Welcome to this week’s edition of The Glove Bag! This weekly mailbag looks at some intriguing goalkeeper topics from the past week (Monday to Sunday).
This edition covers some topics that happened between Monday, July 20 and Sunday, July 26.
LAST WEEK IN GOALKEEPING HISTORY
Looking back on an important moment in goalkeeping history.
For a country most known for producing two of the greatest footballers of all time, Argentina has also birthed some incredibly talented goalkeepers.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Amadeo Carrizo and Antonio Roma made cases for themselves as some of the best goalkeepers in the world; Hugo Gatti succeeded them with long spells at Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata and Boca Juniors; a few decades later, Roberto Abbondanzieri was officially recognized by the IFFHS as one of the top 10 goalkeepers in the world between 2001 and 2011; and Sergio Romero, though never one of the world’s elite goalkeeper, became a national cult hero when he helped guide Argentina to the 2014 World Cup final.
Last week, Argentina celebrated the 70th birthday of another one of its finest ever goalkeepers, Ubaldo “The Duck” Fillol.
Born in San Miguel del Monte, Fillol was an Argentine football star throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He made his Argentine Primera División debut for Quilmes AC as a teenager in 1969 and was soon snapped up by then-15-time league champions Racing Club. He immediately gained league-wide plaudits for his acrobatic stops and penalty-saving expertise; in 1972, Fillol saved a league-record six penalties.
But it’s with River Plate that Fillol experienced the most success with. The capital-based club traded for him in 1973 and kept him in their squad for the next decade. Fillol appeared in over 360 matches for River Plate, which is the second-most by a goalkeeper. He backstopped the club to seven league titles in that span, including the 1975 Metropolitano tournament — the club’s first title in nearly two decades.
Fillol also won multiple individual titles during his time with River Plate. Most notably, he was recognized as the 1977 Footballer of the Year in Argentina. He was the first goalkeeper to receive that honour.
FIllol’s domestic success with River Plate translated into international success for Argentina. In 1978 — four years after his international debut — Fillol backstopped Argentina to World Cup glory. It was the first time Argentina had captured the World Cup, and the fact that it came on their own soil — Argentina hosted the World Cup that year — made the victory even sweeter.
Fillol, who was interestingly wearing the no. 5 shirt, kept three clean sheets in Argentina’s final four matches and was the lone goalkeeper included in the tournament’s All-Star Team.
After departing River Plate in 1983, Fillol largely spent time with other Argentine clubs, although he did have short, successful stops in Brazil with Flamengo and Spain with Atletico Madrid.
A 40-year-old Fillol called it a career in 1990 following a short stint with Vélez Sársfield. He soon went into coaching, serving as a goalkeeper coach for both Argentina and River Plate at different points of his post-playing career.
To read more about Fillol, check out this piece I wrote about some of South America’s goalkeepers.
STARS OF THE WEEK
Shoutout to these goalkeepers for their great work last week!
Alessio Cragno (Cagliari)
It’s fair to say there wasn’t a single professional goalkeeper who had a busier last week than Alessio Cragno.
On Thursday, July 23, the 26-year-old Italian put in a Man of the Match-worthy performance in his Cagliari’s 2-1 loss to Lazio. Cragno made eight total saves, and a fair number of them displayed his wide diving skillset.
Three days later, Cragno made five saves in a 1-0 loss to Udinese. These included a pair of top-class stops on attempts from Rodrigo De Paul.
13 saves across two games? Not bad!
Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan)
Last week was a big one for Gianluigi Donnarumma in a number of ways.
On Wednesday, July 21, AC Milan’s 21-year-old goalkeeper made his 200th career appearance for the club in their 2-1 win over Sassuolo. The Italian international has been playing for the club since his professional debut as a 16-year-old in 2015, and his appearance record is a testament to both his consistency and his maturity.
A few days later, Donnarumma put in a Man of the Match performance in a 1-1 draw against third-placed Atalanta. He made three saves, including a first-half penalty save against Atalanta’s Ruslan Malinovskiy.
Thomas Hasal (Vancouver Whitecaps)
The Vancouver Whitecaps found themselves in a tricky situation last week. Regular stater Maxime Crépeau was out with a broken finger, and backup Bryan Meredith had left the MLS is Back tournament a few days earlier following the death of his mother.
With no one else to answer the call, 21-year-old third-stringer Thomas Hasal was given his first two career starts.
Despite the circumstances, the Canadian displayed an incredible sense of maturity. He kept a clean sheet in his debut – a 2-0 win over Chicago – then followed it up with an eight-save performance in a shootout loss to Kansas City.
Answering some of my followers’ most pressing questions.
It’s hard to say for certain what exactly is behind the Spanish goalkeeper’s struggles this season.
From a technical perspective, there are flaws in Kepa’s game that have been exposed throughout the season, the most prominent being his exaggerated arm swings. Kepa has a tendency to swing his arms very far behind him as a shot is coming his way, and that impacts his chances of saving a shot.
I would like to clarify that arm swings aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Back in May, I mentioned how a correctly-timed arm swing can actually help a goalkeeper generate a large amount of force in their arms and dives, which then helps them turn aside difficult, hard-to-reach attempts.
But Kepa more often than not mistimes his arm swings which, as I mentioned, cuts into his reaction time and results in him not getting enough power behind his save attempts. And while this isn’t a new problem, it is a reason why Kepa often reacts too late to attempts and why some shots just seem to go through his wrists.
Kepa’s mentality could also be a factor. I’ve always said that a good mentality is one of the most important attributes a goalkeeper could have, even more so than anything technical. And while we can’t say for certain what’s going through Kepa’s head, having experienced runs where I’ve made mistake after mistake, I speculate Kepa is feeling very low on confidence. He might be doubting himself and questioning his ability, which is leading him to believe he’s not capable of saving shots.
The constant barrage of criticism he faces on social media and on football analysis shows likely doesn’t help, nor does the body language of his teammates and the rumours suggesting Chelsea coach Frank Lampard wants him out of the club.
It also doesn’t help that Kepa is reportedly experiencing some personal issues off of the field. Back in February, multiple news sites cited a report from Spanish newspaper El Mundo which alleged that a split with his girlfriend of nine years was negatively impacting him. One unnamed source cited in the report claimed that Kepa’s girlfriend was “his rock” and that “emotionally, he’s pretty low at the moment.
This, coupled with low confidence in his abilities, could be the reason why he’s struggled so much this season.
Regarding who Chelsea should go after to replace Kepa, the club has been linked to a number of goalkeepers, some of whom I think are too far-fetched (Jan Oblak and Gianluigi Donnarumma). The likeliest big-name goalkeepers I see joining Chelsea anytime soon are André Onana — who should be the club’s number one Kepa replacement — and Nick Pope.
Of course, who Chelsea bring in will come down to if they can ship Kepa out in the first place. His current seven-year deal, which doesn’t expire until 2025, won’t attract many suitors.
For this mailbag, I’m just going to focus on the first question because I think Wuilker Faríñez deserves to have a section dedicated to him.
At this point in time, if you were to ask me for the goalkeeper transfer I’m most excited for, I’d immediately reply with Faríñez’s loan move to Ligue 1 side RC Lens.
The newly-promoted French club signed Faríñez to a two-year loan deal from Colombian club Millonarios FC in late June. It’s the 22-year-old Venezuelan star’s first European move, though he was previously linked to FC Barcelona.
Regarding what RC Lens can expect to get from Faríñez, they can expect to get a goalkeeper who, despite his age, has the maturity, the mentality, and the skills to develop into one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
From a maturity-based perspective, Faríñez — like Gianluigi Donnarumma, who he’s sometimes been compared to — made his debut at a very young age. He became his hometown club Caracas FC’s number one goalkeeper at just 17, he debuted for the Venezuelan national senior team at just 18, and he earned his first big transfer — a move to Millonarios — at just 19.
Despite only being 22, Faríñez is well-experienced in major competitions. As a Venezuelan national team youth player, Faríñez backstopped the country to podium finishes at both the 2017 South American Youth Football Championship and the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup. In the latter, Faríñez kept a clean sheet streak of 506 minutes, which is the second-longest streak of its kind in tournament history.
And at the senior level, Faríñez is a two-time recipient of the Best Venezuelan Primera División Goalkeeper award and won the Superliga Colombiana in his first season with Millonarios in 2018. He also holds several ‘youngest goalkeeper’ national team records, including the youngest goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet for Venezuela (18 years and 3 months) and youngest goalkeeper to save a penalty for Venezuela (19 years and 41 days).
Faríñez isn’t just all talk; he also has the skills to back up his hype.
Despite standing at just 5 ft 9 tall (just two inches taller than Lionel Messi), Faríñez is an excellent goalkeeper from a technical perspective. He possesses fluid footwork and quick reflexes. He’s able to process shots quickly and he more often than not makes the right decision when it comes to the specific saving technique — a dive, a stand-up save, etc. — to use.
Granted, Faríñez is not the best positional goalkeeper, but like Keylor Navas — another top-class goalkeeper from the Western Hemisphere — he often uses his agility and reflexes to make up for any positional errors.
Furthermore, like some of South America’s other top goalkeepers — namely Alisson Becker and Ederson Moraes — Faríñez is an excellent distributor of the ball.
A former striker until the age of 14, Faríñez is very comfortable playing the ball and serving as an extra outlet for his defenders to pass to. He has a wide range of distribution skills, and he’s capable of accurately delivering everything from goal kicks to drop kicks, from short passes to long, defence-slicing balls.
If I’m a Lens fan, I’d be very excited for Faríñez’s arrival.
Have a question, suggestion or anything else you’d like to see included in this column? Let me know on Twitter via @ThatArabKeeper.