► Kepa Arrizabalaga and David de Gea, two different training processes

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Kepa Arrizabalaga and David de Gea, two different training processes

Kepa Arrizabalaga and David de Gea are two of the most important goalkeepers of the current football scene. Using different ways and training processes, both made it to the top of the football elite through effort and natural quality. But which are the differences of their training methods?

The Premier League and La Liga Santander are two of the hardest leagues of the planet, so they have the best goalkeepers, such as Kepa Arrizabalaga and David de Gea. Both are in the Premier League and the Spanish National Team.


We find curious facts when studying the heat maps.

The first one belongs to de Gea and the second one is Kepa’s. We can observe that de Gea’s radius of action is bigger, mainly in actions or situations outside the area. This fact could give us one first reflection:

De Gea is more active and uses more his feet!

However, and after analysing the last 13 matches of both of them, we find out the following detail: the Manchester plays with the defensive line more forward and, considering that the English football game is that direct, makes David de Gea’s positionings to be more dynamic. Specially in situations where he has to defend the space behind his centre-backs backs.

On the other hand, the football suggested by Sarri in the Chelsea is more a kind of possession football, in which the goalkeeper plays a very important role of the structure in playing the ball out of defence.

BOTTOM LINE: when we analyse the heat maps and observe that a goalkeeper has got a wide radius of action outside the area, it may be to the following reasons:

  • Which is his relationship with the defensive line? This concept is very often determined by the own team playing style.
  • Is the goalkeeper the first attacker and takes an active part in the offensive game of the team? Generally, the team attracts the rivals in areas close to the goal to start with numerical superiority, which makes the goalkeeper most times offer himself as a support in a shorter radius of action without losing the goal reference.


This is still the eternal question and yet without an “exact” answer. Some say a goalkeeper is born, some say a goalkeeper is made, but there are certainly several repeated features that give us a goalkeeper’s profile, easy to identify.

De Gea was born in 1990 and Kepa was born in 1994. Only a 4 years interval between them, but in the football world, four seasons can give you an incredible amount of experience and maturity. De Gea has been competing in elite football since season 2009/2010, when he was only 18, collecting approximately 2000 of playing minutes that season counting the league, Copa del Rey and UEFA.

On the other hand, despite Kepa is the absolute goalkeeper in the lower categories of the National Team, he has been leapfrogging little by little, since it wasn’t until last 2016/2017 season that he started to play in Primera División, playing more than 2000 minutes, a similar amount as de Gea.

Where is the difference then?

In the training plan that the Athletic designed for him. Neither better nor worse, it’s just a different way of doing things. We have long observed that the Athletic Bilbao has provided an important number of goalkeepers to the professional football in the last years, and all of them follow the same pattern: move the training processes forward. How do they do it? They promote their goalkeepers from lower categories to compete and train with teams of higher categories. This way, they achieve maturity and a permanent high level of rigorousness from the goalkeeper. Kepa is a living example: at only 16, he’s competing in Juvenil División de Honor; at 17, in Third Division, and so, little by little, leapfrogging every category such as 2ªB, Second Division and Primera División (National Professional Football League). What does this system give us? It guarantees that when the goalie takes the leap to the highest category, he will be ready enough to manage everything that surrounds this sport and the football itself, with much more maturity.

How many goalkeepers have we seen that ran too much and they got stuck on the way?

Is it better to make it to the top leapfrogging stages to keep up?

There is no answer, since David’s case is quite the opposite. He completed his training in the elite. He shaped his character and gained experience little by little, making it to the highest level.

So, is the goalkeeper born or made? In the present case, they were born, and they were made in different ways. Both ways are valid and deliver results. But what we need to be clear in our minds as goalkeeping coaches is: which training process do we want for our goalkeepers and how are we going to achieve it? In both cases, without forgetting about patience, a factor that we must not lose despite the fast evolution of football. Patience must not be conditionate by a result (win/lose). A training process is much more than a victory, a defeat or a good/bad result. We can’t lose the essence of the training because it gives us long/short term conclusions. If we look for a more short-term results-based approach and we are just guided by the immediate result, we will be frustrated because things don’t turn out how we want to.

Not only goalkeepers must be clear about the way, also the goalkeeping coaches! And this road starts by being consequent with our criteria, our reasons and our what for. Winning or losing does not change it everything, nor being the measure of our progress.  

Which is your training process?

Which do you believe in most?

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