Grigor Pasha writes: When I took over at FC Farul Constanta, in the summer of 2019, they had two goalkeepers on their staff.
The senior partner was the club captain, Vlad Mutiu. And the understudy was the promising Andrei Udeanu.
I like building determined teams, so I welcomed Vlad’s determination. I also welcomed his roundedness: he had no glaring weaknesses.
Mutiu was the regular starter in the first half of the season and did pretty well: played 19, conceded 21 – clean sheets 5.
I felt when I took over that we needed at least one more goalie, so I brought in the boy Ciobanu, initially on loan from Dinamo Bucuresti.
After the winter break, Mutiu and Udeanu fell ill, so I needed Ciobanu to step up to the plate.
This he did admirably. He finished the season as first-choice keeper: played 18, conceded 13 — clean sheets 6.
I have three points to make about Ciobanu.
First, he performed better than the attributes recorded on our database had led me to expect. There was an indefinable, but unmistakable, quality about him: far from being overawed by stepping up, he took to Liga 2 like a duck to water, exuding confidence from the outset.
Second, you will that the attributes indicate some relative weaknesses. Some of these were borne out in practice: he hasn’t yet developed great command of his area. But some of the other weaknesses proved less apparent in reality.
I am particularly interested in Ciobanu’s positioning: in attribute terms it is mediocre and, despite his growing experience, has failed to improve. But in match situations you wouldn’t know it (except perhaps a little where long shots/free kicks are concerned): in fact, quite the reverse — time and again, when the opposition have looked likely to score, the boy frustrates them by getting into precisely the right position.
Third, he does the thing I most want my goalies to do — keep clean sheets. This season (2021), having moved to us permanently, he is incentivised by a clean sheet bonus of £200 (my favourite bonus clause). But that doesn’t explain his performance last year, when there was no such clause in place.
Obviously the main determinants of the number of clean sheets is (a) the quality of the team and (b) the all-round quality of the keeper. But I am suggesting that something else is in play: in any given set of circumstances, some keepers take more pride in a clean sheet than others.
Has any one else noticed such a phenomenon?
My policy is that, if junior member of the squad steps up and performs well, he stays in the team. Performance trumps reputation.
Unfortunately, Mutiu didn’t see things the same way.
I could understand his frustration, though I did disagree with him on one point. When challenging me on my selection, he said that he ‘hadn’t seen anything from Ciobanu that I don’t provide’.
No, Vlad, perhaps you haven’t, but I have. He concedes fewer goals and keeps more clean sheets, Vlad.
So I loaned Mutiu out. Ditto, Udeanu, who was showing increasing signs of being prone to injury. At my club, if you’re injury prone, you’re out the door.
In addition to Ciobanu, I’ve brought in three goalies – a youth intake guy as fourth choice, a loanee from our affiliate as third, and, as second choice, Roberto Bodea.
Why Bodea? After all, neither my scouts nor my coaches have been enthusiastic.
But I like him. I like his consistency and, above all, his personality. Loyalty is a great thing for a deputy goalie to have.
Also, he’s a genuine sweeper keeper.
I like to have four goalies where possible — I’m risk averse in that area — and so we organise two U19 matches a week to enable them to keep match fit.
In general, I like goalkeepers and prioritise the strengthening of that position. To that end, I include goalkeeping every week as a module in our training schedules. Typically we alternate the focus: one week it’s goalkeeping in general, the next it’s a specialised area, such as handling.
Of the specialised areas, one-to-ones has received most attention: we play with quite a high line so every now and then opposition forwards to get through. Bodea’s does well there; with Ciobanu there’s more room for improvement.
As a reward for massively under-spending on transfer fees (I haven’t paid any at all) and wages, I’ve been able to appoint a second goalkeeping coach, namely Silviu Lung, to complement Mihai Moraru. Lung majors on shot-stopping; Moraru on handling and distribution.
Moraru has recently benefited from completing a coaching course.
Suddenly, it seems we have the best goalie coaching in the league.