Shadowed by the Kop, Ilkay Gundogan stood desolate. The hopes of a first league victory at Anfield in just under twenty years had sailed two feet over the Liverpool crossbar. Yet more penalty woes for Manchester City.
It wasn’t as if Gundogan was a novice penalty taker. The German tucked away an effort from 12-yards against Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League final, putting his then employers, Borussia Dortmund, back level at the time.
But, whilst the Kop may have been empty on Sunday night, its presence still got the better of the German, who on the half hour mark fired high and wide over Allison’s goal. The Man City penalty crisis continued.
Since the start of the 2019/20 season, only Manchester United have been awarded more penalties than the Blues. Their fast-paced, incisive and dynamic attackers have the ability to cause havoc for defenders, whose only option is to bring them down illegally. Out of the 17 spot kicks given to City in that time, the conversion rate sits just above 50%. For every penalty they score, one is missed.
The list of culprits is almost endless: Ilkay Gundogan, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, Sergio Aguero and even the impeccable Kevin De Bruyne have all missed penalty-kicks for the four-time Premier League champions.
It’s been a constant theme since Pep Guardiola’s arrival in East Manchester and in his five years as City boss, only Yaya Toure boasts a 100% conversion rate from the spot, having scored three in his final two seasons at the club.
Such poor form saw an unlikely name thrown in the mix to revive City’s fortunes from 12-yards. Speaking in January 2020 after a 1-0 victory against Sheffield United, Pep Guardiola claimed goalkeeper Ederson “is the best” taker in the City ranks.
“Eddie is the best taker we have on the penalties” contested Guardiola. The statement was backed up by the man himself, who opened up about City’s troubles, backing his chances from the spot:
“I am the best penalty taker but I am not chosen to take them” added Ederson, speaking after teammate De Bruyne dragged a spot kick wide during the City vs Liverpool fixture at the Etihad Stadium in November 2020. Guardiola refuted the proposition, but as their penalty issues worsened in their latest trip to Anfield, the City manager hinted that his time might not be too far away.
South American goal scoring goalkeepers aren’t an uncommon phenomenon. Better known for his invention of the ‘scorpion kick’, most famously displayed in a 1995 friendly against England, René Higuita bagged 41 times during his 24 year career.
Eclipsing the Colombian, Paraguayan born José Luis Chilavert netted 36 goals for Argentine club Vélez Sarsfield and 67 times overall, whilst being one of only two goalkeepers to ever score a professional hat-trick. Developing a specialist talent for dead ball situations, Chilavert made 74 appearences for his national side, playing in five major tournaments and remarkably scoring eight goals.
Of the 16 goalkeepers to score more than 20 career goals, half of them are South American. Keepers are known universally for their nonconformist nature, but with a seemingly natural ability to score, goalkeepers from the continent fully encapsulate the ‘maverick’ tag.
Still, whilst some may have started the goal-keeper goal scoring trend, there’s only one that has mastered it – enter Rogério Ceni, the man between the sticks with the all-time goals record for a keeper.
With 131 goals to his name, Ceni gained a reputation for his exceptional finishing ability during his 28 year career with Brazilian side Sao Paulo. An impressive 61 of his total came from free-kicks, whilst 70 were from the spot – by contrast eternal legend of South American football, Diego Maradona only managed to convert 50 during his time as a professional.
Now the Flamengo manager, Ceni crossed boundaries previously left alone for outfield players. Despite never establishing himself as Brazil’s number one goalkeeper, Ederson himself has raved about the former Sao Paulo man’s achievements, admitting being inspired by the prolific goal-scorers talents.
Known for his abrasive playing style himself, Ederson isn’t afraid to ignore convention and do things his own way. Often found in questionable positions outside his own 18-yard-box, the 27-year-old has gained plaudits for his ‘sweeper-keeper’ abilities.
The Brazil international holds all the key components that make up the modern day goalkeeper; incredible shot-stopping capabilities are combined with an uncanny nous for picking a pass wherever a teammate might be on the pitch.
After threatening to since arriving in England, Ederson achieved the inevitable in 2018, assisting Sergio Aguero for the opening goal in a 6-1 victory against Huddersfield Town. Stretching from one penalty box to the other, the pass demonstrated the immense footballing ability the ex-Benfica and Rio Ave keeper possesses. Approaching his 200th appearance as a City player, it’s remarkable that Ederson hasn’t caught the opposition goalkeeper out and scored a goal himself.
If the talented ‘keeper was to score for theBlues, be that from 12 or 80 yards out, he’d become only the sixth goalkeeper in Premier League history to do so and the first since Asmir Begovic netted for Stoke City against Southampton in 2013.
However, none of the goals scored by keepers had come after being designated as the authority of a penalty or a freekick – most efforts came from overhit goal kicks, or last-minute scrambles in the penalty box.
Pep’s entire career has been based around subverting the rule book and inventing his own way of playing the game. From reinventing the ‘false-nine’ role, to converting full backs into midfielders, the ex-Barcelona and Bayern manager is comfortable with turning traditions on their heads.
Pep Guardiola on Man City’s penalties 🗣
“I’m going to think about Ederson, he might be the taker next time.”
Make it happen Pep! pic.twitter.com/QHAhFCG4XM
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) February 7, 2021
Whilst not a conventional tactic in the European game, South American keepers have consistently shown a knack for coming up with a goal and in the most unpredictable of seasons, Ederson stepping up for a pen might not be the most bizarre development we see.
There’s no doubt that if given the chance, Ederson would relish the opportunity to take a spot kick. The only question that remains is if Guardiola would allow him to risk the chance of conceding if his keeper was to get caught out down the other end.
But the inability of City’s players to convert penalties continues to provide a headache for the Catalan and the longer the issue persists, the closer Ederson becomes to being given the responsibility from the spot.