2022/2023 Season Review: Barcelona’s excellence in defense – The Goalkeepers

2022/2023 Season Review: Barcelona's excellence in defense - The Goalkeepers PHOTO: Víctor Salgado - fcbarcelona.com
Photo: Víctor Salgado – FC Barcelona

Barcelona is without a doubt the highest-scoring team in Europe. The team creates so many chances in games that it leaves the mind wondering just how many goals this team would score if every chance created was converted. One would think that a team with such a high attacking mentality would be negligent in defending their own goal. However, Barcelona is one of the teams to have conceded the fewest goals across Europe.

In the UWCL, they had the next-best defensive record after Chelsea, while conceding the least number of goals across all the major leagues in Europe.

A discussion about a football club’s defense starts with the player in between the sticks of the club’s goal. At Barcelona, there are three goalkeepers in the first team, Sandra Panos, Cata Coll, and Gemma Font. All three of them are astounding performers in their preferred positions.

What every Barcelona goalkeeper should have

1. Ball-playing ability

Barcelona, unlike any other, is a club that plays with a certain philosophy that has been passed down from generation to generation across every division of the football team, male and female alike. Keeping possession of the ball is one of the key attributes of every Barcelona football team.

At Barcelona, to maintain this style of play and stay true to their traditional philosophy, including the goalkeeper in the game is quite important. Thus, the team fields ball-playing goalkeepers, with the ability to play with their feet. Goalkeepers who can play with the defenders to build up the team’s attack from the back.

Every Barcelona goalie, in addition to stopping goal-bound shots, excels at passing the ball. The ability to keep the ball in play and maintain possession of the ball, by exchanging passes with the defenders or finding an unmarked teammate further up the field is an important weapon in the arsenal of every goalkeeper that plays for Barcelona.

2. Shot-stopping ability

As important as it is to be able to play with your feet as a goalkeeper, the primary role of the between the sticks is to keep the ball out of the net. Every shot on target has the probability of becoming a goal, hence, the goalkeeper’s duty is to stop the ball from getting over the goal line.

Only when a goalkeeper carries out their duties as a shot-stopper can a team be certain of conceding a lesser number of goals and keeping a higher number of clean sheets.

3. The ability to lead the backline

Seeing as goalkeepers are the last line of defense, the line in front of them does everything to prevent the ball from getting to them at all. However, it is not inevitable for a goalkeeper to face a shot from the opposition every now and then. A mistake from a defender, craftiness from the opposition’s attack, a powerful shot taken from a distance; all of these could put a goalkeeper in a position where she needs to make a save to keep the scoreline intact.

In a team like Barcelona, the goalkeeper is not usually busy for most of the match, which means she is the only on-field player with a clear and unobstructed view of the game. The goalie has the responsibility of instructing the backline in terms of their positioning, marking a player that needs to be marked, or simply making her grievances known when a mistake that could have been avoided has been made.

Let’s take a look at the performance of Barcelona’s three first-team goalkeepers over the course of the season.

Sandra Panos

Being the first choice in goal, the Barca number 1 is an excellent goalkeeper, a gem even among her peers. Sandra Panos has kept the most clean sheets in Liga F since her return from an injury that saw her miss the early part of the season.

Panos is Barcelona’s best goalkeeper when it comes to playing the ball with her feet. With confident touches and quick exchange of passes between her and the defense line, she has the ability to dictate and maintain the tempo of the game from her position; a rare feat to achieve for a goalkeeper.

When called into action, Panos is more than capable of keeping the ball out of her net, as she has proven on many occasions throughout the season. One such moment was an important save she made toward the end of the game against Roma in the first leg of the UWCL quarterfinals. That save ensured that Barcelona maintained their 1-0 lead heading into the second leg. 

Panos is also amazing at saving penalties, the goalkeeper has a 100% record at saving penalties in the UWCL this season. She saved two penalties in the same game against Benfica in the Champions League.

Most importantly, in the UWCL final against Wolfsburg, after Barcelona pulled off the dramatic comeback that put them ahead after trailing by two goals in the first half, Panos came in clutch to help Barcelona hang on to their lead. She saved two shots from Ewa Pajor, the tournament’s top goalscorer, and kept her calm in the last minute to keep the ball until the final whistle.

With Alexia Putellas injured for the majority of the season, and Marta Torrejon being used more as a rotational player, Panos had the responsibility of leading the team on most occasions throughout the season. Being one of the captains as well as a senior player in the team, her impact on the squad as a leader saw the team go on to lift three trophies this season.

Barcelona’s first-choice goalkeeper made 29 appearances this season, 20 in the league and nine in the Champions League.

With a 70.4% save ratio, Panos made 19 saves and kept 13 clean sheets, while conceding 9 goals in the Liga F.

In the Champions League, Panos conceded 10 goals, made 17 saves with a save ratio of 65.5%, and kept three clean sheets this season.

Cata Coll

An amazing goalkeeper in her right when asked to take care of the goal on match days. However, we did not get to see much of her during the season due to the long-term injury she suffered last season. 

On her return, Cata Coll represented Barcelona again, playing three games and conceding zero goals in the process. In her brief cameo throughout the season, her ball-playing ability was quite impressive, as required of a Barcelona goalie. But the lack of goal threats from the opposition’s attacks in the games she featured in means we didn’t get to see much of her ability as a shot-stopper.

Gemma Font

In the early stages of the season, it was up to Gemma to protect Barcelona’s goalpost, with the first and second-choice goalkeepers out due to injury. Font put up an amazing performance, so good that the absence of Sandra Panos and Cata Coll went by almost unnoticed.

Although not as effective as Panos with the ball at her feet, she rarely lost possession of the ball and seemed to make the right choice with every pass. 

However, it was her ability to make incredible saves that made her special. Font made 10 appearances over the course of the season, 8 in Liga F and 2 in the UWCL. 

In Liga F, Font conceded one goal and made 11 saves with a save ratio of 91.7% while keeping seven clean sheets.

She made only two appearances in the UWCL, conceding none and keeping a clean sheet on both occasions.

With the return of Sandra Panos and Cata Coll, we got to see less of the impressive goalkeeper that started the season beautifully and slotted effortlessly into the gaps left behind by the absence of her seniors.

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