How goalkeepers can exploit a high press

It was a weekend without a game so I had plenty of spare time to sit and watch how the professionals do it! One thing that I was working on this week with my players has been the distribution from the goalkeeper.

Every team seems to view playing out from the back as the best way to keep possession and launch attacks from deep. So watching Hugo Lloris launch an attack by spotting an opportunity to pass the ball to a Tottenham teammate on half way was to say the least refreshing.

Tottenham stopper Hugo Lloris

Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris looks to exploit the Liverpool high press

Tottenham absolutely smashed Liverpool and the distribution from the Spurs keeper was one of the reasons. From a Liverpool corner Lloris won the ball and hurled it out to halfway.

This caught out Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren who launched himself at the ball only to totally miss it with his head and leave a gaping gap in the defence. Spurs striker Harry Kane sped away and offered the perfect pass for Heung-Min Son to finish.

Moments later, launched another attack from a great pass cutting out his own defenders and within two passes Son had the ball again but this time spanked it on to the bar.

It was a clear case of spotting a team that was pressing high as Liverpool do but leaving acres of space in the midfield for a goalkeeper to exploit with a pass.

Liverpool do concede weak goals. In midfield Emre Can and Jordan Henderson are both slow to pick up the ball – Premier League central midfielders must be quick to get to it or they lose possession. An alert keeper like Lloris can spot this and exploit it rather than play out to one of the central defenders who come under immense pressure from the Liverpool attackers.

Similar issues in a youth game

I saw the same thing in a match last season where one of youth teams was playing against a team that was sitting very high at goal kicks, ready to press quickly and trying to win the ball before our team had time to play it out.

Because the opposition played so high up the pitch, the midfield was open; any ball from the goalkeeper into midfield would have opened up the pitch and given our team a great chance to spread out and attack.

But the coach stuck to his principles and his team kept trying to play the ball to each other around the penalty area. The opposition loved this and they were immediately closing down and giving our team no time to pass.

As a consequence they let in three goals in the first half – their heads were down and they were cold and miserable. I knew the coach and I asked him about making the right decisions at goal kicks and whether the players had practised any other options.

He said they had but that their philosophy was to play out from the back. I suggested he got them to hit longer passes into midfield and see what happened.

The team tried it and immediately their opponents began to drop deeper and the players noticeably grew in confidence. The game ended 3-1 but I know that if those players had started the first half like they had the second half, they would have had a much better game.

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