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Talking Tactics

Season trends: Ryan the No 1 to embrace goal-kick revolution

20 Apr 2020
Mat Ryan, Brighton

Adrian Clarke says Brighton goalkeeper and Man City's Ederson are the most successful exponents of a change in tactics in 2019/20

Adrian Clarke looks at tactical trends of the 2019/20 season so far.

How to approach goal-kicks

The new goal-kick law allowing passes inside the box has revolutionised football but divided Premier League managers.

Some have chosen to make it their first-choice strategy to restart play.

Others like to use short goal-kicks regularly but encourage their goalkeepers to mix things up.

But several top-flight head coaches have almost completely disregarded this fresh option.

Ryan leading the way

The team who have embraced the new tactic the most are Brighton & Hove Albion.

Their No 1, Mat Ryan, has taken the most goal-kicks ending inside his own penalty box.

A total of 107 of his 200 goal-kicks have been played in this manner, but Graham Potter will be disappointed that none have led to an Albion goal.

The Seagulls' confidence in playing short, however, is testament to their desire to pass through the thirds even when opponents press high.

Interestingly, when Ryan does not go short he almost exclusively plays longer passes to the left flank, where 6ft 7in Dan Burn provides an alternative out ball.

Popular with top clubs

First-choice goalkeepers at seven of the top nine teams in the Premier League have been comfortably playing short goal-kicks.

Ederson opts to take advantage of the new law with a higher share of his goal-kicks than any other player in the division.

And because of his incredible passing range he can massively benefit Manchester City.

When opponents press high he often fakes a short goal-kick and goes long instead. This decoy takes advantage of space left for his team-mates, who can move into gaps higher up the pitch.

Who goes short the most? 
GK Short goal-kicks % of short goal-kicks*
Ederson 57 61
Ryan 107 54
De Gea 99 51
Lloris 38 46
Kepa 69 45
Leno 104 43

*Goal-kick ending in goalkeeper's own area

By contrast, the new law has been largely ignored by other Premier League managers.

Eight teams go long with their goal-kicks at least 90 per cent of the time, including top-half teams Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Both play excellent passing football but, from restarts, have opted not to gamble by playing too many shorter passes.

Who goes short the least?
GK Short goal-kicks % of short goal-kicks*
Henderson 2 1
Pope 2 1
Foster 3 1
Fabianski 4 3
Patricio 7 3
Dubravka 9 3

*Goal-kick ending in goalkeeper's own area

Six of the division's goalkeepers have actually played fewer than 10 goal-kick passes inside their own box.

Dean Henderson and Nick Pope have attempted only two apiece.

Interestingly, five of the six goalkeepers in the table above play for British managers.

This pattern is perhaps an indication that these coaches are a little more reticent in switching away from traditional long goal-kicks.

See: Adrian Clarke's season trends

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