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Lewes v Sunderland - Barclays Women’s Championship

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Is Sunderland Women’s Claudia Moan the best goalkeeper in the league?

Best goalkeeper in the league? Charlotte Patterson certainly thinks so, and that’s without any bias!

Photo by Steve Bardens - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

The recent success and attention Claudia Moan has attracted on the main stage this season could easily have driven her to have a chip on her shoulder, but her humility and self-awareness have kept her feet firmly rooted to the ground.

Knowing she still has so much more potential and to show, her disciplined approach to training has acted as a direct catalyst for her continuous growth on the pitch. Undisturbed by the pressure of being the club’s trusted last line of defence, she guards her goal with a tranquil mind, letting her decisive actions speak on her behalf.

The Grangetown shot-stopper is a perfect example of the value of fundamentals; she performs her job exceptionally well by combining deft footwork with strategic placement.

Claudia Moan is a 24-year-old, five foot seven and a half goalkeeper with a strong frame and excellent reach. She favours quite a deep starting position, usually inside the six yard box, relying on her arm span and mobility to reach longer shots.

Her positioning is strong and it is rare to see her caught out, especially at the near post. Her stance is fairly orthodox, crouching forwards with slightly bent knees, hands to her sides but a little splayed. She does occasionally swing her arms behind her to generate movement, but generally manages to get them towards the shot so the slight time compensation required for this backwards movement is not a massive impediment.

Sunderland v Watford - Barclays Women’s Championship Photo by Richard Callis/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Moan has everything needed to effectively contribute to a modern day style of play, particularly in a time when the keeper is a crucial and indispensable component of a team’s build-up. She is always shifting in regard to the ball and adjusting her body form to provide the angle of support needed to receive a pass and hold onto possession while her teammates are trying to advance the ball out of their defensive third.

Her distribution is good and she seems with the ball at her feet. Although she is right-footed, she has good control over her left foot and can pass short from that side when needed. She usually clips or strokes the ball out, frequently angling it towards half-way out wide to release her full-backs or pushing a short pass forward to a midfielder who is dropping; she can also handle pressing reasonably well, attempting to pass a little bit ahead of the receiver so they can run onto the ball.

She exudes the same composure in the presence of opponents hovering around her, knowing when to hold the ball and lure in the press to liberate a teammate and make them accessible for the pass. If she is not building up play with her feet, she is in constant communication with her defenders to prepare them for the next pass. A significant component of Sunderland’s will to create from the back is having a custodian with such a valuable skill set and comfort on the ball.

Southampton FC v Sunderland Ladies - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Steve Bardens - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

The Sunderland keeper takes her time finding her position. She takes slow, deliberate strides around the goal-mouth, carefully adjusting her stance and keeping her form poised even as the ball moves in unpredictable ways. Moan’s ability to stabilise herself when travelling quickly across goal to set for a save, keeping her feet on the ground and staying in control of her body, is invaluable: her close-range save against Lewes FC last weekend would not have been possible without it. For strikes emerging from outside the penalty box, her deeper position increases her reaction time to better manage the oncoming shot.

Her eagerness to read the play demonstrates her ability to neutralize through-ball attacking threats and be a useful presence in one-on-one scenarios. Although cutting off the line to close the distance on a lone attacker always carries some danger, Moan believes that her willingness to step in and her technical proficiency make it worthwhile. Capable of switching between smothering and spreading saves, she doesn’t hesitate to transform into a human shield in the path of fire to save her objective.

She is agile, quick to react, and has the ability to cover ground with her power step and extend her body in a flexible fashion to block even the most precise blows. When crosses enter the box, her defenders can feel confident in her because of her calm and collected demeanour. She puts a lot of trust in her hands and is comfortable leaping through traffic to claim them. Her body control, rapid feet, and timing are flawless, and she seldom misjudges a catch.

When in control, she maintains the same calm demeanour, providing the appropriate angles of support, adjusting play, and executing crucial passes over and through the opponents. She frequently searches deep for an open partner further up the field, taking use of their quickness and accuracy to clip balls into their path and quickly neutralise the initial defensive line of resistance.

Claudia is a vital component of Sunderland’s future due to her well-rounded technical profile, aptitude for reading the game, and calm demeanour. There is still a plethora of time for her to continue this amazing development and polish certain areas of her skillset. Despite Sunderland only conceding four goals so far this season, when she is called to action, she is captivating to watch and players and fans alike know we’re in safe hands.



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