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Guglielmo Vicario the latest victim as Premier League goalkeepers can’t cope with corners

Guglielmo Vicario the latest victim as Premier League goalkeepers can’t cope with corners

Goalkeepers are getting bullied on corners and few are putting up a fight. It’s time for No.1s to rethink their priorities and relearn the art of aerial domination…

Goalkeeping has changed, so we are constantly told. And not necessarily for the better.

Ever since Pep Guardiola binned Joe Hart because he was ropey in rondos, managers at almost every level have rethought what they want from their No.1s. Now they want a No.10 in latex mitts.

Guardiola wasn’t the first coach to question a keeper’s priorities. David De Gea was bought to replace Edwin van der Sar in 2011 largely because he was comfortable with the ball at his feet. That he was replaced at Manchester United because his strength had become a weakness highlights how the balance has shifted in a dozen years.

That wasn’t De Gea’s only flaw. The Spaniard – a waif when he arrived from Atletico Madrid – was terrified of crosses and high balls into his box. He filled out, impressively so. And though he gradually became more comfortable under a high ball, his approach to dealing with the problem was largely to ignore it.

Many goalkeepers have thought along similar lines. Often because they have been steered that way by managers and coaches. Whereas many used to urge a keeper to dominate the airspace around their penalty area, more and more stoppers are being encouraged to delegate to their defenders and remain pinned to their line.

Which has brought us to this point. Where the Premier League elite have gone full Dog & Duck when it comes to set-pieces. Specifically on corners.

‘Put it on the keeper!’ is the cry across Sunday League pitches up and down the country when the fat lads from the back trundle forward as the ball is placed in the quadrant. Now, set-piece coaches at the top of the game appear to have taken inspiration from those at the very bottom.

Guglielmo Vicario is the latest keeper to be targeted, with Everton making life very uncomfortable for the Italian. Chief pest was Jack Harrison, who was allowed to wander into Vicario’s personal space unchallenged and pin the Spurs stopper. At least for 45 minutes until Everton opted for a deeper delivery and stopped doing what had brought them an opening goal and plenty more encouragement in the first half.

A huge goal for Dominic Calvert-Lewin! 🤩

That could be the scoring boost that he needed! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/eW21wFrFJY

— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) February 3, 2024

There is no question of Vicario being singled out. Every Premier League goalkeeper is being picked on at corners – and very few appear to have the coping mechanisms.

Perhaps they have had it too easy for too long. Fewer crosses are being slung into boxes, reducing their obligation to leave the comfort of their line. When they have, they generally enjoy a presidential level of protection from referees whenever an opponent gets within tickling distance.

Vicario’s reaction to Harrison’s interference was typical of the Goalkeepers’ Union: fight or fret. So often when affronted stoppers get marked, they fixate on the man rather than the ball and finish up flapping at both. Harrison was clever, though. He wandered late onto Vicario’s toes, averting the referee’s scrutiny while denying the Spurs keeper the chance to bring a pal to pair up with.

Gabriel scores for Arsenal against Crystal Palace.

Dean Henderson could not cope with Arsenal’s in-swingers.

Goalkeepers need to recognise that the threat isn’t going away. Not while so many clubs are having so much joy with in-swinging corners. After going out of fashion for while, last season they were all the rage, with three-quarters of the Premier League whipping the majority of their deliveries towards the goal. None more so than Arsenal, who opted for an in-swinger with 95% of their corners. This season, no club has scored more from set-pieces.

Referees and VAR officials appear to be sick of their whining so keepers have little choice but to stand up to the challenge and rediscover the art of aerial domination. They are all enormous. When seeking stoppers, from the academy to the first team, clubs fixate on height as much as a divorcee on a dating app. But they seem to have forgotten why.

The general trend is for goalkeepers to remain deeper and closer to their line, whether dealing with shots or crosses. There are some very good reasons for that. But on corners, opponents are taking the fight to them. Keepers need to catch on quick, come out punching, and stop making themselves an easy target.

Read more: Who is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League in 2023/24?

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