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The goalkeeper as first attacker

The goalkeeper has become the first attacker of the team in a high percentage of cases. On many occasions, the keeper is the first one to put the ball into play and he/she decides how that play out from the back is going to be. This is a very interesting post by our friend Carlos Gutiérrez where you can also find three drills to work this concept.

The evolution of the goalkeeper has paralleled football progress globally, and that is why professional goalies need to be better prepared when taking action.

A long time ago, a goalkeeper just had to worried about defensive actions, but today and, especially with frequent changes in the regulations, a goalie becomes the first attacker at the time of starting a play out from the back with the team (offensive game).

The modern era has allowed us to incorporate a wider range of arguments into the game’s different offensive phases, from simple ball circulation to basic defensive coverage to prevent conceding goals making attack transitions toward goal faster. If we take into account the numerous offensive advances in the game, it is not surprising that whoever occupies that number one jersey must assume a leading role, we see more and more keepers who play well with their feet becoming the main connector of the direction of the offensive zone of the team.

The smartest ones know how important is to sense the opponent’s intentions, to receive the ball quickly and from there on, to execute efficiently.

On a more personal level, I can say that one of the most notorious changes in this style of play was introduced to group work dynamics by Johan Cruyff, followed by Pep Guardiola, which today is a determining factor in most tactical systems of most elite football clubs in the world. This becomes relevant when training, when the goalkeepers understand the diverse role they can play, so now the level of demand towards the goalies has increased considerably. Even from early stages, it is important that children start to develop offensive behaviour in order to be more competitive, not only technically, but also tactically.

Being a well-prepared professional physically will allow us to be one step ahead, but what really matters is to acquire knowledge that develops the talent as much as possible. As long as we advance in systems, technology and ways of watching football, there will always be someone special: a goalie who uses his/her hands to avoid danger, but also uses his/her feet, performs fast breakaway saves and helps others.

Now I will show you several drills we can implement for our goalkeepers and may help to improve footwork and making decision when performing such action.

The drills were designed to be executed by young goalies. Depending on the training microcycle, the drills can be included any day when the team is training reductions with the keepers or any other activity involving footwork. 


 Drill 1


We start with low passes between G1-GC as G2 moves, low pass from G1 to G2 to play one or two-touch. Then G1 passes to the small goals. 

  • 6 reps. 
  • 2 sets both lateralities. 
  • Variations: one-touch or two-touch passes.

Stress: perfectly orientated controls, touch areas, movements.


 Drill 2


G1 watches G2’s visual signal (a pole of the same colour of the cone placed in front of the small goal we choose). Then G3 will pass the ball so G1 can perform the required action. We speed up every set so the making decision is faster.

  • 8 reps. 
  • 3 sets.
  • 2 points per successful performance. 

Stress: concentration, peripheral vision, controls and passes, movements, orientation.


Drill 3


We are going to simulate 4vs2 with a goalkeeper and three defenders against two attackers, where G1 will receive a pass from G2 or G3. G1 will try to play out from the back as fast as he/she can with G2 or G3 avoiding pressure. G2 or G3 will pass to G4 who will lose the ball due to the attacker’s high pressure and will perform a long-distance shot. G1 must go back to the goal to save the shot.

Variations: G4 can restart the game without losing the ball and we keep ball circulation with pressure.

  • 6 reps 
  • 2 sets.
  • Both sides.

Stress: low passes and controls, outlined balls, positioning, support movements, peripheral vision, reaction speed and bisector.



We can conclude that the goalkeeper is the first attacker and must become the first attack and counterattack element. We must evaluate them not just by their defensive actions, but also by their offensive actions, since modern football needs a goalkeeper who can manage a good offense in order to make the team stronger when attacking.

The more technical and tactical aspects we can introduce in the context of the match, the better feelings of competition the goalkeeper can feel during training sessions, giving him a better perception of the game.

Today, an elite goalkeeper must fully master the goal kicks, punts, plays out from the back, supports, defensive coverages, etc. As goalkeeping coaches, we must provide our goalkeepers with all the tools that will help them to achieve the best results in the competition. 



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