By Sylvain Jamet

Christophe Lollichon is potentially moving to Arsenal with Petr Cech this summer and bringing his years of goalkeeping expertise with him.

Vestiaires – a well known coaching magazine in France – had a very thorough interview with Christophe Lollichon, the Chelsea FC goalkeeping coach, a couple of seasons ago. As the man who could end up as the new goalkeeping coach at Arsenal, it was interesting to learn about his philosophy.

He started coaching goalkeepers under the very best managers at FC Nantes with Jean-Claude Suaudeau and Reynald Denoueix. He then went to Rennes where he started working with Petr Cech. Back in 2007, when Cech moved to Chelsea he was asked to come as well and has managed to survive many managers over there.

When asked how important size is for a goalkeeper, he said:
“Yes, it is. Some people will tell you that you can play at the highest level with a size of 1,80m. Okay but if you are 1,90m with a good jump and you go quickly to the ground, this is even better. You have a better wingspan, this is quite logical.”

The example of the St Etienne goalie came up. Jeremy Janot, who is 1.76m, has played 342 games in French Ligue 1, despite being small for the current standards.
“Well, it depends where you are playing, I like his persona. He is a good goalkeeper as well but for me his size is a limiting factor. It will restrain the action zone where he can intervene in the penalty area. He would have trouble playing in the Premier League.”

When asked how and what he could identify talent at youth level:
“At 13-14 years old, the smaller goalie has a lot more explosivity than a taller one with longer bones. He looks more spectacular. What is important is what he will become in the future. That’s why as soon as we were interested in a goalkeeper we were doing a radiological analysis to know his height as an adult.”

Lollichon even has a minimum size criteria for goalkeepers! “At Rennes, it was 1.85m. Now I would not take less than 1.90m.” This seems to condemn David Ospina if Lollichon comes to Arsenal, as he is smaller at 1.83m. No wonder Ospina is rumoured to be on his way, if Lollichon arrives.

He was also asked about the evolution of the skills and techniques required to be a goalkeeper through the years.
“For a long time, the goalkeeper had done a lot less specific work than the outfield players, while those became stronger, quicker, more powerful, jumping higher and hitting the ball with more power. At one time, the goalkeeper has had to adapt to that changing environment. I nowadays consider the goalkeeper as an outfield player who can use his hands. Unfortunately, a goalkeeper is still too often judged on his saves and nothing else. This is a problem for me.”

He had a very interesting and unusual view when put to him that the goalkeeper’s primary job is to stop the shots from the opposition.
“I do not agree. To know how to stop a shot is obviously important for a goalkeeper. It is the ultimate and decisive act, but there is so much work to do prior to this action to avoid having to make saves. You have to make sure, the goalie is in the right position, with regards to the defense and the general team organisation. He also has to manage the space in front of him, communicate properly with the defense. A goalkeeper is like an airline traffic controller or an orchestra conductor. His primary target, which is a bit paradoxical, is not to touch the ball at all.”

This is where you can see that Lollichon has learnt from playing the FC Nantes way, that’s why he sees the goalkeepers as an integral part of the team, rather than an individual alone on his own.
“I have been lucky enough to learn under the best possible masters and the best football school, Nantes, with the best professors Suaudeau and Denoueix. The goalkeeper kind of like to use dissuasion. He anticipates, he controls and if it is needed he intervenes in the action.

Christophe Lollichon is always trying to find new ways to improve his goalkeepers. For example, he works with an ophtalmologlist. He also used tennis rackets and tennis balls to improve reflexes. He is a student of the game and tries to be creative by getting inspiration from different fields and adapts them to football. He would certainly be an excellent asset should he sign up alongside Petr Cech.