When Pep Guardiola arrived in the blue half of Manchester in 2016 bringing in Chile international Claudio Bravo from F.C Barcelona, many saw this as a revolution. Known for his ability with his feet, it seemed a match made in heaven for Pep’s style of play.
A first trophyless season and a 3rd place finish led to a disastrous debut season in England for the Spaniard. In 22 games, Bravo conceded 26 goals averaging a goals/per game ratio of 0.85. Albeit his season interrupted through injury too, it was mainly poor form that saw him benched for deputy Willy Caballero.
The stats don’t read well for the shot-stopper. By the new year, the Chilean had a period of conceding 14 goals from 22 shots faced. He also hadn’t made a save for 8 consecutive shots on target at one stage. Ranked 25th for shots saved in ’16/17, he was only one place above stand in Caballero.
Although Bravo could be defended by needing time to adapt, it should be considered that he was brought in for his ability on the ball. Once again – it’s not something the number one wants to read. 665 passes ranks him 17th, 16 places and 463 passes behind surprising number one passer that year, Tom Heaton.
In fact, even with his pass-per-game average of 28.76 – had he played every game game this season he wold still only rank 5th behind Heaton, Ben Foster, Hugo Lloris and Heurelho Gomes.
Enter Ederson Moraes.
Paying £34.7mil for his signature from Benfica (a then British-record fee for a goalkeeper) but this time doubt lingered amongst the City fans. After Bravo’s disaster season, some expected the same from a goalkeeper with not much experience playing at the big stage. Number two to the then AS Roma and now Liverpool number one Alison, and it being a long time since Benfica have competed at the later stages of the Champions League, understandably there were nerves around the Etihad for the season opener against Brighton.
A solid 2-0 and a clean sheet settled those nerves for a while. But a ‘high-foot’ from Sadio Mane left Ederson needing stitches and missing two fixtures – and a Petr Cech-esque helmet was donned upon his return.
An unproven, but possible, transference of skill via headgear resulted in a Premier League and Carabao Cup double, racking up 16 clean sheets in 36 league appearances for the Brazilian. 928 passes ranked him 13th that year, however a change in style of play adopted by Premier League teams ensued with much higher passing statistics for all goalkeepers.
8 ‘keepers compared to the previous season’s 4 broke the 1,000 pass mark. However Ederson’s pass completion was 12% higher than his predecessor, with Ederson’s 85% compared to Bravo’s to 73%.
Admittedly there were other factors that contributed to Ederson’s better statistics. City’s ageing defence was another huge hinderance for Pep’s style of play. Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy and Aleksander Kolarov were all disposed of and over £100mil was spent on securing Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy which boosted the back line of the sky blue’s.
Is the impossible, possible?
With another Carabao cup final coming up on February 24th and their Champions League last-16 first leg against Schalke next Wednesday, there still remains the question if Manchester City can win the quadruple. No team has achieved this feat since the Premier League’s introduction in 1992, but we could be looking at the first team to come close.
That famous (or infamous depending on your allegiances) season of ’98/99 in which the red half of Manchester in Manchester United won the Premier League, FA Cup and European treble seems like a lifetime ago and has seemed undoable ever since.
But this team has an aura about them. 74 league goals sees City comfortably ahead of Barcelona (60), Juventus (49) and PSG (68). In fact it’s the Dutchmen in PSV Eindhoven (71) and Ajax (72) who come close to them.
This even more efficent prolificacy in front of goal, along with a world-class defence and goalkeeper really does make the boys in blue serious contenders on all fronts this season and possible history makers – again – and the tattooed Number 31 is playing a fundamental role in doing so.
After the 6-0 thrashing of Chelsea on Sunday, next up for City is a possibly problematic 5th round FA Cup tie in South Wales against Newport County. A win at the weekend on a poor quality pitch could give the Cityzens the confidence to snatch all 4 pieces of silverware.
Do you think Ederson has pushed City to the next level? Do you think they can win all 4 trophies? Let us know your thoughts below!