FIFA fan and football journalist Darren Cross looks at four ways you can use the goalkeeper to help you win more games of FIFA 14...
My goalkeeper is a busy man.
‘Keep ball out of net’ is of course requirement number one on my job description for a stopper, but in my team he has much more to do than just make saves or maybe take the blame the odd time/every time I concede a goal.
My keeper helps me to build attacks, launch counters, retain possession, relieve pressure and even tidy up in defence. Like I said, he’s a busy man and that extra role he plays has absolutely made the difference for me in so many games, especially when up against tough opposition where one mistake at the back or failure to spot an attacking opportunity can cost points.
In this week’s Backpage we’re going to look at how getting the goalkeeper involved more often can be a huge advantage and ultimately help you win more.
Picture a lofted through ball going over the head of your centre-backs, who are in a race with opposition strikers to get to it first. One of your centre-backs will make it, but he’ll be facing his own goal with an attacker gaining quickly.
What do you do?
From my experience a lot of players would look to pass the ball out to a full-back, play it across to the other centre-back so they can keep possession and start an attack of their own or, worse, try to turn. All of these options are too risky for me, especially when there’s a team-mate standing unmarked in loads of space right in front of the defender… the keeper.
Whenever I get into situations like that these days I simply pass the ball back to the goalkeeper as soon as possible. It’s risk free and, if I take a quick look at the radar while the ball is travelling, I can usually spot a team-mate my GK can pass to. This way I keep possession without the opposition strikers coming close to intercepting.
I do this with full-backs too. There have been loads of times over the years when I’ve tried to fool an opposition winger by turning on the ball with a full-back, only to be tackled before watching him go one on one with my keeper, but not any more. If there’s any chance I could give the ball away in any dangerous situation with my back four, my first thought is to go back to the goalkeeper.
Even clearances can be risky. If you’ve read any of my defending tips before then you’ll know I’m a big fan of using the shoot button to head or kick the ball as far away from goal as possible when under pressure in dangerous areas, and I still do that – especially with defensive headers – but there have been times when I’ve kicked it against an opposition player or lost balance because of contact and generally made a mess of the clearance. Things I could have avoided by playing back to the keeper.
In short, if you’ve got the ball with any of your defenders and you’re facing your own goal while under very close pressure, look for a pass to the keeper. It might go against your instincts – we all want to play positive, attacking football – but it will save you at least a couple of goals a season, which could be vital.
Sometimes I can get a feeling early on with an attack that it’s not really going anywhere. It might be that I’ve rolled the ball out to a centre-back only to quickly discover that all of his passing options are marked, or maybe I’ve played the ball to a full-back who, because the defending team were anticipating it, doesn’t really have anyone to aim for. Rather than launch the ball forward and take my chances, I’ll often turn and play back to the keeper.
Again I know this initially sounds a bit boring, but I just think of it as the restarting of an attack rather than a negative move, and here’s why...
When a team is covering your potential passes with good positioning and aggressive pressing, a pass back to the keeper can tempt them to move further towards your goal as they look to eventually intercept. Of course this means that, somewhere, a gap is appearing, so as the pass is on its way to your keeper it’s that space you need to be looking out for on the radar.
Remember, you don’t have to play the ball straight away with the keeper. As long as no opponent players are close enough to make a tackle before you can kick the ball, you’ve got time to pick a target for your pass. A simple long pass is the safest option to avoid interceptions or deflections, but the driven pass can also be really useful when there’s no-one between the ball and the player you’re passing to, as they travel faster. To hit a driven pass, hold RB or R1 while pressing the long pass button.
So the ball is in your keeper’s hands following an attack from the other team, who have committed a number of players forward. Here’s where the radar can help you again.
A quick look at it should reveal a team-mate in open space – check the wide players first, especially if the opponent has attacked from a wide position and brought a full-back forward – and all you need to do is find them with a throw or an accurate kick to start an attack of your own. Be careful with throws especially, as you need to put plenty of power on them to avoid opponents close by, but if you get the delivery right you can be advancing on goal while many of the opposition players are still in your half of the pitch.
There are also times when a very direct kick from the keeper to the striker can quickly lead to a scoring chance. I don’t do it a lot as it’s a bit too direct for my liking, but if I’m losing the game with just a few minutes to go and I can see from the radar that my striker has space behind the defence to run into, then it’s worth a try. You need a keeper with a powerful kick and a striker with plenty of pace – not to mention a bit of luck – but occasionally it works and might just save you the game.
It really is worth getting into the habit of checking the radar as soon as the ball is with your keeper.
When I’ve committed a lot of players forward to help out in attack or I’m playing with a very high defensive line, it can leave me open to a quick counter with a through pass as there’s loads of space for my opponent to play the ball into and chase. Strikers are generally faster than centre-backs so, unless I can block their run path to slow them down, I’ll often look to my keeper for help again...This time rushing him out to tidy up.
The key to this one is making the right decision as quickly as possible. If the pass has plenty of power on it and I feel immediately confident I could get my keeper to it first then I hit triangle or Y and go for it, but if there’s any doubt then I stay put and try something else – otherwise it’ll probably result in an easy tap-in. Because a quick decision is essential it’s the sort of move you need to have in your mind, almost hovering over the button in anticipation as soon as your own attack breaks down, but once you get into the habit of it your keeper can become a really effective sweeper when the rest of your team have pushed up in search of goals.
So they’re the four extra things I use my goalkeeper for, and they really do make the difference for me. If you have any more keeper tips then please share them with us FIFA fans by commenting below or tweeting me @darren_cross
As always, thanks very much for reading this week’s Backpage – I really do appreciate it.