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Michael Gspurning: Offensive play - goalkeeper behavior during back passes

Michael Gspurning began his presentation with a historical review of the 1992 European Championship tournament in Sweden. Using scenes from the match between Denmark and Germany, he showed why the introduction of the back-pass rule made sense. A typical scene in this game: Denmark's keeper Schmeichel passes the ball to a teammate, who in turn passes the ball back to his keeper. As soon as a German striker runs at the goalkeeper, he picks up the ball again with his hand. Even free kicks from the opponent's half are sometimes played back to their own goalkeeper to stall for time. Even the whistles of the spectators could not prevent these actions. Undoubtedly, this tactic was in accordance with the rules, but in terms of the spirit of the game and the expectations of the spectators, it was difficult to bear. With this style of play, Denmark managed to hold on to a 2-0 advantage and became European champions.
Following the tournament, FIFA introduced the back-pass rule in 1992 as a reaction to the time-wasting tactics. From then on, the goalkeeper was no longer allowed to touch the ball with his hands if the pass had been made by a teammate of his own team in a controlled manner by foot or throw-in. The game was to become more attractive again due to fewer interruptions.

But the introduction of the back-pass rule also changed the game itself. "You now see more and more teams raising the game from behind. For this playing philosophy, you need a goalkeeper who initiates a sensible buildup," Gspurning punctuated his talk with a quote from Manuel Neuer. So from now on, the goalkeeper was involved in his team's offensive play and had become the first build-up player.

Facts and figures

The Union goalkeeper coach used current figures from the first seven games of the first Bundesliga in the current 2021/22 season to illustrate how strongly the goalkeeper is now integrated into team play. He compared the three goalkeepers Florian Müller (VfB Stuttgart), Andreas Luthe (Union Berlin) and Stefan Ortega (Arminia Bielefeld). Ball actions are defined as actions of the goalkeeper with hands and feet. His tests revealed the following values for the three keepers:
Florian Müller: 38 ball actions, 31.1 passes, 26.7 passes
Andreas Luthe: 40.5 actions on the ball, 34.2 passes, 28.7 passes
Stefan Ortega: 63.8 actions on the ball, 57 passes, 54.1 passes
The results clearly show how much actions with the foot have increased among goalkeepers. They now account for 75-80% of goalkeeper play.

More important to Michael Gspurning than the number of ball actions, however, is the question of how the return passes are processed. For this purpose, he has examined the actions after back passes to Luthe in his own analysis. The Union goalkeeper had the fewest back-pass actions in the match against FC Augsburg (11), the most in the match in Prague (22). In 5-10 actions, he had pressure actions, i.e. he had to act under time and opponent pressure. For the analysis of the goalkeeper's behavior, three questions are important for Gspurning: What happened? How did the goalkeeper behave? What can we improve? With the help of these questions, he then works out suggestions for improvement with his goalkeepers.

Review last matchday

Using video sequences of Andreas Luthe's match on Matchday 7 in Mainz, Gspurning showed how head coach Urs Fischer's playing philosophy determines the goalkeepers' actions and what codes of conduct are required in Union Berlin's play. The following agreements exist at Union:

- Everyone knows where the other stands! (gives the TH security with decision)
- As little ball contact as possible! (direct pass if possible)
- Keep the ball always in motion!

Long ball controlled to target player!

The procedure of the back pass action

Gspurning then took a closer look at the timing of a back pass to the goalkeeper. First, he took a look at what the goalkeeper has to keep in mind before the action. His insight: to be well positioned for the back pass, he must have scanned the field beforehand. Furthermore, it takes good communication with teammates to safely resolve the situation and offer himself accordingly. Once the back pass has been made, he must be ready for the opponent's run-up. With a good perception, he then solves the situation tactically (long, short) and technically (inside, full span) with an active movement to the ball.
But what factors must the goalkeeper look at in the action? In Gspurning's view, he must exude conviction and confidence. The basis for this, he says, is that the goalkeeper has already made his decision beforehand and can therefore carry it out in a calm and controlled manner. Of course, the right technical execution (type of pass, speed) is also part of it. The pass is "a message" because the goalkeeper uses it to convey whether he is concentrated and radiates conviction. Another aspect was important to Gspurning: the goalkeeper must "think ahead" to the game situation, i.e. consider what he wants to achieve with his pass.

Even after the action, the goalkeeper is immediately challenged again. He must then initiate the immediate reorganization and communicate the continuation of the game with his teammates. He must not take himself out of the game after the action, but must continue to retain and assume responsibility.

Coaching points

To be able to support and evaluate the goalkeepers in detail, the Union goalkeeper coach draws on the following coaching points for analysis as well as discussion:

- Positioning (Open position > more options)
- Active bidding behavior
- Perception - Screening
- Decision making
- Technical execution
- Determination / Conviction
- Communication
- Reorganization

Using the game situations already mentioned in the match against Mainz, Michael Gspurning made it clear how he sees his goalkeeper's behavior in action and explained why the previously mentioned behaviors are important for him in the respective situation.

Implementation in training

Finally, Michael Gspurning gave some insights into his training work. For him, the first decisive question is what the keeper needs in the game. The analysis shows how the goalkeepers behave and what can be improved. The desired behavior is then trained in suitable training forms. However, he also likes to use technique exercises that are associated with cognitive stress, i.e. he works with the methodology of overtaxing. Furthermore, he sometimes incorporates exercises that force a decision. He trains patient behavior with so-called no-go actions, which are intended to prevent a decision from being made too quickly and require patient waiting. In game forms together with the team, he then practices behavior under pressure and with opponents with his keepers. This is the only way to simulate the approach of the opponent in a game-like manner.
At the end of his presentation, Michael Gspurning gave an insight into his daily training work. He explained how he generally bases his training on consistent principles and which aspects play a role in which phase of the training.

In the following practical part, he showed by means of exercises how the perception and recognition of free teammates can be trained in a goalkeeper.

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