On Friday, it was announced Paul Jones would be departing from the Matildas coaching staff. We take a look at what it will take to full the role and power the Matildas onwards.
Jones' departure leaves open gloves to fill in the form of finding a new goalkeeping coach. His work was essential to the program in reinforcing Stajcic’s style of play, similarly whoever is to fill this vacancy will need to fit in with the type of demands a new coach is bound to bring. So here is what we could be looking for.
In the modern game, goalkeepers are increasingly used as a way to spring attacks to life. There are two differing tactics that could be required for a potential goalkeeper coach to know well and help implement. Both styles with their separate attributes and demands.
Playing out from the back
Firstly there’s playing out from the back with simple, short passes out to the defence. This is perhaps the simplest to implement with such a short turn around before the World Cup.
This style of play would reflect how the Matildas already play. Further, the current Matildas goalkeeping contingent, particularly Lydia Williams and Mackenzie Arnold who are likely taking the top two spots heading into France, are familiar with this style. Both have used it for the Matildas and their respective clubs, the duo look to prefer playing the ball with their feet and to spread passes out to their defence.
If a new Matildas administration are wanting to continue being a side who holds possession and builds out from the back, finding a goalkeeping coach to reinforce this style will be more important than finding that missing, odd sock.
Alternatively there is the long ball tactic. If the new head coach wants to change things up and implement a more direct style of play, with a different view on how to build attacks, a different type of goalkeeping coach will be necessary.
We’ve seen the long ball in some of the play W-League goalkeepers Eliza Campbell and Sarah Willacy often provide. This type of play would give goalkeepers a direct involvement in the attack, as they pump the ball up to their forwards, over the heads of two thirds of the pitch, providing a quick transition and catching napping defences off guard.
A change to a more direct and long ball type of play is the more unlikely of the scenarios to implement, given this would involve a strong shift away from the how the Matildas currently begin their attacks.
Still, such a change could be an intriguing move, with long balls able to catch opposition defences off guard when supplied to lightning quick forwards in Kerr and Foord. Such a move is as tantalising as pizza on a Friday evening.
As goalkeepers are somewhat unknowingly the first line of attack, they are very much knowingly the last line of defence. Whilst a new head coach will influence the type of goalkeeper coach to search for in an attacking sense, on the defensive, pure goalkeeping attributes, a new head coach’s influence lessens. Instead the qualities of the Matildas goalkeepers is more important to consider.
A simple element of goalkeeping, and perhaps the one most observable, is a goalkeepers ability to shot stop. In Williams and Arnold, the Matildas have some fantastic shot-stoppers. Their cat-like reflexes when a shot is pummelled towards goal is to be admired.
Any new goalkeeping coach would be expected to improve and hone a goalkeepers ability to shot stop, and in doing so the Matildas will be improving an area our goalkeepers already excel in.
However, there is more to goalkeeping to consider, which could be considerably more important to find in any new goalkeeping coach to create more rounded goalkeepers in our current flock.
Perhaps the most essential attribute to look for in a new goalkeeping coach to implement and develop, is the Matildas goalkeepers decision to get off or remain on their line.
Across the board, this is an area the Matildas goalkeepers could improve on, and comes with coaching and experience. Particularly the decision from corners or deep crosses, and whether to be proactive in approaching the ball or reactive, waiting on the goalline to produce a shot stopping save instead, is an area to improve on.
It will be important to find a coach who will help give the Matildas goalkeepers the confidence to decide on which action to take in different scenarios. Just as important will be to ensure any new coach can provide guidance and technique to execute the decision to remain on their line or approach the play.
There’s a lot to consider in who will replace Paul Jones as the Matildas goalkeeping coach. Will this see a different way in how the Matildas attack? Will this see a more well rounded game for the Matildas goalkeepers on the defence?
Only time will tell, and implementing the right goalkeeping coach will go a long way towards keeping essential clean sheets for the World Cup.