The sweeper keeper, in addition to performing traditional goalkeeping duties, sweeps up balls outside his penalty area and also initiates counter-attacking moves with precise through balls to the forward players.
This however does not mean that the sweeper keeper role is superior to the traditional goalkeeping role in football manager by virtue of performing extra duties.
Depending on your tactic, the goalkeeper might be better suited, especially if you are managing a team that is not exactly a world-beater, and you are more worried about your defence keeping things tight at the back rather than assigning some of their members extra attacking duties that might backfire spectacularly.
Since the sweeper keeper is occasionally expected to move outside his penalty area to kickstart attacking moves, it only makes sense to use a higher defensive line for your backline to further pin back the opposition to make it easier to progress the ball quickly up the field.
Out of possession and still using the high line in defence, the sweeper keeper will be quick to latch onto through balls played to the opposition’s strikers before they can get a chance at taking shots on goal.
The number of times your sweeper keeper will be effective in doing this depends on his attributes. If the attributes are not up to par for the opposition he is facing, your sweeper keeper will struggle to impose himself and will likely give up easy goals.
This might come from either misjudging through balls leaving an attacker with an open goal to slot the ball home, or easily losing the ball when playing out of defence because he can not handle the press of the superior players he is facing.
When And How To Use The Sweeper Keeper In Football Manager
Ederson and Pep at Man City have revolutionized how goalkeepers go about their business. Admittedly, there have been other sweeper keepers in the past including the likes of Manuel Neuer, but the popularity of the English Premier League in addition to Man city’s dominance in the league in this golden age of social media has made Ederson be the torch-bearer for the sweeper keeper position.
When Pep first arrived in England, he cast aside Joe Hart, a goalkeeper who at the time many rightly considered to be amongst the best in the world, for Claudio Bravo, who was more comfortable with the ball at his feet.
Pep’s system needed a goalkeeper who could recycle possession as well as rush out of his 18-yard box to intercept through balls as his defensive line is normally very high, leaving acres of space that can be easily exploited by the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy who are always willing to run in behind the defence.
Claudio Bravo did not work out, mainly because of his subpar shot-stopping ability, prompting Pep to go after Benfica’s goalkeeper at the time, Ederson Moraes.
Ederson has since formed the foundation of Pep’s possession-based system at Man City and even has a few assists to his name, showcasing his impressive passing, vision and technique.
I only ever use the Sweeper keeper role in football manager when managing a big team and using a system that plays with a high defensive line.
In a back four tactic, I would have wing backs in the fullback positions and two ball-playing defenders at centre back. Keep in mind that the ball-playing defenders you choose should not have a cover duty.
This is because the cover duty encourages the defender to slightly drop behind the defensive line to stop counter-attacks, which is a duty our sweeper keeper should be doing.
The defend, support and attack duties for the sweeper keeper dictates how aggressive he is when in possession of the ball.
In the defend duty, he will largely play it safe, not risking too much when bringing the ball out of defence. At the extreme end of the attack duty, the sweeper keeper basically becomes Ederson 2.0, not afraid of taking risks in finding his teammates in better positions or confidently rushing out of the 18-yard box for 50-50 balls other keepers are normally contented to let their defence deal with.
The support duty finds a happy balance between the two extremes of the defend and attack duty, similar to how Allison goes about his business at Liverpool.
If you are using a defensive midfielder, I find it better to have one who is mobile, like the Segundo Volante or the deep lying playmaker on support duty. The regista if you have the player for it is also an excellent choice for this kind of system.
Since the team is pushing the opposition high up the pitch, your defensive midfielder should have the freedom to move into positions where he feels he will be most effective which is why I find the added mobility in the roles above to be effective.
However, if your wing backs are extremely attack-minded, it is better to sacrifice the mobility of your defensive midfielder in favour of more static roles like the halfback to offer more solidity for your defence when the fullbacks bomb forward.
Should you not have a goalkeeper comfortable playing the sweeper keeper role, it is better to build a system that does not need it, as you will only give up easy goals that can easily be avoided. You can also check this guide on how to set up a good scouting network to quickly unearth unknown gems who can form the backbone of your team for years, or sell them for a profit once they hit their peak.