Each game involves setting up a wall and each team has field players that do not understand their roles in this process. It is up to the Goalkeeper to manage and instruct his teammates on set pieces.
How to set up the wall on a freekick step by step
After the referee blows the whistle and assigns a free kick to the opposing team:
- FIRST – The Goalkeeper must make sure at least one teammate steps in front of the ball to avoid a quick play by the opposing team.
- This is when the referee will blow the whistle to officially pause the action before a whistle starts it up again. In this step you are buying yourself time to organize the wall and the players not in the wall.
- Based on the position of the free kick, the Goalkeeper decides on which side to place the wall. The wall is usually placed to cover the closer side of the goal in relation to the ball. This makes it a more difficult angle to hit over the wall and into the net. The average player cannot dip the ball over the wall like Bale or Ronaldo do.
- The Goalkeeper decides how many players to use for the wall. The farther and the less threatening the shooting position, the less players are needed in the wall. Most goalkeepers put from 1 player to 5 players (6) maximum. Unless you’re facing Messi, you shouldn’t need more.
- Also, sometimes you will find a player laying down just behind the wall to avoid the ball from being shot low under the wall’s jump.
- The first player in the wall, together with the other players designated for the wall, stand together 9m(10 yards) away from the ball (the referee counts the steps and checks/corrects distance between ball and wall). The Goalkeeper positions himself/herself by the post that the wall will cover and commands via verbal communication and hand gesturing to the players in the wall (the 1st player should be facing the goalkeeper) which way to shift (more to the left or the right). The wall has to be placed in such a way that the shot has to pass above the wall to reach the near post.
- The first player to the wall, closest to the post that the GK is on, should be facing the GK and the only one moving the wall to match the GK’s instructions.
- This first player should be physically connected with the rest of the wall either interlocking arms or hand on shoulders. This makes it easier to move the wall together without using extra words from the turned around player.
- It is advised to put “one player and a half”, yes, 1.5 people, wide of the ball (towards the outside of the goal and in relation to the post) when the player taking the free kick is an inswinger. This applies to free kicks from positions where probably a shot at goal will be taken and there are multiple people in the wall.
- This 1.5 person coverage on the outside of the ball is to prevent curved shots from bending around the wall and in the near post.
- The goalkeeper stands in a way that he/she is able to defend his/her post but is able to get across the goal in the case the shot goes over (hopefully not through*) the wall.
- Stand as close to the natural angle (between ball and middle of goal), sometimes your body will be tilted to peak around the wall to see the ball and be as central as possible in the goal.
* There are direct and indirect freekicks. Direct freekick means that the attacking team can take a direct shot to goal. Indirect freekick means that the ball needs to either be touched twice before an shot. This is done either by a pass, cross or a shot can be taken as well but only after the soft touch of another player usually also standing near the ball.
In cases of indirect freekicks, the Goalkeeper can put more players in the wall (3+1 , 4+1, 5+1) the +1 player, standing closest to the ball, will sprint out from the wall in the moment the ball is put in play to obstruct the coming shot from the second touch.
*To minimize the possibility of the ball passing through the wall, ask your players to stand as close as possible when standing in the wall. The wall can either jump or all the players can stay still or get on tiptoes and hold their position. Teams that are having the wall jump are placing an additional player to literally lay on his/her side to block a potential low shot under the jumping wall. If possible we recommend having every other player in the wall jump, avoiding the need for a player to lay on the ground behind the wall.
Wall mistake : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7v7amGlBe0
Examples and various scenarios :
If the free kick is from a not-so-threatening position in terms of shooting distance but still close enough to cause trouble and most probably will end up being a cross, 1 or 2 players are placed in the wall. This is usually the case when the set piece is from a distance or at either side of the box towards the corner of the pitch. Also in this case, the number of people in the wall is widely determined by foot dominance of the free kick taker – in swinger or out swinger.
If the free kick is at the edge of the box in a central position, the Goalkeeper will use 4 or 5 players for the wall.
If the ball is at the edge of the box but not so central and more towards the corner of the box, the Goalkeeper will put 3 players in the wall.
If the free kick is from a distance where there is no threat of a shot to goal then there is no need for a wall, we rather see the ball the entire time. One player can be in the wall for mid-longer distance freekicks to serve as a distraction/obstacle for the kicker. Usually our striker will go into the solo man wall.
How to practice setting up a wall
The Goalkeeper has to know all the theory and then apply it during the games. It is good to do simulations of the same during training sessions and watching and analyzing video (personal and professional examples). Drawing out freekicks on a board can also be useful since some of us are more visual learners and can understand the angles of the wall better when drawn on a board. Setting up a wall is a team job, everyone should know their roles when a free kick takes place from one spot on the pitch versus another.