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SCHWARZER: Most pundits know nothing about goalkeeping

  • In the 2017 Champions League final Keylor Navas was accused of show-boating
  • But that was a prime example of the inaccurate assessments of goalkeeping
  • Liverpool's Simon Mignolet is unfairly criticised a lot of the time by ex-players 
  • Scathing pundits have said off-air: ‘You know better than me, I’ve no clue really’

By Mark Schwarzer For The Daily Mail

Published: 17:33 EST, 28 January 2018 | Updated: 18:16 EST, 28 January 2018

Goalkeepers are easy to blame. It is simple to point the finger at the last line of defence, even for former professionals who are now pundits.

I am happy for people to be critical, to give an opinion — I do it myself on TV and radio — but more often than not I find the assessments of goalkeeping, a specialist position, are cheap throw-aways or inaccurate.

Last season’s Champions League final was a prime example. Mario Mandzukic scored for Juventus with a shot that went over Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas. In the TV studio, two respected former internationals said Navas had been showing off — rather than prioritising the save — by going for the ball with his top hand.

'I am happy for people to criticise but  I often find assessments of goalkeeping to be inaccurate'
'I am happy for people to criticise but  I often find assessments of goalkeeping to be inaccurate'

'I am happy for people to criticise but I often find assessments of goalkeeping to be inaccurate'

Real Madrid's Keylor Navas was accused of showing off in last year's Champions League final
Real Madrid's Keylor Navas was accused of showing off in last year's Champions League final

Real Madrid's Keylor Navas was accused of showing off in last year's Champions League final

I was baffled by their lack of understanding. There is a logical biomechanical reason goalkeepers reach for the ball like that. When diving, at a certain height and body position, you can reach further with your top hand.

Yet the guys in the studio said Navas had been show-boating. That is lame and if you do not know some of the basic technical elements of goalkeeping, then it is best not to comment.

I am not the oracle on football but some of the punditry on my position is bemusing.

I have found that if one person says something about a keeper, the others tend to agree rather than challenge. The tendency is to go with the opinion on the table rather than form their own.

Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet has been this season’s whipping boy. He has made mistakes — just as I did numerous times during my 22-year career. But a lot of the time he is unfairly criticised.

People do not recognise when he plays well because it does not fit the story. When Liverpool were very close to winning the league in 2013-14, Mignolet was a key man. Now people are jumping on the bandwagon and, instead of analysing the goals that Liverpool concede, the stock comment is that they will never win the title because he is not good enough. 

This year's whipping boy is Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet, who is often unfairly criticised
This year's whipping boy is Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet, who is often unfairly criticised

This year's whipping boy is Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet, who is often unfairly criticised

The Belgian was a key man when Liverpool came close to winning the league in 2013-14
The Belgian was a key man when Liverpool came close to winning the league in 2013-14

The Belgian was a key man when Liverpool came close to winning the league in 2013-14

That is unfair. You expect it from people on social media, but not former players.

Liverpool are a very attack-minded team but when it breaks down there is little cover from the three, four or even five men who have joined the attack.

There are times when Mignolet could have played better but nobody points out that any goalkeeper is going to be put under extreme pressure because of the system the team play.

At the other extreme, this season has been a David de Gea love-in. One person says he is world-class and everyone nods their heads without any analysis.

David is a very good goalkeeper. He is world-class with his reflexes and makes exceptional saves but, when you break it down, I do not think he is the best because of two other areas of a goalkeeper’s game: dominating the 18-yard box and sweeping up behind the defence. He is good with the ball at his feet but I do not think he uses it enough.

By a small margin, Manuel Neuer is the best because he is the complete keeper. He is exceptional on his line, brilliant at dominating his penalty area and awesome at playing a high line.

At the other extreme, one person says David De Gea is world class and everyone agrees
At the other extreme, one person says David De Gea is world class and everyone agrees

At the other extreme, one person says David De Gea is world class and everyone agrees

By a small margin Germany's Manuel Neuer is the best in the world, he is the complete keeper
By a small margin Germany's Manuel Neuer is the best in the world, he is the complete keeper

By a small margin Germany's Manuel Neuer is the best in the world, he is the complete keeper

But you rarely hear a discussion with the same level of expertise as when pundits talk about Kevin De Bruyne or Mo Salah. Too often, the viewer would switch off the TV thinking De Gea was the best in the world and Mignolet the worst. Neither is true.

I have had a lot of conversations with pundits after we have gone off-air. On-air, they have an opinion which can be quite scathing of goalkeeping. Then afterwards they will say, ‘You know better than me, I’ve got no clue really.’

I can see why both Liverpool keepers — Mignolet and Loris Karius — have been miffed at their treatment. Criticism is something you accept and expect as a goalkeeper, it is the nature of the role, but not when it is vicious, disrespectful and has an agenda.Particularly when it is from former players you know would not have been able to handle that kind of criticism themselves.

A lot of pundits want a response and the publicity. It is ironic that if a goalkeeper does not attempt to reach a shot, he is almost let off. The view will be: ‘He had no chance’. Yet if he does well to get a decent hand on it, they will say he should have saved it! That cannot be right and underlines a lack of expertise on the position.

I do not get it. Maybe it is just a case of ‘goalkeepers are different’ and the position is misunderstood.

Mark Schwarzer was talking to Joe Bernstein

 

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