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The Influence Of The Sweeper Keeper

Manuel Neuer Bayern Munich Pep Guardiola
MUNICH, GERMANY - OCTOBER 02: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Josep Guardiola, head coach of Bayern Muenchen talks to his player Manuel Neuer during a training session at Bayern Muenchen's trainings ground Saebener Strasse on October 2, 2014 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by A. Hassenstein/Getty Images for FC Bayern)

Over the past 10 years or so the sweeper keeper has become a much more prominent part of the modern game. It is a risky tactic but when it pays off it can allow a team to play more attacking football as it allows teams to play a high defensive line.

The sweeper keepers role is to ‘sweep up’ any balls that are played through or over the defence that a striker aims to run onto. If the keeper didn’t have this additional role and teams still wanted to play a higher line it would lead to a lot of 1-on-1 chances. The most famous example of the sweeper keeper is FC Bayern & Germany no. 1 goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. He has always had great shot stopping, communication and the physique to dominate his area but he has now developed this style of play since his early days of his career at Schalke 04 and has mastered the art of the ‘sweeper keeper’ There are numerous examples of Manuel Neuer effectively playing as another outfield player, contributing to the play and sweeping up for his defence.

As of 20th of March 2017 Manuel Neuer had won possession in the defensive third than any other player in the Bundesliga (342). This stat shows just the extent of his sweeper keeping ability. He is also a great passer of the ball, an attribute for a goalkeeper that was encouraged by Pep Guardiola in all of his managerial jobs. In the three years he was at Bayern, Neuer averaged 33 passes per 90 minutes of football and throughout the three years had a total of 2,077 with an accuracy of 85%.

However as I said earlier the sweeper keeper tactic can be risky, even Manuel Neuer is human so it does not always go his way and it seems to be some sort of voodoo trick that occurs when he plays against Borussia Monchengladbach.

However Guardiola knows this tactic is highly rewarding, even though Neuer may get it wrong every so often Guardiola knows that out of 50 opportunities to sweep up he will most likely get it right 49 times. Other goalkeepers have since adopted this style all the way down to grassroots level.

This picture shows Neuer’s heat map in a game against Algeria in the latest World Cup, it truly shows the extent of his high-risk high-reward tactic.

Furthermore Guardiola has implemented this style of play at Manchester City in the Premier League with the whole Joe Hart saga then the unfulfilling signing of Claudio Bravo last season. One of the signings of the season so far has been Ederson from Benfica for £36.2 million. He has been fundamental to the Eastlands side’s unbeaten start this season by starting attacks from the last line of defence and always offering a option for a pass for his team mates.

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He has shown off his bravery and sweeping ability most noticeably against Liverpool when he took a boot to the face from Sadio Mane whilst coming out of his area to clear the ball. However as previously said it is a high-risk high-reward strategy, it has not gone all Ederson’s way since move as he got it wrong vs Shakhtar Donetsk.

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