When it rains it pours!
Certain sections of the English media have compared Manchester United boss David Moyes with Graham Taylor this morning.
This is pretty much as low as you can go in English football and despite the imminent signing of Juan Mata, the penalty shoot-out defeat to Sunderland is still very raw for Moyes and Manchester United.
To compound matters, Everton forums, no doubt revelling in Moyes’ pain, have dredged up an article the now Manchester United boss wrote in 2010 during the World Cup.
Moyes was then a columnist for The Sunday Times and put his name to a piece titled: “How to win a shootout”.
David Moyes: How to win a penalty shootout
In a good team you win together and you lose together. The penalty shootout is the loneliest experience in football and the trick is to make participants feel they are less on their own.
The players taking spot-kicks need to know that responsibility does not weigh solely on their shoulders but is shared, and the same goes for your goalkeeper.
As a manager, you can take pressure off your men by making yourself accountable for success and failure.
You’d never go up on stage without an act so I think if you walk up to take a penalty, or stand between the posts attempting to save one, you should have a clear idea about what you’re going to do.
This is where the manager and the sharing of responsibility comes in and how he prepares his team is key.
My teams have won two big shootouts, Everton against Manchester United in the 2009 FA Cup semi-final and Preston North End versus Birmingham City in a Championship playoff semi-final in 2001.
I also lost one with Everton, against Fiorentina, so I’m not the guru, but for what it’s worth, this is how I believe preparation for penalties can go: you get everyone in your squad to attempt spot-kicks in training — everyone, because there are some players you don’t imagine will be good at them who turn out to be excellent takers.
You find some players are naturals at it, some just don’t have the knack, and there are some who are coachable — by working with them technically and mentally you can make them good from 12 yards.
My guess is that Capello knows not just his best five takers but also his next five Certain things are required to score a penalty, accuracy, power and placement being the main ones. You keep this in mind while you watch and if a player scores a good one in training you say: “I like that. Can you go and practise it? Can you guarantee to take that penalty in a shootout?”
This means that when your players walk up to the spot they — and, more importantly, you — have decided exactly what they’re going to do.
When we won against Manchester United, all my lads did exactly, from the spot, what we’d said they would beforehand. I feel you take pressure away from individuals that way.
You say to a player: “All I want you to do is X.” If it doesn’t go in, then fine. We score together, we miss together when it is penalties.
A similar approach helps the goalkeepers. There are databases and performance tools that give you an idea of what particular players like to do from the spot and you find out where players in the opposing team have put previous penalties in both club or international football.
Jens Lehmann used this kind of information when he saved two spot-kicks in the shootout when Germany beat Argentina in the last World Cup. You give your keeper the information and say to him, for example: “If Philipp Lahm takes a penalty it’s going bottom right, and I want you to go to the right and get down quickly.”
Some keepers have a system where they look at the taker’s run-up and his planting foot and so on, and that’s fine, but I’d prefer to go with the analysis. The principle is the same as with the takers — the manager has told the keeper what to do and if it goes wrong he knows his boss can have no complaints.
There are drills you can do to make players better at penalties. You can get them to shoot without a goalkeeper and focus on something like accuracy by saying that every kick they take has to hit the side net inside the post.
England are fortunate enough to already have a number of players who have proved to be very good takers for their clubs. James Milner has scored some fantastic penalties for Aston Villa, Gareth Barry is a great striker of the ball, Wayne Rooney is good, Steven Gerrard has a successful record for Liverpool. And Frank Lampard, even though he missed in England’s friendly against Japan, is excellent.
You want your main taker to have at least two penalties, a pen A and a pen B, because he could have to take one in normal time and need to do something different in a shootout, and Lampard has a variation.
David James should also be an asset for England if there’s a shootout. He is a big man to get past and has a big presence. He’s tall enough to get to the corner if he goes early enough. He’s experienced and I know he thinks about his approach towards penalties. He has good attributes.
To be a consistent saver of spot-kicks a goalkeeper needs to be really athletic, to have a spring in his legs and be able to get across his goal fast. This is extra-important in South Africa with the ball travelling more quickly at altitude.
As you’d expect from such a thorough and experienced coach, Fabio Capello has had his squad practising penalties since they got together in Austria a month ago and he will know in advance his ideal takers should England go to penalties against Germany.
I say ideal, because an important point to make is that you can’t be sure who will be on the pitch at the end of 120 minutes; players you earmark for a spot-kick might get injured or be sent off or substituted, and some of England’s previous exits from tournament involved players missing from the spot who weren’t expected to take penalties, such as David Batty and Gareth Southgate. My guess is that Capello knows not just his best five takers but also his next five.
Of course you can plan meticulously and then something happens that you simply can’t control. Jamie Carragher was taking great penalties in training at the last World Cup and when it came to the shootout versus Portugal, he struck a spot-kick exactly as he had been doing in practice and scored with it, but the referee wasn’t ready and asked him to take it again.
Second time round, Carragher departed from his routine and missed. Bad luck played a huge part there and I’ve a general feeling that England have not had much fortune in shootouts and are due a win in one.
As I said, I’m not the guru. I was only in one penalty shootout as a player and I missed from the spot. It was for Bristol City versus Mansfield in the Freight Rover final, 1987. All week in training I’d been mashing them down the middle and beating the keeper but, having played 120 minutes, I had cramp in both legs and hit my kick as if my foot was a shovel.
It was in front of 58,000 fans at Wembley and it was a sudden-death effort: because I missed, we lost the shootout 5-4.
That day I took two penalties: my first and also my last.