Long gone are the days when goalkeepers were cut from cloth deemed unsuitable for an outfield berth, with the biggest player on the playground stuck between the sticks in an effort to provide the greatest shield in the last line of defence.
Nowadays, the first name on the teamsheet has to be as comfortable with the ball at his feet as he is working with his hands, and as reliable in the air as he is on the deck.
They have to be an organiser, a leader of those in front of them, a sweeper behind the defensive line and a performer that can be relied upon to produce moments of match-altering brilliance regardless of whether they have faced one shot or 100.
Keepers are now a creative force to be reckoned with, with as many sides looking to play their way out from the back as there are those who like to lump it long – with the very best in the business managing to strike a healthy balance between those contrasting approaches.
Who, though, can consider themselves to be among the cream of the Premier League crop, with distribution as important to their all round game as producing a fingertip save or last-ditch clearance when forced from the comfort zone of their penalty area?
Working with the statistics generated during the 2015/16 campaign to date, by those with 10 or more top-flight appearances, there is a clear winner when it comes to accuracy off boot and out of glove – and the name at the top of the charts may come as a surprise to some.
Tim Howard is a goalkeeper with close to 400 Premier League appearances to his name and over 100 caps for his country, but he is also a man who has divided opinion of late, with there a few Everton supporters no longer convinced that he is the right man for the their job at the age of 36.
There can, however, be no doubting his value to the cause when it comes to retaining possession and ensuring that the next touch of the ball after his is from a Toffees teammate, with the American proving that he is anything but wasteful in possession.
He is, of course, working under the guidance of Roberto Martinez, a manager who encourages his troops to be pleasing on the eye, but for Howard to have posted 82 accurate kicks (eight more than his closest challenger) and 103 on-target throws (30 more than fellow countryman Brad Guzan at Aston Villa) is some going.
Of the others to have fared admirably in both departments, the rise to prominence of Jack Butland at Stoke City is reflected in his numbers (74 & 39), Heurelho Gomes is one of many defying the odds at Watford (69 & 57), while Norwich City’s John Ruddy is a model of consistency (65 & 65).
— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) November 1, 2015
It should come as little surprise to find that Petr Cech indulges in a lot of rolling or throwing of the ball at Arsenal, as they push out from deep whether turning out in domestic competition or chasing a great escape from their Champions League group, where they are 23/10 at the time of writing to qualify in the Uefa competitions betting. But Hugo Lloris’ count of 50 and 47 seems a little low for a keeper of his obvious talent and one turning out for a classy Tottenham Hotspur side.
Perhaps, as is likely to be the case with Manchester’s finest David de Gea and Joe Hart, he does not see as much of the ball to be creative with, with those in front of him doing a fine job of keeping opponents at arm’s length, ensuring that their respective numbers one remain relatively underworked.
It is, however, intriguing to find that Kasper Schmeichel, part of a Leicester City team that found themselves at the top of the table last week, is the weakest performer when it comes to distribution – despite being an ever-present.
He has found a teammate just 30 times when kicking in their direction, and 29 times when using his hands, with there clearly an area of his game to work on there if the son of a Premier League legend is to be held in such high regard in his own right further down the line.