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          Are penalty shootouts getting more difficult?

          2022/05/19 16:23
          E0

          Rangers were the latest team to suffer penalty shoot-out heartbreak following their 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League last night.

          Aaron Ramsey’s effort was the only dud note for Rangers on what could have potentially been a special night for the Scottish team. However, it seems that in the last few years penalty takers have gotten better than ever – Santos Borré provided a superb example of how to take a penalty to win the final last night.

          Playmaker took a closer look at this and went through every single penalty shoot-out from European club competitions from the quarter-finals onward. We didn’t go back to every qualifying game because, well, you have to draw a line somewhere. 

          So we ended up with a nice, even 20 games that were decided on shoot-outs. Looking at the data below there’s a clear trend – with one or two slight anomalies – of fewer missed and saved penalties. Essentially, the chart shows players are getting more lethal from the penalty spot. 

          As we can see, the 2018/19 Europa League semi-final between Chelsea and Eintracht Frankfurt is the only game since 2014 that has had 30% of the penalties missed or saved.

          Perhaps it’s easier to break that data down into decades. In the games between 2001-2009, players had a 33.5% chance of missing. A decade later it was reduced to 26.1% – bad news for goalkeepers.

          And of the two big European shoot-outs since 2020, that number has gone down to a minuscule 7.3%. Although, of course, that’s just from two games (one of which included 21 of 22 successful strikes) and there’s still a long way to go in this decade – but the trend is there.

          The question remains then, why?

          ©Getty / Alex Pantling
          Perhaps it’s that players that have improved their technique. It’s certainly a factor. The Jorginho/Bruno Fernandes-style jumping penalty technique has stumped plenty of goalkeepers in recent years as more players perfect the technique. Of course, the occasional time it goes astray it can look very silly, but as a technique, it’s incredibly difficult for goalkeepers to stop.

          Techniques are more varied too, there’s the stutter run-up, the curving run-up, or even the no run-up at all. Players don’t seem to use the good old-fashioned ‘take a long run a blast it’ method anymore.

          One thing that we can safely rule out is that goalkeepers aren’t getting worse. If anything, they’re quicker and more athletic than ever. Just like at some of the saves Brice Samba made in Middlesbrough’s semi-final shoot-out against Sheffield United.

          Another factor could be the influence of officials on the line making sure the goalkeeper doesn’t overstep his boundaries. 

          It used to be a common sight for a goalkeeper to try and sneak in a step or two forward to increase the odds of them stopping a penalty. But that has been under more scrutiny in recent years – and with the added assistance of VAR – it’s something that has largely been prevented.

          So, maybe now we’re waiting for goalkeepers to come up with a new technique themselves, the next generation ‘do the Dudek’ that will reduce the striker’s advantage and add an extra element of chaos to shoot-outs.

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