My Squawka trio. 1. Why goalkeepers are now the last line of defence

13 02 2014

This post will represent the scientific proof behind the idea that goalkeepers have become the last line of defence in the defensive third of a football match.

I don’t want to blow my own trumpet but I was literally the first devotee of the venture science of football data analysis to spot this trend, and I was shrewd enough to view it at what was considered to be the embryonic stage.

My pioneering steps weren’t a surprise to me. I knew something was going to happen even though no-one else could see it. As soon as I bought a ticket I knew that I would be glad that I was the only scientific football data analyst with enough nous to buy a ticket for that Scotland international in 2010.

A scientific football data analyst loves nothing more than being “in on the ground floor”, or “parked in the basement garage” if they’ve used their “Analysis Mobile”, of a new concept’s architecture. Scientific football data analysts love to experience that intoxicating mixture of awe, disbelief and dumbfoundedness that comes with discovery.

Just before that special Hampden Park kick off I saw that the goalkeeper was standing behind what had been traditionally called “The Defensive Unit”. This was very much a case of Hello gloriously heady cocktail!!” 

My new discovery came at just the right time for That Modern Football. In the year 2010 the term “The Defensive Unit” was looking a little stale – the term had been coined in the decaying carcass of the post-pre-post industrial era of football watching (1992-2008), an era also known as the “Slightly Pre-That Modern Football Era” – so things were due for an update. I gazed at the bewildering sight from my seat and felt the unmistakable feeling that I was watching football evolution in progress.

Here’s a scientific diagram that depicts what I saw.

gk 1

As you can see, the teams lined up and Scotland’s goalkeeper was, in effect, now being deployed as deepest lying defender of the Scottish team.

I was so transfixed by the pre-kick off revelation I was forced to intensely study the Scottish goalkeeper’s positioning throughout the whole match. During the match I noticed that the goalkeeper remained behind “The Defensive Unit” at all times. If the goalkeeper moved forward, so did the defenders.  I knew I was watching something special, this really was the evolution of tactical thinking! “The Defensive Unit” had become “The Defensive Unit + 1”.

Here’s another scientific diagram that acts as proof;

GK 2

The chap next to me spoke in mostly garbled English but I managed to make out a few words, “KEEP YOUR SHAPE!!!” was one of the more intelligible phrases. After he repeated the phrase a few times I realised that this new way of doing things had a name.

Wait a minute, if they had a term for it that could only mean they’d been using this idea for a bit in Scotland! So Scotland was teaching football another lesson about itself. This was how Columbus felt as he set foot on that Caribbean beach!

That was then, this is now. Scotland may have been the pioneers but now everyone was “Keeping their shape” with “The Defensive Unit +1”. Nowadays any seasoned scientific football data analyst worth their salt only needs to refer to a tiny proportion of their full match library on their generic television programme recording devices to understand how far the trend has reached. The goalkeeper is now the last line of defence in a truly universal sense.

The reason for its universality is the mingling of two concepts in That Modern Football; “The Shape” being one and “The Line” being the other. The army of scientific football data analysts helped those two concepts become symbiotic.

I will now digress. The symbiosis of “The Line” and “The Shape” goes back to that old cliché about shapes; “In the world of shapes the line is king”.  The venture science created by scientific football data analysts – linear shape conceptualisation – has conclusively proven that without lines shapes could not exist.

The beauty of “The Line” not only lies within configuration’s beauty, or the aesthetic art it allows to flourish, it’s beauty also lies within that fact that like all truly great art “The Line” synthesises form and function in perfection.

“The Line” is, quite simply, the most effective organisation system in That Modern Football. However the true beauty of “The Line” lies in the fact that within That Modern Football “The Line” is no ordinary static configuration, “The Line” is a flexible configuration; the players need the flexibility and mental capacity to make it work the most beautiful organising concept in the history of football.

In order to link “The Line” to “The Shape” we must remember that That Modern Football requires an organising concept to flourish. An organising concept is needed for a very simple reason; in That Modern Football everybody tries to score. The following scientific diagram proves this fact;

GK 3

The diagram also shows the clear triangular link between “The Line”, “The Shape” and the goalkeeper becoming the new last line of defence. This triangular link has led to a circular logic in the defensive logic of That Modern Football;

Everyone has started shooting at the keeper because he’s become the last line of defence but he has only become the last line of defence because everyone has started shooting at him.

I will try and clarify this so you can understand football batter. Because the goalkeeper has become the last line of defence he therefore he needs the protection of “The Shape” and “The Line”.

I see the problems posed for the layman’s understanding of the beautiful sport, it’s generally acknowledged that irony confuses laymen. Sadly this situation is filled by irony. For example here’s another slice of irony;

“The Shape” and “The Line” not only protect the goalkeeper they allow attackers greater freedom to attack the goalkeepers position.

In other words morons “The Shape” and “The Line” both protect the goalkeeper and allow the goalkeeper to be attacked more.

Here’s another slice of piping hot irony!!!!; “The Shape” and “The Line” have not only led to the goalkeeper becoming the last line of defence they have led to extra pressure that the goalkeeper feels. He knows that has to be alive to every possibility of being defeated, he has to be alert, he was to be watchful. To be a goalkeeper is to be the keeper of the flame. I hope this is all as clear to you as it is to me because the idea is as clear as an azure sky of deepest summer to me.

If you still doubt the scientifically assembled idea I’m trying to promote we need to have a look at these heat maps because heat maps remove all doubt.

The heat maps were lovingly and scientifically constructed from Simon Mignolet’s last match for Liverpool and they conclusively prove that goalkeepers in That Modern Football have become the last line of defence. Look at the way Mignolet metaphorically hugs the goaline.

1st Half

pitch 2

2nd Half

pitch 3

You can now see that goalkeepers are now not just the player that traditionally wears the number one shirt on the pitch they are also the number one last line of defence for the defence of a team that’s defending.

I proved this scientifically with scientific football data analysis.

I rest my case.

Bow down before me football serfs for I have proved my genius!



One response

20 02 2014
On analytics, or; How to spot an elephant in a room. | Football and That

[…] saleable product being formed from the dismantling of something beautiful. This has culminated in a triptych of satirical articles that I can only hope you […]

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