JSTATS: Short goal kicks soar, goalkeepers more involved in buildup as J.LEAGUE tactics evolve

JSTATS: Short goal kicks soar, goalkeepers more involved in buildup as J.LEAGUE tactics evolve

A recent look at our JSTATS indicate ongoing shifts in how goalkeepers are being used across the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE.

For example, goal kicks are a routine part of any match, but how teams in Japan choose to take them is changing.

A look at the J1 League data on where goal kicks are taken shows that in 2017, 19.4% of goal kicks were hit short - defined as received in the defensive third. In 2020 that number more than doubled, increasing to 46.5%. The number has dropped a bit this season, down to 35.7% as of August 15, but that’s still much higher than it was four years ago.

The change is due in part to a rule change. As of August 2019, teams were allowed to receive goal kicks in their own penalty box, making short goal kicks possible in more places, but it has also been an evolution of tactics.


With a short goal kick, teams are guaranteed to start with possession instead of having to win an aerial challenge and second ball. They can also move the defending team with intent, and have the opportunity to enter the opposition territory with an advantage if a press is broken. That is more enticing to teams now than it used to be, as they take on the risk of turning the ball over in their own half with greater frequency to capitalize on the opportunities they can create with the ball.

Additionally, goalkeepers are becoming far more valuable members of their team’s possession and attacking game. Last season, goalkeepers received passes at nearly two-times the rate they did in 2017, and the current season has them on pace to exceed last season’s record for passes received and made by goalkeepers.


No longer are goalkeepers just shot stoppers. They have to be able to receive passes from their teammates and effectively pass the ball out, making for a true 11-man attack. The game is expanding and evolving, and goalkeepers are right in the middle of it.