What does the ideal goalkeeper look like?
To me, the most fascinating position to watch in soccer isn’t the striker or attacking winger, it’s the goalkeeper. It may not be the flashiest position to play but in my eyes it is the most important on the whole team. A team can have as good a defence as it wants with the best attacking front in the world but none of that matters if they don’t have a good goalkeeper.
That team may be able to score 7 goals a game but no matter how good a defence you have the other team will get some shots off and if the man between the posts isn’t good then the game might still go out 7–10 for the other team because every shot, even bad ones, will go in.
On the other hand, if you have a really bad team overall but an amazing goalkeeper who just seems to stop every shot then that team can still get away with at least a tie. Thats why I find the goalkeeper to be the most important player on the team. So, for a team to truly be successful in my opinion, they will need an ideal goalkeeper. But what does an ideal goalkeeper look like? Now, I am not talking about traits like reaction time or skills with the ball but purely what the dimensions of an ideal goalkeeper should be and why this is so.
To find the ideal dimensions of a goalkeeper I also looked at the best goalkeepers to have played the game and one particular trend is very noticeable, almost all the top goalkeepers are tall. Of course there are a few exceptions but for the most part the top goalkeepers to have ever played were at least 188 cm tall or 6 foot 2. Here just to name a few are Oliver Kahn (188), Manuel Neuer (193), Gianluigi Buffon (191), Petr Čech (196), Edwin van der Sar (199), and Peter Schmeichel (193). All these men can definitely be be put into the top 20 goalkeepers of all time. Of course there are exceptions like Iker Casillas who is only 185 tall or Jorge Camps who was only 170 cm tall.
So why did these two goalkeepers still play at such a high level when they were at a clear disadvantage height wise? Were they just so much more skilled and talented or was there something else?
That’s the second trait that I have found to be a big part of a goalkeepers success and is one that both Casillas and Campos have which helped them is their arm span. Both players have arm spans a lot longer than their height, especially Campos, which helped them make up for there lack of height.
Of course tall goalkeepers usually have a massive arm span as well just because on average a persons arm span is proportional to their height and so someone like Van der Sar already has an arm span of around 199. So although Casillas or Campos have the preferred wing span, they don’t have the height and therefore aren’t the ideal goalkeeper physically. With long arms comes a wider stop radius in which the goalkeeper is able to reach their arms out and stop a ball.
So along with a large wing span and height what else does an ideal goalkeeper need?
The last trait that I think an ideal goalkeeper should without a doubt have is athleticism. If you just have a goalkeeper that is tall and has long arms that’s great but what is if he is totally inathletic and can’t make the leaping save he should be able to with his dimensions. No matter how tall your goalkeeper will be he will not be able to cover the entire goal. For me, if you can get a goalkeeper that has height, arm length, and athleticism then you have someone who physically is the perfect keeper. Now of course all the intangible skills and instincts have to be there but from a strictly physical perspective having a goalkeeper who is anywhere between 188 and 200 with arms at least proportional or longer to his size and with top tier athleticism is the perfect situation.
To wrap things up I just want to say that if a person doesn’t have these traits it doesn’t mean they won’t succeed, there are many very good goalkeepers who might not have any of the traits above but just good instincts and reaction time. This is just a template to how I imagine the ideal goalkeeper to be physically.