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Robin Sainty: Why has the penalty kick become so problematic?

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 November 2018

Teemu Pukki after missing his penalty kick against Millwall 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Teemu Pukki after missing his penalty kick against Millwall Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

In Wim Wenders’ recently re-released film noir The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty, the central character talks about the existential crisis faced by a keeper facing a spot kick. He’d clearly never seen Norwich City take one.

With City top of the league, even the most determined miserabilist is struggling to find much to moan about, but missing four out of the five penalties awarded this season is something that stands out, and it does get me onto a bit of a hobby horse as a former penalty taker.

Back in the dim and distant days of my playing career taking penalties was so much simpler. Basically, you either looked to place the ball in the corner or you tried to take the net off.

Nowadays, it appears that such simplicity is frowned upon and the penalty has become a new form of modern dance in which all sorts of intricate moves have to be integrated into the taker’s run-up, reaching a new level of daftness a couple of weeks ago when Paul Pogba’s effort against Everton resulted in him taking longer to tiptoe to the ball than Usain Bolt’s gold medal winning 100 metres sprint at the Rio Olympics.

It’s an unnecessary complication which, while it might once have given the taker an advantage over goalkeepers who went to one side early is now proving more of a liability as an increasing number feint to go one way while maintaining their ability to change direction.

Timm Klose produced a quality performance for the Swiss as they beat Belgium during the international break 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdTimm Klose produced a quality performance for the Swiss as they beat Belgium during the international break Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

I recently read an interesting interview with David Seaman, whose opinion is that these elaborate run-ups actually favour the goalkeeper who is prepared to simply concentrate on watching the ball.

Ultimately penalty taking is actually pretty simple. If the ball is struck and placed well the goalkeeper has little chance, which is the very principle behind the award of a penalty kick, so why do players have to over-think it?

Fortunately for City the penalty issue hasn’t been too costly because goals have been in plentiful supply from open play, so the news that Teemu Pukki had emerged unscathed from Finland’s games was very welcome for City fans.

However, City’s striker didn’t have such a successful international experience as Timm Klose who played a big part in Switzerland’s remarkable 5-2 win against Belgium and looked totally assured against one of the continent’s most prolific attacks in his first international start for over two years, while there was more good news with the announcement that Grant Hanley has signed a new contract.

While the form of Klose and Christoph Zimmermann has meant that Hanley hasn’t really been missed during his injury lay-off there is no question that he will have a part to play at some point, whether as a result of injury, suspension or loss of form.

It does seem that City’s injury problems are slowly abating, with Hanley and Kenny McLean closing in on returns to full fitness and Todd Cantwell recovering from his hamstring problem, and all will be needed as the Championship starts to head towards the Christmas period and its glut of fixtures.

All in all there seem to be relatively few clouds on the Canaries horizon, although the Telegraph article suggesting that Southampton are taking an interest in Stuart Webber has caused a little concern amongst fans.

Having said that, am I the only one who worries more when things seem to be set fair? City are playing some great football; key players are in form and the rest of the league are playing catch-up and yet the nature of the Championship and the inherent pessimism of the football fan keeps nagging away that a setback may be just around the corner.

A trip to the Liberty Stadium is always demanding, so let’s hope that it doesn’t come today and, more importantly that the game doesn’t hang on City scoring from the penalty spot!

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