In German, Neuer means newer. What Manuel Peter Neuer does is not exactly new, put certainly defined the new standard for the position.
This new “standard” is mostly defined by playing with feet, the sweeper keeping and his standard stance for savings.
The reader more familiar with the history of football can cite several other goalkeepers who have already done this, but more important than the Neuer figure is the importance of position today. Instead of a player passively playing, only defending balls, the Neuer generation of goalkeepers actively participates of the construction of the game, the defensive organization and even transitions.
Even though some goalkeepers played with the feet before, during Guardiola’s Barcelona, Victor Valdes became famous for this ability. And this is a constant in Guardiola teams, with Valdés, Neuer and now Ederson. While Neuer already showed this desire in Schalke 04, with Guardiola he had the opportunity to make it happen. One play is very significant in this process. Play with the feet for a goalkeeper is a process, takes time, he will make mistakes, but the results are amazing. First, it helps in the construction of the game from behind, giving more options of passes in the first phase of the game. Second, gives the team always a superiority in numbers, making the pressing from the opposite side more difficult, because the team with ball always will have a superiority in numbers and if the opposition tries to mark the goalkeeper, one player will be unmarked in the deeper zones of the field, creating always a disadvantage for the defending team.
But as famous as playing with the field, Neuer is famous for being a sweeper keeper. That means, getting out of the goal to intercept long balls in the back of the defenders, what is fundamental when the team plays high pressure. Sometimes, as fast as the defenders are, some attackers will win in the race in a long ball. But with a sweeper keeper, the goalkeeper can intercept this ball even though the attacker won the race against the defense.
It’s true that sometimes the goalkeeper makes mistakes and the goal happens, as in this famous Stankovic’s goal in a Champions League game. But the amount that the goalkeeper prevents is infinitely superior.
1:00Dejan Stankovic Wonder Goal vs Schalke 04YouTube · Aditya Sriram7 Apr 2011
But the last highlighted aspect that maybe is very neglected in Neuer’s game is his standard stance when facing an attacker. Called butterfly position in Germany, this stance is very effective in one the aspects that, according to Victor Valdes, is the most important aspect of playing with a high line, that is the 1×1 against the goalkeeper. This stance comes from handball, and permits to the goalkeeper to “increase” his own area against the attackers, what is very effective in a situation where the attacker is in front of the goalkeeper.
What is more interesting is that all the aspect highlighted can and must be trained. In the beginning, mistakes will happen, but with the exposition, the goalkeeper will lose the fear of the ball, create automatisms, and be a part of the active game. Situations like rondos, exercises create to expose the goalkeeper to situations where he must choose between stay in the area or attack the ball and how to do it, until it becomes seamless, and a special training with the goalkeepers trainer to improve the butterfly stance, can make every goalkeeper a factor in the proactive game.