What happened to Hart? Is Butland England’s best keeper? Should you ever be beaten on your front post? David Preece answers the big GK questions…

Joe Hart

James Richardson went some way to winning over the goalkeeper audience to his new Totally Football Show this week by inviting pro keeper-turned-pundit David Preece onto the pod.

Richardson promised not to ask Preece exclusively about goalkeeping, but his guest needed no invitation to offer his informative views on his – and our – favourite subject.

Preece rated no less than a dozen keepers in what basically became the Totally Goalkeeping Show.

Here’s the highlights…

On Joe Hart getting worse over the past two to three seasons:

He isn’t a bad goalkeeper, he is a very good goalkeeper. But to compare him with the likes of Buffon and Neuer? No, you can’t do that.

Whether it’s down to a change of goalkeeping coach, there’s some flaws in his game that have crept in. Some that have become worse. He’s such a confidence player – the way that he acts before games in the tunnel.  I quite often find, players like that, it’s all a mask. It’s all bravado. The fact that his confidence has clearly been knocked, first by his rejection at City and then by his performances last season.

It was clear from the first game (with Torino), anything on the opposition’s left hand side, he was creeping far too near his front post. So anything that’s in the back half of the goal, he’s really struggling to get there. He’s squared up to the player and he’s running backwards instead of being a little bit deeper in the middle of the goal, turned with his body open to the rest of the play so that he can shift his feet across and move his feet to the back post area. He just doesn’t give himself a chance of getting in that area at all. I went through every game last season and every other game it was happening. They weren’t always conceding goals but it was a constant problem with his game.

The fact that it was never picked up on…you have to question his coach as well.

On Jack Butland’s chances of becoming England’s new number one:

This season is a huge season for him simply because the England squad is there to be taken.

If he keeps performing like the way he has been, like the way he finished last year, he should be back as England number one.

On Tom Heaton’s England prospects:

I think he was very unlucky last season not to have been included in the latter qualifying games simply out of merit – he performed solidly. You have to say that of course he’s playing in front a very solid unit.

On the biggest misconception in football:

That you should never get beat on the near post. Power can beat you from any angle.

On ditching big walls for long range free kicks:

If you put a player 30 yards out, a goalkeeper in the goal, nothing in between them, no wall, even if it’s just on a training ground, very rarely would they beat the keeper from that distance.

It’s about evolving and making the other team think and making them change their tactics. From that distance, I would have two in a wall just to cover the left hand post. It puts up a small obstacle, puts something in their eye line, something to distract them a little bit but it gives you a much clearer look at the ball.

The earlier you pick up the flight of the ball, the quicker your response can be.

On whose a better goalkeeper between Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois: 

That’s a tough one – probably, De Gea.

Of the two, I’d say Lloris. Simply because he stops the ball. With Lloris, he has a big hole in his game when it comes to distribution. Anyone who watches Tottenham week in, week out will see that it’s his big weakness. But everything else more than makes up for it.

In defence of Simon Mignolet: 

Since he’s come back into the side, he’s been a different keeper. He looks much more confident, much more assured, much more solid. He kept them in the game the other night (vs Hoffenheim).

In one on one situations he’s strong and, especially, as we know, in penalties as well.

On Petr Cech’s positioning: 

I’m a huge fan of Peter Cech but last weekend – it was the first game of the season and everyone has bad games, of course they do – it was kind of like, every time the ball came, especially for two of the goals, he was almost like a toddler caught in piggy in the middle.

Indecisive, in between decisions, in between positions. Just not getting anywhere near it. Not being on his line and not being able to get to the ball.

It all stemmed from having a negative starting position. By the time the ball comes in, he’s assessing the flight, coming for it and then he’s getting nowhere near it. So he just needs to be a little bit more positive with his positioning. But it was a big worry for me.

On new Brighton goalkeeper Matthew Ryan’s exemplary passing skills:

This is his big strength. Perhaps he’s not the standard that Pep Guardiola wants, but certainly with his feet, given the license by his manager, he will play the most ridiculous passes and take the most chances – but he can do it. He doesn’t give balls away.

In the last couple of games there’s been question marks. In a recently friendly game against Athletico Madrid he made a mistake with a simple long range shot straight at him. But if you look back, especially during his time in Australia, he plays the first line of press brilliantly. He doesn’t panic at all.

Of course it’s in relation to the players around him, they have to move for him and offer themselves as well. But he’s brave with the ball – very, very brave. Far better with the ball than Claudio Bravo.

On Manchester City’s Ederson also being better than Claudio Bravo:

I quite like Ederson. He’s aggressive in the same fashion that Pickford is. As opposed to Claudio Bravo, he’s not frightened of coming through bodies. Doesn’t matter how far out it is. Sometimes he’s comes out further on crosses than I go on my holidays. He’s positive, he’s strong and doesn’t mind that physical contact.

Saving the best until last – on Buffon:

In my eye’s, he’s the best keeper ever. But he’s been allied with best defensive players in front of him as well. So it’s been a good combination.

The first thing I noticed when I started analysing his game was how deep he played in his goal. From a young age, when I was taught positioning and coming out to narrow angles and all that, I’d always adjust, so I was backwards and forwards.

Sometimes you come forward six yards out. He’s always very deep on his line. It gives him that split second more to see the flight of the ball. We presume that continental keepers are very flamboyant because they parry a lot of balls, Oliver Kahn say. Buffon gives himself that little bit of extra time so he can choose whether to parry or catch the ball and more often than not he catches the ball.

You can listen to the full show at the link below: 

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