Playing it Short - Vicente Guaita's Changing Role at Crystal Palace

Written by Alex Pewter & Mihai Patrascu

In the first collaboration between FYP and Tactics Not Antics, Alex Pewter and Mihai Patrascu take a look at how Vicente Guaita's responsibilities have changed since Patrick Vieira took charge. 

Guaita goal kick Liverpool


As part of the style change that Patrick Vieira has implemented - working the ball out of the back - there has been a notable shift in Vicente Guaita's playing style, especially when considering goal-kicks and passing. Here we dissect the differences, to explain how his role has changed and how he has had to adjust. 


Launched Passes/Launched Goal Kicks

In a statistical sense, a launched goal kick/pass is a kick of 40+ yards. 

Think of a Sean Dyche team. By design, Nick Pope is asked to hit the ball long on almost all occasions, leading the league this season with 89.5% of his goal kicks travelling over 40 yards in length. 

Similarly, both in his last season at Getafe and under Roy Hodgson, Guaita was asked to kick long on most occasions. This style is a tactical choice, rather than it being a case of being right/wrong.

A launched pass works in the same fashion. Imagine a back pass to the keeper. Whereas a goalkeeper like Ederson will look to recycle the possession to an open defender immediately, a more conservative goalkeeper like Nick Pope is to send the ball back over the halfway line. 

Here is where we can see the comparison from the four seasons of Guaita at Crystal Palace: 

In real terms, that change has seen him drop an average of 86% launched goal kicks down over the first three seasons to an average of 55% in the opening ten games of this season. A similar pattern has emerged in his passing. 

Guaita Launched Progression


Under Patrick Vieira, Guaita has also reduced the distance of his kicks, both in a dead ball and open play situation. It's easiest to reclassify his role from being a pure "shot-stopper" to a "ball-playing-goalkeeper".

This season you see a significant difference in Guaita's average length of goal kicks and passes:

In open play, the reason behind the drop off in his passing length is that role changed to a ball-playing-goalkeeper. The team is more likely to use him to keep possession, like the old fashioned sweeper would, sitting deeper than the other central defenders.


Guaita pass gk progression


When a defender is pressed, rather than clearing the ball as they may have before, the team can work the ball backwards to look for space elsewhere.


GK Pressure Pass


In this example above, Andersen is under pressure from the pressing forward and can play the ball back to Guaita, who, rather than looking down the pitch as the first option, finds Mitchell wide open for the easy pass that doesn't lose possession.


Guaita Attempted Passes


Consequently, the volume of short and medium passes has had a significant increase per 90 minutes, whilst increasing his overall accuracy. 

Guaita is set to complete ~330 more passes at all lengths this season compared to the last. In turn, he's becoming a much larger part of the team in possession.


Tactical Reasoning

What is the advantage of kicking short? At least in the mind of this manager? 

The team has invested in the two starting central defenders with purpose, partially because of the rule change that allows players to start from inside the box on a goal kick.

Having multiple short options means the opposition either a) allows Guaita to pass short on every occasion to his defenders or a midfielder, or b) they have to push up to prevent this.


Guaita Pass Options


Christian Benteke remains an excellent weapon for long goal kicks, and dragging more players towards Palace's area removes players around the target man and creates gaps in midfield.

Guaita's short passes to either central defender may even end up with a long-pass on many occasions, just from a different player. If Andersen receives the ball only a few yards away, as the forwards close him down, he may get a better angle to hit long or pass into the central midfielders or to a full-back.

Ultimately this approach is about getting the ball to playmakers in a more controlled and repeatable way, as well as providing different options depending on the opponent. 

While this role change may have posed a considerable challenge for the 35-year old Vicente Guaita at the beginning of the season, he has adapted quite well to its requirements. This in itself is reassuring, as his performances will be the benchmark of what Patrick Vieira will want from his goalkeeper(s) going forward.