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safehands | the art of goalkeeping Bregenz Oktober 2015

Marco Knoop: "5 times more actions in space defense"
Quality endures. For the eleventh time, Safehand / Art of Goalkeeping held a goalkeeper trainer seminar. For the sixth time this event took place in Bregenz. And as always, the participants, some of whom had traveled a long way, did not have to regret their long journey. Marco Knoop (U23 goalkeeper coach RB Leipzig) and Filip de Wilde (U21 goalkeeper coach of the Belgian national team), two excellent experts in the field, led through the full-day event.
The morning session was given by Marco Knoop, U23 goalkeeping coach at RB Leipzig. In an approx. 90-minute lecture, he first presented the Saxons' playing philosophy and the effects of this approach to the game on goalkeeping.

The philosophy of play

The philosophy of the "Bullen" is based on playing against the ball. To this end, the team is very compact. Once the ball has been won, it is played forward as quickly and long as possible into the depths. All actions take place at high speed. Very early pressing after ball losses is also intended to keep the paths to the opponent's goal short. Attacks are completed as quickly as possible after winning the ball.

Effects on goalkeeping

Every playing philosophy also has its own special requirements for goalkeeping. For the goalkeepers of the ambitious second-division club, this style of play means that they have to move up extremely far in order to be able to secure the wide space behind the four-man defensive chain. However, this requirement places high demands on the goalkeepers. Because the goalkeeper has to perform many actions at high speed outside the penalty area in this style of play, he needs a high level of anticipation, quick decision-making and good speed in taking off and sprinting up to 30 meters. Indeed, if he makes the wrong decision, the risk of an opponent scoring a goal is high. In addition, the keeper is often at risk of red, because if his timing is inaccurate when running out, a collision with the striker can hardly be avoided. The area that the goalkeeper has to defend is therefore very large with a high standing defense.

Analysis of the goals against

In order to get an idea of the actions in which the goalkeepers of the "Bullen" have to concede goals particularly frequently, all goals conceded are recorded in a standardized table. Criteria are, for example, goals after long balls, completion inside the 16 or outside, by header, from the right or left, after a header. The results of this study showed that RB Leipzig has 5 times more actions in space defense than other teams. The high pressing leads to an unequal number of steep pass situations. RB goalkeepers are therefore challenged in an "atypical" way, which is why goalkeeper training at RB must be increasingly geared to these circumstances.

Team training versus goalkeeper

Since the RB goalkeepers mostly operate in the middle of the field after receiving a steep pass, the coaches largely work with training forms "in the tube". Flank actions rarely occur in these training forms. A frequently chosen pitch size to train the players' speed of action is the double 16. The action area is narrow and tubular in this pitch arrangement. In these forms of play, goalkeepers are often involved in close-range shooting situations (goal defense), but less so in game situations involving space defense, which often occur in point games of RB teams. Thus, there is a discrepancy in these forms of practice with what is required of them in a real game. As a result, the goalkeepers are not prepared enough in team training for the requirements in the game.


RB Leipzig attaches great importance to what is known as complex training. This means combining training content from two categories. For example, spatial defense can be combined with offensive play. Often, elements of one category are also combined with additional stimuli, for example back-passing actions with numbers or colors. For example, different ball colors can signal where or with whom the ball should be played in the follow-up action. The goal of complex training is to step out of the rigid training and movement routine and create varying stress with additional tasks.

Knoop showed ways of intensifying the exercises via different variations and thus increasing the mental stress on the goalkeeper. The demands on the goalkeeper can be shifted via the "controls" of time, precision, complexity, situation and load.

Expectations create pressure

Since RB Leipzig has formulated promotion to the first Bundesliga as a clear goal, corresponding results must be achieved. When things don't go according to plan, the pressure on coaches and players is high. Goalkeepers in particular are quickly singled out as the culprits after mistakes. Because they in particular feel a lot of stress, the coach has to think about how to alleviate this pressure.

Another problem arises. Because goalkeeper training at RB is extremely focused on the game system, other areas of goalkeeping can get short shrift in training. Especially in the development phase of a young keeper, however, the training should be broader.

Training documentation

Finally, Marco Knoop used illustrative material to explain how each trainer must enter his or her training content in a calendar-like, standardized template. This makes it easy to determine how many hours the trainer has worked in which area.

The theory in practice

As already mentioned above, Marco Knoop clearly illustrated in the subsequent practical part what complex training looks like at RB Leipzig. He presented warm-up exercises in which the goalkeepers are already mentally challenged in the warm-up phase (arithmetic problems, colors with different meanings) and thus the often usual movement routine is cancelled out. Further exercises on the complex training method followed.

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