Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

André Onana is confident

July 10, 2023 — André Onana explains what a modern goalkeeper means to him, thus essentially describing himself.

“The way I feel about football, especially as a goalkeeper in the last 20 years, it is the position that has changed the most.

When I learned to play, they told me ‘André, you should never play through the center’ when I was young. But nowadays I tell you, if there’s space, come on. You always have to play where there’s space. And today, when I talk about a goalkeeper, I talk about a modern goalkeeper who can play with his feet, who is good one on one, who is brave, who transmits security, and is good at claiming the high balls.”

Onana has all of those qualities. Supreme confidence.

“And having this goalkeeper would be an advantage for your team because in the end, you would always have numerical superiority. If the opposing team comes one on one, you have the numerical superiority only with the goalkeeper.”

The bare minimum requirement for a goalkeeper is that they must be able to pass accurately. I can’t think of any S-tier, world-class shot-stoppers who aren’t also above average passers. They need to be.

You can view the full interview with English subtitles here:

Manchester United are inching closer to signing the Cameroonian from Inter Milan this summer to make him their new number one, as David De Gea departs after 12 years of service at the club. Inter reportedly want €55m for Onana.

That is a high price tag for a goalkeeper, and there is a lot of hype building. Too much hype possibly.

He’s great with his feet, but his passing towards the end of the season and in the Champions League final was inconsistent. He’s well above average at passing, but he’s not on the same level as Ederson, Gianluigi Donnarumma, or Alisson. He’s a tier below, A tier. Still world-class but not S tier.

People get very excited when he comes out of his net, which allows them to look past the odd wayward pass. It only takes one or three errors. In the final he had nine, and it gifted Manchester City possesion, but that’s a small sample size.

The positive is that he will be a significant upgrade from David De Gea on the ball. It’s like having an extra holding midfielder. Vital and necessary, as he explained in the interview.

He would be in net to face Tottenham, Arsenal, and Brighton in his first five matches if he signs for United. That is a lot of pressure, huge matches, but he seems like the type of person who can handle what comes.

Inter exuded confidence, and that transmits through the entire club and into Onana. Maintaining confidence will be key because he takes a lot of risks. Erik Ten Hag has begun to instill more resolve in his squad, but they are known to lose their heads, like in their 7-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield.

Not enough of his passes are driven. He likes playing these high looping passes made for taller and stronger forwards to bring down. Manchester United doesn’t currently have forwards like Lautaro Martinez, Romelu Lukaku, and Edin Dzeko who can bring down physically demanding long passes. They may be bullied off the ball.

He won’t have a short pass outlet to lean on like Alessandro Bastoni at Inter. Onana completed 9.33 short passes per 90 at Inter. To put that into perspective, Ederson only completed 6.77 for Manchester City, and David De Gea completed only 5.24 for Manchester United. Above average amount of short passes from the goalkeeper.

How will he adjust? Will Casemiro need to drop more frequently? How will the wingers cope with the added pressure of recieving with their back to goal? He should be able to handle the change but it’s a significant change.

An overconfident goalkeeper who likes to dribble, with fewer outlets, is not a good mix on paper. I’d like to see how he deals with Arsenal and Brighton’s counter-press before getting excited.

Hopefully for United, he can get off on the right foot and preserve his poise, or else it will be very hard to recover because Old Trafford is an unforgiving place. They’ve endured years of errors. They won’t put up with any more.

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