Every football fan can appreciate a super free-kick when they see one. Whether it is Gylfi Sigurdsson or Christian Eriksen sticking it in the ‘top bins’, there’s nothing better than an exquisite free-kick.
Having said that, very few free-kicks reach the very corner of the goal – out of the goalkeepers reach. Instead, most free-kicks are scored due to error. And, with that fatal error being the placement, or even existence, of a wall of defenders; what’s the point in a defensive wall?
often think a wall is a useful tool for the kicker to aim a free-kick
— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) August 15, 2017
To concur with the view that a wall at free-kicks are pointless, one must appreciate their frequent unreliability. Indeed, a defensive wall appears helpful on the face of things. They block one side of the goal and give assurance to the goalkeeper who is responsible for just one side of the goal – at least, that’s what is supposed to happen.
Instead, the free-kick wall has numerous flaws. First of all, walls are often made up of players who appear to be allergic to some courageous defending. Wingers, most often, cover their faces – and their sensitive areas – whilst the ball is being struck. In doing this, walls go from defensive barriers to inadequate decoration in the way of the goalkeeper.
Liverpool’s 2-1 away to Hoffenheim in the Champions League on Tuesday night best exemplifies such a flaw. 18-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold put the Reds 1-0 up with the fantastic strike from a free-kick. Only on second viewing, though, would it appear that the wall could have done better.
Lukas Rupp stood on the left of the wall, static, as the ball sailed a couple of inches above his head and into the net. To make such a defensive tactic necessary, the Hoffenheim defender would have to at least jump like the rest of his team-mates.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 15, 2017
In addition to this, the positioning of walls at free-kicks makes their practice pointless. Whilst they pose to cover half of the goal, the wall also imposes on the view of the goalkeeper. It is all too often that we have seen goalkeepers unsighted by the wall in front of them.
Perhaps more notably, goalkeepers don’t always trust their wall. Thanks to slow-motion replays, it is easy to see that goalkeepers sometimes shift behind the wall to anticipate the free-kick. However, when the free-kick is sent the other way – to where the goalkeeper should be – the ball nestles into the top corner.
Such an event is made more frustrating by the fact that fans can accept an incredible free-kick that is out of the goalkeepers reach. Nevertheless, when goals from free-kicks are as a result of the ‘keepers individual error, there is a problem. The keepers’ error of moving should not be blamed. But, instead, their decision to have a defensive wall. If the wall isn’t going to be fully trusted to its job of defending one-half of the goal – there shouldn’t be one.
Therefore, with many players having mastered the art of the free-kick, the defensive side of free-kicks needs a change.
Perhaps, ‘keepers could place the wall on the alternate side to provide the taker with some food for thought. Even better, though, would be the total removal of defensive walls altogether. Because, more often than not, they are far from defensive and even caused more havoc to situations.
It’s not the idea of the wall that is the problem because in theory, it is an excellent idea. But, it is in poor practice where its inadequacies lay.
Goalkeepers, change your tactics at free-kicks. It will save you a whole lot of time, effort and, most importantly, goals.