Some questions I have had to deal with in recent time on Twitter are in relation to the subject I going to write about in this piece. I’m not the greatest when it comes to outlining my answers in writing but on this I’m gonna try, hoping you find the uniqueness in the next few paragraphs.
Messi, Christiano Ronaldo….. Yes, these names represent goals and instill fear in every goalkeeper but tonight, I’m gonna talk about this guy Messi. One element in his style of play that draws me back every time I feel like criticizing him. It’s the way the lad is re-writing the way the game is being played, or rather the way the goalkeepers play it – or had better learn to play it (borrowed line).
When talking of goalkeepers, two famous phrases come into mind….. ‘Making yourself big’ and ‘narrowing the angle’. Praising the goalkeepers, I would say, but on some occasions, somebody has made these phrases look rather silly, and boy; Messi has.
More than often, the skills involved have over time looked rather questionable. If I asked you the reader what you would do as a striker who’s in on a one on one situation, probably 1-2 meters away from goal, most of you would try and slam the ball whether or not cleverly positioned to score.
But not so of Messi; who’s done it in a way I would call ‘another dimension’ and made it into a reality leaving us in awe at times but stealing more hearts to his side than loose them.
So what’s this dimension I’m talking about? It’s not a new one as such; just that it really hasn’t been exploited to the best of standards the way Messi is doing it.
The ‘angles’ talked about when praising goalkeepers are always either the left-right, or east-west in other words, the horizontal angles. But Messi just added another angle, the upward – vertical angle.
Looking at recent Messi goals – three for Argentina and nine for Barcelona. Of those five were scored by dinking the ball firmly but softly over the keeper who in most cases are rather rushing to narrow the angle or are firmly planted watching his sides and focusing on Messi’s movement of the legs.
In each of the five dinks, the goalkeeper has both arms held low, angled out away from his body (assuming that makes him big), this inevitably translates that when the ball is chipped or lobbed or let me be normal and say scooped over his head is late ending up in an ineffectual raising of the arms to flap at the ball that is mostly beyond reach. In each of the goals, none of the keepers was even able to have a touch on the ball.
What is even more exciting or rather fascinating is the sureness and precision of the touch behind the ball.
Remember in each of the goals, the situation was a one on one a situation that more than often scares the hell out of strikers. The accuracy, patience, sureness of the touch Messi exhibits, is not something that exists in every striker, I’m tempted to say, it’s a skill learnt over time.
Going back to the goals, all of them are well within the penalty area meaning there’s no margin of error in getting the ball over the goalkeeper and rightfully under the bar. The arc of the ball has to be rather right or if not, better hit the underside of the bar and well go over the line (who wants a Lampard when scoring such a brilliant goal?).
In some cases, depending on the position of the goalkeeper, time in question and distance to the post, a half-chip/ half scoop might be used so that the bouncing of the ball is controlled. Depending on the chip, the ball might bounce once or twice before rolling into the net, but in some cases, the bounce will occur way over the line.
Messi has demonstrated so far, there’s an alternative to the standards methods used by strikers in one-on-one situations with goalkeepers. Shooting to the left or right, or rather going round the goalie might not look good any more compared to what I’ve watched this incredible player do when faced with the same situation and dinking them in style.
So narrowing the angle is no longer enough as a goalkeeper when facing such strikers in Messi’s caliber, but for how long shall it be just Messi? Other strikers must too learn to dink the ball, though might not be perfect, should just be enough to beat the keeper and into the net.
I’m tired of the routine, I know you so….. so who’s gonna start practicing dinking?