Analysis: Real Sociedad 2 Barcelona 3

Breaking down the penalty shoot-out, kick by kick...

What timing! Two days after launching this newsletter, Bayern Munich lost to second division side Holstein Kiel in a penalty shoot-out, and Barcelona beat Real Sociedad in a penalty shoot-out. This is why we are here, people!

I want to look in more detail at the shoot-out in Spain, because it threw up some fascinating talking-points that we will be exploring in more detail as this newsletter continues.

The match was the Spanish Super Cup semi-final. It finished 1-1, with La Real’s goal coming from Mikel Oyarzabal from the spot. La Real also hit the post with one minute to go. They struck the first penalty. You can see the shoot-out here:

Penalty 1: Jon Bautista – penalty saved (0-0)

This was Bautista’s first kick in the game. He came on as a substitute after 120 minutes, specifically for this moment. I have spoken to players about coming on just to take a penalty and most are uncomfortable with the idea as they prefer to have some time to get used to the feel of the pitch and the ball. The data around this is small, as it happens so rarely, but anecdotally, it’s a risky call - unless that substitute is a penalty specialist (and, at least at senior level, Bautista is not).

Penalty 2: Frenkie de Jong – penalty hits post (0-0)

De Jong looks like the model of a nervous player. He looks at the referee before the whistle blows and as soon as the whistle blows, he starts his run-up. He’s rushing. The whistle is to tell the kicker to kick when he’s ready – it’s not a starting pistol. Watch how De Jong holds his breath during his run-up: it’s another show of nerves.

Penalty 3: Mikel Oyarzabal– penalty saved – (0-0)

Oyarzabal has already scored a penalty in this game, so has a dilemma; does he go the same way or a different way? In both cases, he used the goalkeeper-dependent method of waiting for Ter Stegen to make the first move; for this strategy, the rule stating goalkeepers must stay on their line can potentially help the goalkeeper – by holding their position on the line for longer, it challenges the kicker to make the first move. During the match, Oyarzabal kicked to his non-natural side, and scored. It was his 15th successful penalty in a row. He chose the same option for the shoot-out, but this time, Ter Stegen saved it. “I’d kick it the same place if I shot again, but Ter Stegen was phenomenal,” Oyarzabal admitted after the game.

Penalty 4: Ousmane Dembele– penalty scored (0-1)

I love this penalty! Dembele is a genuinely two-footed player, capable of taking corners and free-kicks with either foot. So he shapes to line up as a left-footer, then skips across and fires it in with his right foot. I will be exploring two-footed penalty-takers – like Andreas Brehme, who scored penalties in successive World Cups with both feet – in future.

Penalty 5: Willian Jose– penalty hits post (0-0)

Your team has already missed two penalties. You missed a penalty back in November. You’re up against a goalkeeper who has already saved two out of two. The pressure is on: so you have to go for the corner of the goal. Willian Jose adopts the goalkeeper-dependent method (see Penalty 3) and hits the inside of the post. Ter Stegen dives the right way.

Penalty 6: Miralem Pjanic– penalty scored (0-2)

The opposite of De Jong: a long wait after the referee blows his whistle. Off a short run-up, Pjanic finds the inside corner; just as well as the goalkeeper was close. Pjanic was also a sub, but he played the full extra-time period.

Penalty 7: Mikel Merino– penalty scored (1-2)

Merino is the first La Real player to score. Perhaps he has seen his team-mates struggle with goalkeeper-dependent strategy; he doesn’t hang around, placing the ball high and central, giving Ter Stegen no chance – and his team half a chance.

Penalty 8: Antoine Griezmann penalty over the bar (1-2)

Griezmann has scored a penalty in a World Cup knockout tie against Argentina. He has scored in a World Cup final! But his recent penalty record is wretched. Since moving to Barcelona, he has missed five in a row: against Albania, Andorra and Sweden for France; and for Barcelona, against Real Betis and, now, Real Sociedad. And so, kicking to win the shoot-out, Griezmann smashes his kick over the crossbar. We need to talk about this, Antoine.

Penalty 9: Adnan Januzaj (2-2)penalty scored (2-2)

I remember seeing Januzaj miss a penalty for Manchester United in a shoot-out defeat to Sunderland back in 2014. After he spotted the ball then, he spent several seconds picking mud out of the bottom of his boots. It was a strange preparation, and that penalty was weak, and saved. Not so, here; Januzaj picks his natural side and fires the ball in the inside corner of the net. Once again, Ter Stegen has dived the right way (that’s four out of five in this shoot-out), but at least Januzaj is forcing Barcelona to win it.

Penalty 10: Riqui Puig– penalty scored (Barcelona win 2-3)

Coach Ronald Koeman said in his post-match press conference: “I had four names on my paper and I said, ‘Who takes the fifth penalty?’ And Riqui said, ‘I’ll take it.’ Perfect.” (This is not something I recommend to coaches – they should choose the players, not let the players choose.)

Puig, a La Masia graduate keen for more minutes on the pitch, admitted that he volunteered to take the fifth penalty as he was desperate to score his first goal for the club. And he looked like a player in a hurry: a long, sprinting run-up, and decisive finish. He was not even born the last time Barcelona was in a penalty shoot-out, back in the 1998 Copa del Rey final. Barcelona won that one too.

Penalty hero: The true hero of this shoot-out was Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen: he dived the right way four times out of five, and saved two penalties. After Puig scored the winning penalty, it was notable that his team-mates ran to congratulate Ter Stegen straightaway.

What did you think of the penalty shoot-out? Would you have brought on Bautista to take one? Should Koeman have chosen his fifth kicker? Will Dembele move up the penalty-list now? And when will Griezmann score a penalty again? Feel free to comment below or fire over any thoughts or further questions to me at @benlyt.

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