Anorak News | On The Spot

On The Spot

by | 24th, September 2002

‘HOW hard can it be to beat a goalkeeper from 12 yards? Just ask Stuart Pearce or Chris Waddle or Paul Ince or David Batty or Gareth Southgate… But they were under extreme pressure. In a normal Premiership game, surely it can’t be so hard.

Seconds before the penalty kick, Gareth remebered he’d left the light on in the downstairs loo

Well, it appears it is. At the weekend, Thierry Henry, Michael Owen and Alan Smith all missed penalties. In the case of the first two, it did not ultimately matter, but for Smith it cost Leeds a point.

The question is how much longer teams can go on spurning this most golden chance to score. Figures show that this season, only 16 of the 22 spot-kicks awarded have been converted – a success rate of less than three in every four.

By way of comparison, German clubs have slotted home 11 of the 14 awarded in the Bundesliga, the Spanish have scored four of the five awarded in La Primera Liga and the Italians have buried six of the seven awarded in Serie A.

Missing penalties has often been thought of as an English disease, mainly because of the high-profile exits from the World Cups of 1990 and 1998 and the European Championships of 1996 on shoot-outs.

But Henry isn’t English and he was one of the offenders at the weekend. Indeed, one of the greatest penalty takers of recent years has been Matt Le Tissier, who missed only once in his professional career.

And, anyway, the record of the Italians in penalty shoot-outs in major tournaments is even worse than the English.

The point is that clubs cannot afford to continue to squander one out of every four penalties they get given. What it suggests is that not enough care is being taken in selecting the person to take the penalty kick, in practising kicks in training or, indeed, in studying the opposition keeper.

By contrast, keepers do study the expected penalty takers of the opposition to help them assess which way he is likely to put the ball. It is clearly working, given the dismal conversion statistics of the penalty-takers, so isn’t it about time they tried to turn the tables?

Does the keeper go to ground early? Is he a lot weaker on one side than on the other? Does he move early?

Of course, none of this would matter if penalty takers could hit the corner every time. A well-struck shot into the extreme eighth of the goal is unstoppable. A well-struck shot into the extreme quarter of the goal is pretty difficult to keep out, even if the keeper guesses the right way.

Posted: 24th, September 2002 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink