “Insight” . The long and short overarm throws were also shown to be effective techniques for distributing the ball with success rates of 81. only six distributions were delivered to this particular area. the most successful was that of the short pass which produced an average of 4. Dr Michael Court provides sport science support to Everton Football club whilst serving as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences. ● For retaining possession. The 100% success rate of the underarm throw suggested this was the best way of distributing the ball when possession was to be retained. Finally. These results may reflect the advanced physical and technical development of players in the U15 age group that enables them to deal with these distributions better than players in the U12 and U14 age groups. T (1999) A Quantitative Analysis of Matches Played in the 1991-2 and 1997-8 Seasons (a supplement to “Insight”. The Football Association. For example. although long distributions did not contribute to retaining possession across the U12 and U14 age groups analysed in the current study. The most successful kicking distribution was that of the short pass. ● Short distributions to be encouraged include all throwing distributions and the short pass. short distributions such as passes and throws (both underarm and overarm) are more successful than long distributions for both maintaining possession and producing consecutive passing sequences. However. Issue 4. this type of distribution should be avoided. Liverpool John Moores University.Discussion The aims of the present study were to (a) determine which type of goalkeeping distribution was the better in maintaining possession of the ball and (b) determine which type of distribution produced the highest number of consecutive passing sequences. For example. it is important to highlight that.33 passes for the U12s. ● The least successful distribution type was the long goal kick as a mere 1 in 4 attempts was successful. Figure 7 illustrates that distributions to C1 were always successfully received by a fellow teammate.3% respectively. the U15 goalkeepers were not observed to perform long overarm throws. Short distributions that result in longer consecutive passing sequences are therefore more likely to result in improvements in players’ technical ability.1% of long distributions. In summary. Distributions to the central midfield area should be avoided as only 35% of distributions were found to be successful. Lee. When the aim of the team is to retain possession of the ball and develop technical ability. In terms of specific distribution types.1% success rate was observed. in the U15s it was the longer distributions such as the goal kick and drop kick that tended to produce the most passes.5% of all short distributions were deemed successful compared with 39. clearly they are important for goalkeepers to practice due to the successful outcomes. all were successfully received by an outfield player. short distributions had a higher success rate than long distributions. In the U12s and U14s these long distributions were most ineffective for producing consecutive passing sequences. C3 and R3 received only 1. Volume 2. as 80% of such distributions were found to be successful. short goal kicks. but they will generally not produce as many passes and possession will often be lost. In relation to the average number of passes produced per game by each type of distribution. Of the total 19 short passes recorded. as over 75% of distributions delivered here were successful. It is important to note that the U15 goalkeepers displayed a smaller range of distribution types than those of the U12s and U14s. which have been shown at older age groups. Coaching Implications ● With a view towards retaining possession Acknowledgement The authors would like to thank Everton Football Club for assistance in data collection and in the preparation of this article James Morton is a student on the BSc (Hons) Science and Football at Liverpool John Moores University. Coaches Association Journal . D and Reilly.5% success rate was observed. they should be aware of the specific value of such distributions and encourage them to be utilised where appropriate. of the 12 and 36 distributions delivered to L1 and R1 respectively 75% and 100% were successful. Further Reading Williams.A. It is more impressive to focus on the high success rates of areas such as L1 and R1 as these areas received more distributions and so give a more realistic example. the long goal kick was found to be the most unsuccessful.33 passes for the U14s and more impressively 8. ● For retaining possession and developing technical ability across U12 and U14 age groups. 75% were unsuccessful. In the same way the percentage success rates for the attacking third do not accurately reflect the actual patterns of the game as L3. goalkeepers should be encouraged to distribute the ball over short distances where a 95. 6 and 3 distributions respectively. ● The throwing distributions and the short pass tended to produce the highest number of consecutive passes and are likely to be of the most benefit for outfield players’ technical development.The F. Of the total 44 long goal kicks recorded. It is worth noting that across the nine games analysed. the ball should be distributed mainly to the full back areas (L1 and R1 see Figure 1). Altogether. Longer distributions will move the ball into the attacking third quickly. long passes or long free kicks. Although the average number of successful long and short distributions per game was similar. 95. and developing technical ability across U12 and U14 age groups.25% and 83. By achieving these aims it was hoped that coaches would gain information with regard to what types of distribution were most beneficial for developing the technical ability of outfield players.

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