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Why was Joel Robles dropped from the Everton starting XI?

Tactical analysis shows his strengths and weaknesses

Everton v Leicester City - Premier League
Joel Robles
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

In our latest Everton Tactical Analysis video, RBM’s Adam Braun takes a look at goalkeeper Joel Robles, his strengths and weaknesses, and what led to manager Ronald Koeman dropping him from the starting XI this past weekend against West Ham United.

Joel Robles strengths and weaknesses

Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles is a strong shot-stopper, but his positioning and decision-making can let him down badly at times.

Posted by Royal Blue Mersey on Wednesday, April 26, 2017

(Click here to watch the video if it’s not showing up on your mobile device)

Hello and welcome to another edition of the Royal Blue Mersey video analysis. This week, we’re going to take a look at a player whose poor performance recently lost him a starting position at Everton – that player, of course, is Joel Robles.

Now, before we get too critical of the Spanish goalkeeper, let’s talk briefly about what he does have going for him.

First, Joel is 6 feet, 5 inches tall. Keepers are routinely over 6 feet tall, but 6 foot 5 is well above average in terms of Premier League goalkeeper size. That means that, if well-positioned, he can reach to make saves that shorter keepers wouldn’t even have a shot at.

Second, Joel is a good reflexive shot-stopper. By that I mean that, if well-positioned, he reacts to shots coming his way and gets some part of his body in front of it incredibly quickly, especially for such a large keeper. Often, keepers of his stature struggle to get their limbs in front of shots quickly – this isn’t usually an issue for Joel.

The combination of these two things means Joel can make some outrageously good saves when he’s on his game – like that one against Liverpool.

This shot is curling toward the far post, but with his superior size and reflexes, Joel is able to just get his fingertips to the ball in time to push it away. On this last look, you can see how he needed every inch of his size to make the play.

He made a similar save against Phillipe Coutinho earlier in the same match. With his height, getting up to the shot is much easier than it might be for other goalkeepers. He needs a little help to finish clearing the chance, but a smaller or slower keeper would not have been able to even give a defender a chance to clear the ball.

So, clearly Joel has some important strengths. But, obviously a lot has been going wrong for Joel to have been benched against Burnley.

The reality is that despite his obvious strengths, his positioning and decision-making are poor far too often for him to be a starter at this level, as we see on this goal from Sadio Mane.

Mane takes a good shot, and Joel is obviously not helped by his defense on Mane’s run, and the first few angles here make it tough to tell exactly what goes wrong for Joel on the shot. But look at this last angle from behind the net -- you can see Joel put all of his weight on his right foot just as the shot comes in – to the keeper’s left – giving him no chance to make a save

This is just one example of Robles getting, in a way, overexcited and committing himself to a shot too early.

Another occurred on Divock Origi’s goal later that match. Again, it’s tough to see at first exactly what goes wrong for Robles, and once again, it is the rear angle that betrays Joel – watch him shift all his weight to his left before the shot comes in. He completely guesses wrong, and gives himself no chance to make a save.

Once again here, you can see his tendency to take himself out of the play by committing too early. Against Leicester City, he conceded a poor free kick goal as a result of a similar situation. Joel’s reaction here says it all.

Albrighton whips in an overhit cross, but Joel jumps forward before he’s even really seen the flight of the ball – he gambles on where the ball is already going, and loses the bet badly.

What’s so frustrating about Joel’s tendency to make mistakes is that he simply doesn’t need to overreact to shots and crosses in the way he does – he has the size and athleticism to be more patient in goal.

Check out this save against Burnley as an example.

Rather than chase all the way out to the attacker, Joel simply cuts off the angle, trusting that his immense size will cover the net.

But only minutes later, he failed to make a good decision in a similar situation, and it cost his team a goal.

I have absolutely no idea what Joel thought he saw here. The Burnley attacker has been forced so far wide that he’s creating absolutely no danger, but Joel insists on making a play anyway, conceding a penalty.

Joel is still only 26, still quite young in goalkeeper’s terms – his decision-making and positioning may improve over time. But Everton can no longer wait for that transformation to occur. The club’s margin for error in the hyper-competitive Premier League is too small to accept routine goalkeeping errors, and a new number 1 must be brought in over the summer as a result.