Understandably whenever a set piece is awarded, fans begin to get excited. The adrenaline is pumping and whether it’s a penalty or a free kick, you know that there’s a chance of a goal and an even greater chance of something special happening.
We’ve become accustomed to seeing the same old routine when it comes to these kinds of things, and we’re referring to free kicks in particular. The goalkeeper attempts to make himself seem like an authoritarian of sorts by telling the ‘wall’ which direction to go in, acting as if a few inches is going to make any kind of difference.
When, in reality, free kick walls are one of the most useless functions in all of football. Sure it makes for a great spectacle when someone curls the ball around a handful of players, but in many ways, it makes the task of the player taking the shot all the easier.
First off the wall is about 80% more prone to giving away a penalty courtesy of a loose handball, which is destined to happen given the natural instinct of wanting the ball to avoid your face. It’s just common sense and the amount of spot kicks that are given away because of this is utterly stupendous.
Then you’ve got the fact that, in many ways, a wall can detract from the keeper’s aim of saving the wall. There’s a greater chance of the ball ricocheting off one of the players before heading goalwards (which, for some reason, always decreases the reaction speed of keepers) and if the wall jumps then he usually isn’t as capable of seeing where the shot is heading.
As Aleksandar Kolarov showed this weekend, simply passing the ball under the ball usually leaves the keeper with no chance.
So it took everyone by surprise when he rolled this free-kick under the wall 😎
Picture a scenario in which there's no wall, and it’s just the player and the keeper. Obviously, the shot is coming from outside the box and when you think about it, having a go from that distance is difficult enough when the game is in full flow.
So thus, doing so from a dead-ball situation will make things even more difficult and could lead to some fascinating attempts from players. We shouldn’t be trying to ‘ease up’ on the players of today because god knows they get enough of that through their wages. Making things a touch more difficult will only serve to get people talking, eventually leading into a new generation of free kick takers.
We aren’t suggesting that we should forget about the legacy of the Beckhams and Juninhos of the world, but instead that we should celebrate them and move on. If a player is a truly elite FK taker, then being able to adapt to a new set-up should be relatively easy. That’s the mark of a true champion, and just think about how much faster the gameplay would be.
Referees wouldn’t have to force the wall back a certain amount of steps and we could finally rid of that silly spray once and for all, instead making way for a faster and slicker form of competitive football.
So let’s stop pretending that there’s any tactical presence behind what we currently know to be a ‘traditional free kick’ and embrace a new era.