Howard's Basic Instinct
Goalkeeper firm on his approach if cup tie heads to penalties.
Tim Howard has vowed to rely on his instincts should the high drama of penalties come into play at Wembley.
Two years ago the American saved spot kicks from Dimitar Berbatov and Rio Ferdinand as the Blues triumphed over Manchester United in the last four of the cup.
Howard has since established a reputation as a penalty-saving expert.
He has, however, dismissed the notion he will be conducting extensive research as to where Liverpool’s players like to dispatch spot kicks.
The ever-growing influence of technology and research was clear to see when the then-Manchester United keeper Ben Foster studied Tottenham players’ techniques on an iPod before a shootout in the 2009 Carling Cup final.
Howard has no such plans though and should the game go that far, he says he will do things the old-fashioned way.
He said: “I think saving penalties and goalkeeping in general has to be instinctual. If I watch too much film or video then that can play negatively on my mind.
“Going into a penalty shootout I want to be loose, I want to be able to make quick and precise decisions.
“These players are good enough to do anything they want. They can go high, low, down the middle – so it then becomes a mind game and I want to have a clear mind when I face a penalty.
“As far as what the shooter is going to do, as far as what Liverpool do, I don’t know that so I have to go with my instincts.
“If you have too many things going on in your mind about what you think you know then you can end up faking yourself out.
“Every goalkeeper is different. Some like to watch lots of video – I don’t.”
As for his own methodology for saving spot kicks, Howard says he uses no single strategy.
“I try and make a decision as to who the shooter is and what their tendencies are – whether they are a finesse guy or a power guy.
“I sometimes go against my better judgement and it works out for me – it just depends on the day.
“I really do feel it is instinctual – you get a feeling in your belly. Your player can have just shot and their shooter is 50 yards away walking up and I have been in moments where I have gone to walk to the line and decided to go against what I am feeling and it has worked. It really depends on the day. A lot of it is guesswork but there is intuition as well.”
Penalty shootouts have been a feature of the Blues’ various cup campaigns of recent seasons. Defeat in the last 16 of the Europa League to Fiorentina in 2008 left deep scars, but success against United in 2009 and at Chelsea in the FA Cup last season shows the Blues have what it takes to emerge victorious.
Howard added: “More so than any other team I have been on – and granted I have been in this team for longer than any other – there is a bunch of guys who are not afraid of that moment.
“They have been in that moment and failed and been in that moment and succeeded, and I think that is very important. We have guys who know what it feels like to fail and are still happy to step up and take their chances.
“So we should have every confidence in the world should it come to that. But hopefully it will all be sorted out long before that.”