This past weekend featured an interesting Premier League matchup between QPR and Swansea. Both clubs are valuing every point right now, with Swansea trying to claw its way into a Europa League slot, while QPR struggles to avoid relegation. I was most interested, however, because the keepers starting the match have also seen their fortunes going in different directions.
Júlio César of QPR has not seen his season go quite as planned. QPR has been awful, is in last place in the Premier League, and will almost certainly be relegated. This doesn’t seem to be an appropriate fate for someone generally regarded as one of the best keepers in the world over the last 5 years or so. Indeed, César has generally been in good form this season, and QPR’s poor run is not his fault.
On the other side, Michel Vorm has been excellent the last two seasons, but he is not a household name, has only appeared for the Netherlands senior side 9 times, and is just coming back from a recent injury. Folks are starting to sit up and take notice, but it is unlikely he will ever reach the heights reached by his QPR counterpart.
So, how would this go? Would the world class keeper (César) come up big for his club and help turn their fortunes around, or would Vorm continue to raise his level? This video tells the story:
Let’s dissect the goals. Michu scored the first for Swansea City after César gave up a rebound on a shot from distance. Looking at it closely, César looks to get down slowly on the shot – I imagine that in his quicker days he tracks the ball earlier and the save is a simple catch instead of a parry. Even if the parry was his only choice (the shot seemed to dip a bit), he leaves the ball right in front of the goal instead of pushing it wide. Without a doubt, goal #1 was down to mediocre goalkeeping.
Rangel scored the second. César’s body shape was perfect as he came off his line to cut down the acute angle. However, he again gives up the rebound, which unluckily bounced right back to Rangel who finished cleanly. To be honest, César didn’t even have to move on the first shot, so the rebound came off a simple block, not some amazing reaction save.
Bobby Zamora came on in the second half for QPR and scored their only goal soon after the break. Vorm apparently was emulating César on this one, as he gave up a weak rebound as he parried a shot from outside the box. Just like César, Vorm appeared to get down slowly and didn’t get any drive off his front leg as he stretched for the shot.
The fourth goal (Swansea’s third) came from Pablo Hernández, and César will want to forget this one too. Hernández attacked goal and César started with good body shape and position on the near post. Despite this, Hernández slid the ball and scored far post without a whole lot of venom. Yes, the placement was excellent, but Julio got down way too slowly and clearly rocked back on his heels when the shot came instead of staying forward on his toes. He failed to attack the ball and paid for it by making a weak effort at a reaction save.
The last goal was Michu’s second, and was maybe the only one where the keeper was faultless. It wasn’t the cleanest finish, but Michu did place it well – it would have been an outstanding save had Julio managed to keep it out. Overall, this was a goalkeeping nightmare for Julio César, while Michel Vorm spent much of the day watching his teammates use QPR as training cones. Neither keeper rose to the challenge when necessary, with both looking slow when called into action. Perhaps César’s body is growing tired of the pounding keepers take when the team around them struggles, while Vorm is likely a bit rusty after a long layoff. Nonetheless, these goals should cement the need for speed and quickness as a keeper. Quick reactions are needed not just to make the first save, but also to ensure good parry technique so that any rebounds are directed out of harm’s way. As you train, be sure to work some reaction drills into your sessions. On off days, work out with thing like the reaction ball to improve quickness – you will need it.