Compact or Spread? Or Both?
Whilst playing recently I came out to narrow a winger at the far post all alone and attacking the goal at speed. I stayed compact and made the goal as small as possible. It was hit around waist height and although I gave as little room as possible my deflection wasn't enough to stop it just creeping in. It had me thinking, should I have spread and just made myself as big as possible instead of being compact?
You'll hear commentators discuss goalkeepers spreading themselves and what a great job they did to make themselves big, but is that right? Have these people ever played in goals and what makes the new way of thought of spreading yourself right? There are a number of factors that are worth considering.
When to Spread Yourself
The objective of making yourself big is to shrink the area of goal down as much as possible for the player trying to score. The best opportunity to do this is when an attacker has been presented a chance from close range and a relatively central position. The idea is that because the attacker has a lot of the goal to aim at, he's going to aim away from you. So extending your arms and legs as far from the core of your body as possible, and into the areas the attacker is most likely shooting at, increases your chances to make a save.
Once you commit to make yourself as big as possible by extending your limbs you loose the ability to react and holes can appear such as below your outstretched legs, so be sure when you make the decision to go big you haven't committed too early as you could feel bad if a skilled attacker just puts their foot on the ball and walks around you as you lay sprawled out on the field.
When To Stay Compact
If spreading yourself works when the attacker is going down the middle, the opposite might be said for the attacker who is shooting from a relatively acute angle.
Knowing your angles is key. If you can limit the area of goal by simple positioning you have won half the battle. By staying compact you are also perfectly balanced to make a reaction save when required as you aren't committing to an unstable leap making yourself big.
Can you do both?
There is certainly an argument that you can be big and compact at the same time. How you may ask? I was taught you can hold your compact position yet be 'big' by pure presence. How you conduct yourself. How you dominate your area. How you communicate are all factors which can make an attacker think twice when their eyes are staring at you and your goal. Although you are in a compact position and perfectly balanced to react you can be seen as massive in others eyes.
In conclusion, was I right to stay compact in my recent game? I believe I was, I did all that was right and textbook in my positioning, however they still scored so can't help but question my decision. Know your situation and adjust your play for each specific game you are in and that will dictate being compact or spreading yourself.