Taking it lying down: How to find the perfect player to lie behind a wall ​

Get up, mate, there's a game going on

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In 2017 the then Brighton & Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton saw his side concede five goals to Liverpool, the fourth of these was a Phillipe Coutinho free-kick that was fired low into the net as the wall decided to jump en masse. That was enough for Hughton who devised a plan in training to combat this, putting an extra man lying down at the foot of the wall to give birth to a role that has now become known as the “draft excluder.”

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That 2017 prototype has now become as common as a dodgy Liverpool penalty across Europe, so as the current domestic season draws to its conclusion and with the modern way to defend dead ball situations unlikely to go away anytime soon, we’ve devised our own checklist of what a manager should be looking for to find their perfect draftsman.

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 16: Angel Dealbert Ibanez of Valencia CF challenges Peter Crouch of Stoke City during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 First leg match between Stoke City and Valencia CF at the Britannia Stadium on February 16, 2012 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

SIZE

Size is everything.

No, it really is!

The taller the player, the better chance you have of covering the entire wall. If this system would have been in place 20 years ago then Peter Crouch would surely have reached a hundred caps for England. We fail to see the point of putting a tiddler at the base, like PSG did with Marco Verratti against Manchester City in their recent Champions League semi-final.

The diminutive Italian was only tall enough to cover three of the five players in the wall whereas a lanky-limbed legend like Crouchy would be good for six players at least (maybe seven if push came to shove).

Indeed, some speculate that, should managers persist with this tactic, it can only be a matter of time before the next LeBron James or Larry Bird could be tempted by the big six away from the NBA and used like a goal-kicker in the NFL at crucial free-kicks.

MULTI-LINGUAL

Remember the good old days when one person in the wall would turnaround and communicate with the goalkeeper as to where he would like them to stand?

No need for all that anymore with the draft excluder taking care of business. Now a standing player can concentrate on protecting their crown jewels whilst their prone team-mate sorts out the logistics.

The draft excluder needs to have good communication skills and, ideally, needs to be multi-lingual to ensure that all of their mates are singing off the same hymn sheet.

One former player who speaks 20 languages and who once learnt to speak Chinese during a penalty shoot-out, Dennis Bergkamp, would be a coach’s wet dream in the modern era, being able to tell pretty much any current player in the Premier League where to position themselves to try to foil another Bruno Fernandez thunder-bastard. Just don’t ask him to fly in any language or he’ll go to bits.

CESENA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 11: Andrea Pirlo (R) of Milan in action during the Serie A match between AC Cesena and AC Milan at Dino Manuzzi Stadium on September 11, 2010 in Cesena, Italy. (Photo by Roberto Serra/Getty Images)

LAZINESS

There are certain players who despite having world class ability, always look like they just can’t be bothered to bust a gut for their team.

Andrea Pirlo and Matt Le Tissier (probably the only time those two players will ever be used in the same sentence) are classic examples of footballers who, if given the chance, would not say no to an opportunity to catch forty winks during a game.

The draft excluder is the perfect role for players of this ilk, someone who would take full advantage of an opposition free-kick to have a quick lie down.

Le Tiss of course, would be worried about taking a hit to the back which could rule him out of his next Pro-Am golf event whereas Pirlo, likely to be unemployed in a couple of weeks’ time, would never put himself in a position that could seriously damage his film-star looks, as we have it on good authority that he still has a burning desire to play 007.

PatrickBamfordOct20

SENSE OF DIRECTION

So we’re pretty much agreed that the perfect player for the draft excluder role has to be as tall as Crouchy, multi-lingual to Dennis Bergkamp standards, and as easy going as Le Tiss and Pirld. But there’s still one thing missing – no point in being the tallest, laziest, multi-linguistic player in the world, if you’ve not got a good sense of direction.

From a lying down position and with players trampling all over you and referees spraying shaving foam in your face, you need to be able to read your goalkeepers signals to the letter and although you may think this is child’s play with a pair of huge luminous goalie gloves to follow, you’d be surprised just how easy it is to mistake left from right and vice-versa.

A player of sound education, someone like Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford, would be the benchmark and we’ll now be interested to see if his gaffer at Elland Road, Marcelo Bielsa, follows our advice and uses him in this role in the final rounds of the campaign.

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