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Manuel Neuer: Goalkeeping Royalty

I consider it common knowledge that Manuel Neuer is the ultimate wall when it comes to saving some of the most outrageously placed attempts in football; he is the don of all nets. Whether you’re a fan of Germany, Bayern Munich or both, you can’t deny his lunging, flailing and, chiefly, blocking prowess in the mouth of the goal.

Last night, in a somewhat predictable Champions League fixture against Arsenal, the Bayern giant saved a whopping header from Theo Walcott, which truly could have pinged past him without hesitation. Instead, the most miraculous stretch out wide was performed in order to deny Arsenal the lead. After becoming Mr. Popular on Vine within seconds of his buoyant display, the rest of Neuer’s night was dismal, quite shocking and met with cold grimaces among the Bavarian faithful. Conceding two goals to grant Arsenal a triumph over the German heavyweights, Neuer went rather downhill as 90 minutes ticked on. Despite the shoddy result for Bayern, the team’s manager, Pep Guardiola, spoke in the post-match interview about he was still “so, so proud” of how his team fared.

This was something fairly unusual for the 29-year-old shot-stopper; he is rigid, mighty and, typically, wastes no time in diffusing sticky situations. So, despite the unfortunate latter events of last night’s Champions League action for Bayern Munich and a very chuffed Arsenal, I thought this was a prime opportunity to look at just what it is that makes Neuer so good.


Manuel Neuer: Goalkeeping Royalty

Neuer is certainly the goalkeeper to beat in the Bundesliga, and has been increasingly recognised outside the German echelons as the man in front of the goal posts that doesn’t let anything past him. Granted, all footballers of all positions make mistakes, but this man is, more often than not, exempt from particularly ill criticism.

Climbing the youth ranks of Schalke 04, to eventually make their first team line-up, Neuer joined Bayern Munich in 2011. Under the very impressive, eager Jupp Heynckes, Neuer was undoubtedly allowed to flourish in Bayern’s goal and assist them in their many, many victories in the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League bids. Although his time with Schalke throughout his youth and the beginning of his senior career was vital and taught him much, being the guard of the most elite club in Germany’s goal posts is definitely going to afford you some splendid accolades, but, more importantly, some experience in such a feisty team.

On the flipside, though, with Bayern’s defence being so solid, and the team’s attacking force so regularly up the other end of the field, Manuel Neuer might well have become tired of twiddling his encased thumbs during matches. If he’s more an onlooker than a fluid cog in a wheel of fast motion, then he might have lost his touch somewhat. Interestingly, the opposite has been the case.

Those familiar with Neuer will understand how well he utilises his height to execute timely dives, grabs and punches to clear any balls in. These are his trademark abilities in goal, with many a tough game seeing him launch sideways to make a clearance.

For those who somehow – blinked continually, perhaps? – haven’t seen Neuer in action, a quick flick through montages of his ‘best saves’ on YouTube should educate you adequately. Sliding and diving to meet the ball are Neuer’s most commonly used techniques, anyway; these seem to suit him well, allowing his arms to scoop the ball into his stomach, making certain that it doesn’t rebound into the path of any resilient threats. Clever stuff.

His use of space also serves him well; being six foot, four inches, Neuer can stand tall, but jump necessarily in order to head away a ball, or, more excitingly yet, punch to make a clearance. His limbs are also used fortuitously, but, one thing that often frustrates, yet wows, me is his lack of being afraid to stray from his box. Instead of maintaining the goal line regimentally, if his defence has already failed him, then a quick run outside the box and past the penalty area often goes his way. This always makes me so nervous, though; if you don’t judge your attempt to tackle for possession and kidnap the ball from the clutches of the opposition, then you will, most probably, leave your goal entirely vulnerable. Again, clever, but risky as well.

Indeed, many goalkeepers employ these methods in order to save their teams, but Neuer has some additional gumption about him. He is calm, composed, collected, and doesn’t seem to break into sweat if the plan goes awry. I think it’s, in fact, these attributes that feather his physical ability, which is what makes him into a wholly top package, and such a world-renowned keeper.

So, although it was a night of two halves against Arsenal, and certainly a night of two faces for Neuer, it was just a fixture of nuisances. Neuer was active, but simply failed to meet the ball accurately, in order to save Bayern from the 2-0 defeat. Gary Lineker’s Tweets were the most telling (although veiled by obligatory sarcasm); he began by commending Neuer following the Walcott save: “Breathtaking save from Neuer. This young keeper might have a future.” Then, back-pedalling slightly, after Neuer’s misdemeanours, confessed he was “Not sure about this young keeper, Neuer.” (Tweets sourced via Gary Lineker’s personal Twitter account).

Irrespective, one unstable game won’t be enough to break the faith; Manuel Neuer really is goalkeeping royalty.


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