October 18, 2025: London, England. Standing in front of of the goal at the Shed End, Petr Cech assumes a familiar position. One hop to the left, a couple to the right, taps to the crossbar, and he’s ready. A young man steps to the step to take a penalty against the goalkeeping legend.
As he did throughout the majority of his career, Cech dives to his right, hoping to reject one more potential score. The young man, however, knows Cech’s patterns and chips the ball down the Middle and turns to the corner flag to celebrate. Unfortunately for him, the panenka and other penalties down the middle are no longer viable. After many long months, the goalkeepers’ union has finally won the right for keepers to stick mannequins of themselves in their goals for penalties. The ball bounces off the lifeless Cech and rolls back towards the penalty spot as the true Cech rises to celebrate this symbolic victory.
A trend of penalty takers shooting down the middle of the goal that began in the 2016-2017 season ballooned by 2020 causing current and former keepers to band together behind Cech against this practice which many claim has been ruining the game for nearly a decade. In 2016-2017 nearly a quarter of penalty attempts went down the middle which caused some to raise their eyebrows, but between 2020-2025 the percentage of penalties down the middle never fell below 45% and almost all were successful tries.
Faced with this trend, Cech formed a coalition of current and former goalkeepers who unionized and fought against the practice of penalties down the middle. While the mannequin proposal was eventually adopted by the Premier League, other proposals by the Keepers Union were not successful. Most notably, an early proposal would allow strikers to take penalties down the middle, but all penalties would have to be taken via rainbow flicks, thereby giving keepers time to adjust if they dive to the wrong side.
As the middle penalty debate grew, players that attempted the classic “Panenka” flick or just kicked the hell out of the ball straight down the middle were branded as talentless and lazy, despite the fact that keepers could not stop those types of strikes.
Many thought that strikers would fight against this proposal, but shockingly, the best strikers have taken the proposal as a challenge and boasted that they will retain their strong penalty records despite the mannequins.
While we don’t know if these claims will prove to be true, we do know that penalties in the Premier League will never be the same.
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