A goal kick is, by its very nature, boring.
Goal kicks aren’t immortalised in rock & roll ballads. You don’t lay awake at night thinking about a goal kick. Nobody has ever regretted a tattoo they got of that goal kick when they were younger.
And yet, here you are, reading an article about goal kicks. For that, you have Barcelona to thank.
Quique Setien’s eighth game in charge of Barcelona, a 2-1 win against Getafe, won’t stand out in record books, especially if Real Madrid maintain their spot at the top of La Liga.
There wasn’t anything particularly notable about the goals, scored by Antoine Griezmann and Sergi Roberto, aside from the fact that Lionel Messi continued his rather peculiar dry patch by contributing another assist.
But there was something revolutionary about the way, just two minutes into the game, Barcelona lined up to take a goal kick.
Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Pique split either side of the six-yard box, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen stood in between his centre-backs and Sergio Busquets poised on the edge of D.
Rather than take the goal-kick himself, Ter Stegen received a pass from one of his centre-backs, allowing the German to draw Getafe’s press into the penalty box.
The advantage of receiving the goal kick from a defender was that it opened up the entire pitch for Ter Stegen. Were he to pass the goal kick left to Umtiti, for example, Getafe would then be able to dictate the areas in which the Frenchmen would be able to play with the angle of their press.
Herding the opposition into certain areas of the pitch before pressing aggressively, in essence setting traps, is something Liverpool in particular have become masters of, but Barcelona’s subtle tweak allowed them to negate Getafe’s efforts to do so.
Arthur’s run towards his own goal dragged Getafe’s holding midfielder further up the pitch, leaving Barcelona’s front three of Griezmann, Messi and Ansu Fati up against just three defenders.
Ter Stegen was then able to go straight and long with a low pass directly into Griezmann’s feet. At the time of making the pass no fewer than seven Getafe players had been dragged into the final third, meaning two-thirds of the Nou Camp pitch was free to be exploited by Barcelona’s front three.
Man City commonly use a similar tactic in which Pep Guardiola instructs his side to draw the opposition towards the goalkeeper, only for Ederson to go long and release Sergio Aguero in behind with his immaculate left-footed kicking.
Barcelona went one further, with Ter Stegen essentially becoming an outfield player.
Indeed, Ter Stegen’s final tally of 69 attempted passes was more than any other La Liga goalkeeper since the 2005/06 season.
Speaking after the game, Ter Stegen said: “We’re always looking for new ideas to be stronger and complicate things for the opposition.
“There are fans that aren’t content with these back passes but I think they are necessary to start to build from deep, to be patient, more so against teams that press high up.
“It’s a very good solution. Sometimes it goes wrong but you have to understand it.”
Of course, outfield players taking goal kicks won’t come as a surprise to the Sunday League defenders who have long made up for their goalkeepers lack of hamstrings. But how long until we see Sunday League goalkeepers operating as the first receiver?
Hackney Marshes will never be the same again.
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