Bournemouth leading the way in goalkeeper training and technology
BOURNEMOUTH, England -- Jimmy Glass is the Player Liaison Officer at AFC Bournemouth, but only the older members of Eddie Howe's first-team squad are aware of his biggest claim to fame.
Glass, 44, is the goalkeeper who became a global sensation in May 1999 -- back in the days when "social media" amounted to watching a game on television with your mates and dissecting it with a face-to-face conversation rather than tweeting, posting or uploading your reaction for potential consumption by millions.
When Glass scored the winning goal against Plymouth Argyle, with virtually the last kick of the game, to keep Carlisle United in the Football League -- in what was his third and final game for the club -- it secured his place in football folklore.
Today, the memory of that goal still serves as a reminder of those less-complicated days when the game was so much simpler. But fast-forward to 2017 and, for Glass, football is all about modernity and new ideas; Bournemouth are at the forefront of taking goalkeeping into a new age of technology and data-based analysis that was not even a pipe dream when Glass was playing.
"Back then, training for a goalkeeper was joining in with the rest of the team and having the strikers shoot at you all morning," Glass told ESPN FC. "You might have had one session a week with a goalkeeping coach if you were lucky, but it is so much better for keepers now."
In a game now dominated by the search for the elusive "one percent gain" which can be the difference between success and failure, Bournemouth's 11 goalkeepers -- from youth-team to first-team -- belong to one of a growing number of Premier League outfits, including Chelsea and Tottenham, who have adopted the Catapult G5 goalkeeper monitoring system: a GPS device worn between the shoulder blades in a mini-vest, which has been designed to provide the same kind of in-depth data for keepers that outfield players have had for over a decade.
While keepers were used as little more than target practice for strikers during training, they are now coached specifically to their needs, with the G5 tool leaving no hiding place for flaws.
"Goalkeeping has made huge strides in the 10 years since I played," Neil Moss, Bournemouth's Head of Goalkeeping, told ESPN FC. "The profile of the modern goalkeeper is an entirely different animal to its predecessor.
"The modern keeper has a much tougher job nowadays with the speed and precision in which the game is played. Long, floating crosses and speculative 30 yard shots are now very rare, making way for 'eye of a needle' through balls and low crosses between the goalkeeper and his back line.
"All the above means that bulky top-heavy goalkeepers of my day are a dying breed. The new goalkeepers in the David De Gea mould are quick, strong and lean. And the advent of sport science within goalkeeping has made a big impact, with training focused on speed and plyometric [jump training] sessions.
"Every save and jump in the goalkeeper's armoury is analysed from both a technical and physical perspective, meaning that gym and field-based sessions take on equal importance.
"The other major improvement over the past decade is in the analysis department. Analytical software means that both the goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach can scrutinise every action in training and matches, every session can now be meticulous in its detail to either prepare the goalkeeper for upcoming opponents or correct defects in techniques."
While G5 enables coaches and analysts to monitor workload and fatigue, and plan training sessions specifically to assess diving techniques and response times, there are also clear examples of the tool making goalkeepers better.
"G5 gives us data on dive efforts, but also a 'return and recovery' time, which tells you how quickly the goalkeeper returns from a diving position to their feet," Anthony White, Bournemouth's goalkeeping Sports Scientist, told ESPN FC.
"The unit also gives us stats in relation to their jumping, their explosive power and it gives us a look into what the athlete has done for the day.
"It's very detailed and we discovered that we had a young goalkeeper who took a lot of mini-steps before making saves. As a normal output, if you had 80 shots, you might see 80 mini-steps, but what we were seeing with this keeper was almost double that.
"It was causing a hindrance to the goalkeeper because he was never able to get set for the shot, whether it was a high or low shot.
"But we sat down with him, showed him the stats that we had compiled, showed him the breakdowns, and in turn were able to tutor him and train him on the pitch so he was able to eradicate that second jump and thereby be in the zone to make the save, whether it was low or high.
"Generally, our keepers are fairly even across the board in terms of dives to the left and right, but we found we had one keeper who was more like 80-20 in terms of diving more to his right than to his left.
"This was more of a technical issue that we hadn't picked up ourselves, but it is something we noticed over a period of time with the data.
"He basically wanted to go into a scoop technique rather than a dive, but once we had identified it, we were able to bring him in, show him the data and he understood it and how it was an area for him to improve. The upshot now is that his data is amazing. He is almost 50-50 now."
Asmir Begovic, Bournemouth's No. 1 goalkeeper, admits that the use of G5 has already helped improve his game since his arrival at the club from Chelsea during the summer.
"Everything is a lot more measured and calculated now," Begovic told ESPN FC. "Back in the day, it used to be a case of saying 'face as many shots as you can' until you get tired, but that could often lead to fatigue, unnecessary injuries and unnecessary loading.
"But now, if I feel something or feel a bit tired, they can actually measure whether I am doing enough or not enough, so it has changed, but I think it has changed for the better.
"I am a firm believer in technology and statistics, so any information you can get on a daily basis, whether it is your loading or filming your sessions, it is all about improving as a player if you use the tools in the right way."
The key for Bournemouth, however, is that each of their keepers, from Begovic down to the youngest rookie in the squad, has embraced the new approach.
"All of our keepers have really bought into it and, even when on international duty, they take their pods with them," White added. "They will wear them, charge them, bring them back and download the data.
"Although we can't get the full detail of what the session may have been, we can at least get some substance in terms of what they put into the session. They all appreciate the advantage of using it."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_