How Jose Sa’s footwork is crucial to goalkeeping, from cross-step to bounding step - Football Roof

How Jose Sa’s footwork is crucial to goalkeeping, from cross-step to bounding step

When Rui Patricio left Wolves for Roma in July 2021, he was leaving because the goalkeeper who helped information the group to 2 seventh-place finishes and a UEFA Europa League quarterfinal look in three seasons. He had additionally damaged the membership’s single-season clear sheet document twice, and had surpassed 100 Portugal caps whereas in Wolves colors.

Jose Sa, Patricio’s alternative, was becoming a member of Wolves as an uncapped 28-year-old with no expertise within the large 5 European leagues. He had failed to ascertain himself as a full-time starter within the Portuguese Primeira Liga with Maritimo and Porto; and his solely actual successes had been profitable the Primeira Liga in 2018 as an on-again, off-again starter, and profitable the Tremendous League Greece in back-to-back seasons in 2020 and 2021.

“I used to be nervous, I used to be apprehensive, and I assumed we had been shedding an actual key spine of the squad,” mentioned Dan John, co-chairman of the New York Wolves supporters’ membership. “I assumed whoever we bought was going to be a step-down.”

However quick ahead almost a 12 months after the 2 strikes had been made official, and John is singing a very completely different tune. “He is exceeded in each side; his agility, his domination of the field as effectively,” he mentioned. “He is positively any individual I wish to see at Wolves for an extended, very long time.”

Not solely did Sa reach changing his Portuguese compatriot, however he completed his debut Premier League season with among the greatest stats in Europe’s prime 5 leagues.

Based on, he posted the perfect save share within the Premier League this season (79.3%) and saved 9.2 objectives above anticipated, the second-most in Europe and essentially the most within the Premier League by a 2.5 objective margin. On prime of that, Sa stopped 10.8% of the crosses he confronted in his penalty space (2nd amongst Premier League goalkeepers with 30 or extra appearances) and averaged about 1.1 sweeper actions exterior of the penalty space per 90 minutes (third amongst Premier League goalkeepers).

So how precisely has Sa exceeded expectations this season? One purpose is his footwork, and as you may see, what goalkeepers do with their ft is each bit as vital as how they use their arms.

A step-by-step course of

“You hear in regards to the Premier League [and] the adjustment interval that is often anticipated of goalkeepers, and he hasn’t had any want for that in any respect,” mentioned Justin Bryant, North Carolina State College’s Director of Goalkeeping.

Sa has been the “good” alternative for Patricio, in response to Bryant. His distribution suits Wolves’ tactical method and provides him a leg up on Patricio; he isn’t afraid to take duty for balls performed into his field; and he is exuded a stage of composure that is given his teammates consolation and confidence in his talents. “His shot-stopping can be very, excellent,” Bryant added.

The flashy response saves and the Superman-esque diving stops will dominate Sa’s spotlight reels, however spectacular as these saves are, the hot button is his footwork.

“If [the goalkeeper is] making saves, then they’re doing one thing proper with the bottom and the muse, and that’s their footwork,” Bryant mentioned.

Based on Bryant, footwork can be about organising your physique in a means that places you in the perfect place to make a save. “You’ll be able to’t be caught in the midst of a cross-step,” he mentioned. “You’ll be able to’t have one foot in entrance of the opposite. You’ll be able to’t have your weight in your heels or on the entrance of 1 foot [and] on the heel of the opposite foot. There must be a form of symmetry and group to your physique, and that is what footwork is to me.”

In an effort to keep that organisation, goalkeepers will use a wide range of completely different step methods to maintain their our bodies prepared and their frames balanced – the commonest of which being the aforementioned cross-step step, which is used to cowl giant distances rapidly; the aspect step, which is used for brief to medium distances; and the bounding step, which helps the goalkeeper make minimal changes to their form instantly earlier than a save try.

The cross-step, or the crossover step, is named so as a result of the goalkeeper crosses one leg over the opposite. Bryant mentioned this system is commonly used when the goalkeeper has to cowl as a lot floor as doable in as little time as doable.

“I believe for many goalkeepers, it is most likely essentially the most naturally fast and quick solution to begin the physique transferring when you have got plenty of floor to cowl,” he mentioned.

Credit score: @Wolves Twitter

Sa gave a textbook instance of this system’s advantages throughout Wolves’ 3-1 win over Southampton in January.

Mohammed Salisu related on Oriol Romeu’s cross, however thanks to 2 good crossover steps, Sa was in a position to rapidly put himself ready to cease this try. This ended up being a key save: it stored the hosts up 1-0 late within the first half, and allowed them to enter half-time with a lead and finally win the sport.

Had Sa used a special step approach, he most likely would not have been in a position to transfer throughout in time to parry this shot away.

Credit score: Wolves YouTube channel

When a goalkeeper has much less floor to cowl, it would not make sense to make use of a crossover step as a result of the goalkeeper might be going to place themselves out of place. Moreover, it is going to trigger the goalkeeper to turn into unbalanced as a result of their legs can be in a clumsy place whereas in movement. With out stability, the goalkeeper can have extra hassle pushing off into an sufficient save try — they could battle to get a very good lift-off, leading to a poor dive; or their legs may collapse beneath them, leading to them simply falling backwards.

In these situations, a goalkeeper could wish to use a side-step as an alternative, the place a goalkeeper strikes one leg at a time to at least one aspect. A goalkeeper can nonetheless cowl a good quantity of distance utilizing this system, however will compromise much less of their stability than in the event that they’d used a crossover step.

“When the ball is on the foot of an attacker in a taking pictures place, the goalkeeper will transfer laterally with it utilizing small shuffle steps to be able to preserve the ft involved with the bottom as a lot as doable so that they [can react] instantly,” Bryant mentioned.

Credit score: Leicester Metropolis YouTube Channel

In Wolves’ 3-2 win over Aston Villa earlier this season, Sa used a side-step to cease a harmful scoring likelihood. Within the twenty seventh minute, Villa’s Danny Ings obtained the ball a few yards away from the sting of Wolves’ six-yard field. As Ings set himself as much as shoot, Sa used a couple of small side-steps to maintain his physique in keeping with the ball and the attacker’s actions. In doing so, he was in a position to readjust his place whereas protecting sq. to the opponent, his weight equally distributed throughout his lateral aircraft, and his ft near the bottom.

This helped Sa get in an appropriate place to make a very good drop-step diving save — wherein the goalkeeper pulls a leg inwards to be able to drop his physique to the aspect of that leg — to his proper aspect. Had Sa used a special approach, resembling a bounding step, he may need moved too slowly and over-exposed the left aspect of his objective; or moved too rapidly and gotten caught in the midst of a crossover step.

Credit score: Wolves YouTube channel

Talking of the bounding step, that is most likely the commonest step approach when defending a shot. This system is much less about transferring the physique over medium or lengthy distances (just like the earlier two steps) and extra about getting the physique able to react to a shot. This system helps the goalkeeper make minimal changes to their physique’s set form. It will possibly additionally assist load the goalkeeper’s legs for a giant dive to both aspect, in response to Bryant.

The bounding step is often accompanied by an arm swing. This arm swing helps the goalkeeper construct energy into their response and push off right into a dive with as a lot drive as doable.

Credit score: Bundesliga YouTube Channel

One good instance of Sa utilizing a bounding step was seen in Wolves’ 2-0 loss to Crystal Palace in March. Palace’s Michael Olise dribbled the ball into Wolves’ field and took a curling shot to Sa’s far submit.

This difficult shot got here at Sa fairly rapidly, so he needed to react equally as quick. He did not have the time to take a side-step or crossover step to his proper aspect, nor did he want to make use of these steps provided that the shot did not require him to make main changes to his place. So as an alternative, he used the bounding step to make a minimal adjustment to his place to his proper, after which exploded into his aerial dive.

Credit score: Crystal Palace FC YouTube channel

It is vital to focus on simply how composed Sa seems utilizing all of those completely different methods. He would not appear like he is forcing himself to make use of a crossover step within the Southampton instance. Likewise, he would not seem uncomfortable utilizing a bounding step to arrange his top-handed diving save in opposition to Crystal Palace. That is probably as a result of these methods are second nature to him, drilled into his unconscious after years and years of coaching and match expertise.

Based on Bryant, the intuitiveness of those methods is a key signal of Sa’s good footwork. “Once we’re making an attempt to self-organize the physique in these moments of chaos across the objective, it is often in our greatest curiosity to go along with what feels intuitive,” Bryant mentioned. “The physique form of is aware of one of the simplest ways that it could actually do that, and we’re greatest off letting it try this.”

Pace and measurement

Though Sa has mastered the assorted pre-shot step methods famous above, the place he actually lets his footwork shine is in 1-v-1 conditions.

“He is placing himself ready the place he is very troublesome to beat [on 1-v-1s], and it takes nearly the proper shot,” Bryant mentioned.

There are a couple of key issues Sa does in 1-v-1 situations that assist increase his possibilities of stopping these attacker-favourable possibilities. Firstly, Sa’s preliminary step in these conditions “could be very fast,” in response to Bryant. “What [looks] like area in behind his final defender that is susceptible to being attacked, he may shut that down in a short time,” he mentioned.

“An attacking participant who’s put their head all the way down to strike a ball would all of the sudden discover this goalkeeper unfold out proper in entrance of him, taking away a lot of the objective.”

Brentford’s Vitaly Janelt had this actual state of affairs play out throughout his aspect’s 2-0 win over Wolverhampton in September. After receiving the ball within the field, Janelt fired a shot first-time from about 8 or 9 yards out. However his shot was denied by Sa, who had run from a place deep in his six-yard field to the sting of his small field in a matter of steps and seconds.

Not solely did he time his first step effectively in order that he was already closing down the angle earlier than Janelt will get right into a taking pictures movement, however his preliminary steps are large in order that he can cowl as a lot floor rapidly.

Credit score: Brentford FC YouTube Channel

A part of what makes Sa’s pace intriguing is his body. The Portuguese goalkeeper is 6-foot-4 tall. He is barely taller than the typical goalkeeper — and Bryant mentioned the widespread knowledge is that tall goalkeepers will not be as quick or as agile as their shorter counterparts, like Keylor Navas and Iker Casillas.

“It is thought that they simply naturally cowl extra of the objective and might cope with crosses and visitors … just a little bit higher by advantage of their measurement,” he mentioned. “So it does shock me just a little bit, and it is why I believe he is discovered himself as one of many prime performers within the league this season.” However Bryant mentioned pace is “ineffective” for a goalkeeper if they are not in a position to decelerate their physique below management. “It would not do you any good to have pace if you cannot management that pace,” he mentioned.

That is why Sa’s deceleration is simply as vital as his acceleration, in response to Bryant. “We see over and over and over … his capacity to take one or two very quick steps ahead to be able to shut the hole between him and the attacking participant … however then decelerate right into a set place the place he is completely balanced,” he mentioned.

Steadiness is the important thing purpose why deceleration is vital for a goalkeeper to have. When a goalkeeper is in movement — whether or not that is in response to a shot or as a solution to readjust their place — they’re typically in a state of imbalance. With out their weight being equally distributed, they’re extra prone to react in a single course over one other (in the event that they’re leaning in that course) or fail to react in an applicable method (in the event that they’re in the midst of a step.) Provided that, a goalkeeper will wish to be as balanced as doable as a participant will get into taking pictures movement — and that features in 1-v-1 situations.

That’s simpler mentioned than executed, although. “The 6-foot-6 sorts have just a little little bit of a tougher time decelerating again right into a set place,” Bryant mentioned. “In the event that they’ve began to maneuver quick, they nearly at all times proceed to maneuver.”

Most attackers can use that dedication from the goalkeeper to both shoot the ball early (thus catching them mid-stride, earlier than they unfold their our bodies) or around the goalkeeper. However that is hardly ever the case with Sa. “There isn’t any extra ahead momentum,” Bryant mentioned. “It is nearly like that is the place he began and there by no means was a giant quick step to start out it off.”

Credit score: Wolves YouTube channel

Sa’s capacity to speed up rapidly and decelerate simply as swiftly could be attributed to the completely different sizes of steps he takes in 1-v-1 situations.

A part of the rationale why some goalkeepers solely go full-force ahead in 1-v-1s is that they take plenty of large steps when slicing the angle. There is a profit to large steps — they assist a goalkeeper cowl plenty of floor in a single stride, and that may be helpful when making an attempt to trace a cross-box move, or when approaching an attacker on a breakaway — however there’s additionally a time and place for it. If a goalkeeper solely takes large steps, they’re extra prone to get caught mid-step, which may have an effect on their capacity to react successfully to a shot coming at them at that second.

“With a giant ahead step proper because the ball is struck, they are going to discover it — simply from a biomechanical standpoint — very troublesome to react laterally in the event that they’re requested to now dive proper or left,” Bryant mentioned.

That is when small steps can play an even bigger and extra advantageous position — and the place Sa actually excels. “He actually by no means will get himself in that place as a result of his steps are very small. His ft keep very low to the bottom as soon as the ball is ready the place it may be struck,” Bryant mentioned.

Credit score: Wolves YouTube channel

One among my favorite examples of this got here in a February match in opposition to West Ham United. After a Wolves participant didn’t clear the ball away, West Ham’s Pablo Fornals performed Jarrod Bowen in behind Wolverhampton’s line of defense.

At this level, Bowen had a number of issues he may do with the ball. He had two different open teammates he may’ve squared the ball too for a tap-in; or he may’ve taken the shot. Sa was conscious of this and despite the fact that Bowen had a transparent path to his objective, the Wolves goalkeeper stored his cool. As an alternative of instantly making an attempt to shut the angle with large steps ahead, Sa used a number of small steps to creep nearer to Bowen.

Sa’s adjustment was right for a couple of causes. Firstly, they made certain his ft had been as near the bottom as typically as doable, that means he was in a very good place to react rapidly to a move or a shot. By taking small steps ahead, Sa was additionally in a position to preserve his physique well-balanced throughout his lateral aircraft — he wasn’t leaning in the direction of a specific aspect. So if Bowen took a shot, Sa would have the ability to react successfully to both aspect.

Secondly, the small steps allowed Sa to chop the angle, even when it was ever so barely. This fashion, the longer Bowen delayed his determination, the nearer Sa may get to Bowen and the larger he would seem.

Lastly, by staying affected person, Sa was in a position to purchase time for a few of his teammates to shut down Bowen and the passing retailers. It additionally compelled Bowen to make the selection of what to do, fairly than forcing a shot or a move out of the West Ham attacker.

Credit score: West Ham United FC YouTube channel

Wanting forward

Sa’s mastery of various footwork methods is a key a part of the Portuguese’s sport — however on the finish of the day, it is nonetheless simply part of Sa’s general high quality.

“Good footwork results in stability [and] good stability results in good dealing with – it is exhausting to catch a ball should you’re leaning backwards or your shoulders are turned counter to your hips,” Bryant mentioned. “These items are all related. It is all a part of the identical kinetic chain, and it actually all begins from the bottom up, from the ft.”

And whereas there’s at all times room for enchancment, Bryant believes Sa has discovered a components that works for him. “He is had such a profitable season — and once more, that is simply his first season. It isn’t unreasonable to assume he may very well be even higher subsequent season,” he mentioned.

If that occurs, John would not draw back from Sa getting a brand new contract. He mentioned Sa must be within the dialog for the signing of the season, and there is at present no goalkeeper he’d swap him with.

“There are steps up like Alisson and Ederson, however they are not a sufficiently big step up that I might commerce any individual who’s keen to decide to our membership, to wish to come right here and to be a part of the undertaking, [away for],” he mentioned.

“I am more than pleased to be [proven] mistaken once I’m nervous a few participant, and on this case, [I’m] actually, actually joyful I used to be,” he mentioned.

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