For all the plaudits Pep Guardiola’s Man City side have received for their sumptuous attacking play this season, it’s easy to forget that in many ways nothing has changed in terms of The Citizens forward play.
The likes of Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne were all at the Etihad last season, and it is in fact, the changes at the back and particularly in goal that have given them the platform to morph into the best team the Premier League has ever seen.
After the abject failure of Guardiola’s, Claudio Bravo experiment last season many wondered if signing a relatively unknown 24-year-old Brazilian by the name of Ederson from the Portuguese league would solve City’s goalkeeping problems.
Sure the young shot-stopper had just won a League and Cup double with Benfica, but would he be able to handle the step up to the rough and tumble of the Premier League ?
After 18 games in England’s top-flight this season, the answer to that question is an emphatic yes.
Ederson, has been quite simply superb for City so far this term, and is tied with Man United’s David De Gea on the lowest amount of goals conceded which is 13.
However, in a Guardiola team being proficient at keeping the ball out of the net just isn’t enough, the former Barcelona coach demands that his man between the sticks becomes actively involved in his teams general play.
Ederson’s quite frankly ridiculous pass completion rate of 84% this season is a testament to his ability with the ball at his feet. To put this into perspective De Gea’s is 61%, as goalkeepers are so often hurried into playing long hopeful balls up the pitch.
In the recent Manchester Derby, apart from the obvious brilliance of his late double save, it was the Brazilian internationals superb short-range passing and immaculate close control that allowed City to retain possession with such ease.
Then last Saturday, as Spurs attempted to play City at their own game and pressurize him with their own high press, Ederson simply put on a sublime demonstration of medium to long-range passing to foil the men in Whites attempts at forcing the home side to cough possession in dangerous areas high up the pitch.
Despite all the attacking talent on show at the Etihad last weekend, it was actually a 60-yard drilled pass that Ederson played to Kyle Walker that was the real standout piece of technical brilliance during the 90 minutes.
The reality is however, that what City’s new goalkeeper brings to his sides defense and whole team for that matter, is not really measurable in the form of statistics, and it’s called confidence.
Last season with the unreliable Bravo in goal it seemed like every time a team pressed high or even shot they had a chance to score against Guardiola’s side, and that type of uncertainty spread throughout the team like wildfire.
The defenders and midfielders looked nervous in possession anywhere near their own box, as they were quite rightly afraid that any mistake could cost their team a goal.
In fact, it had many of us and maybe even some City’s players questioning whether Guardiola’s insistent on playing out from the goalkeeper would ever work in the Premier League.
This season has obviously proved it can, although you have to have the right goalkeeper to do it. The fear of a mistake that seemed to grip City’s defense at times has disappeared purely down to the confidence they now have in the man stationed behind them, and the same can be said for the midfield aswell. Even your forward players can be effected and can become demoralised if they don’t trust the people behind them.
Having a solid goalkeeper in your side spreads belief through a team just as quickly as having a poor one can take it away.
Although City’s attacking brilliance will always be the main talking point, in many ways it is the immensely talented Ederson who is their most important player.