Despite making a high-profile blunder in a friendly, Ederson is still the right man for Manchester City for Pep Guardiola’s high pressure project
Pep Guardiola is well-known for being a great – yet, very picky – manager in his selection of players, especially in the goalkeeping role. The Spanish tactician decided to put his faith in former Benfica man, Ederson. Has the Brazilian made the right choice in joining Manchester City, in a World Cup season?
Guardiola was quick to grab all the attention in the English media, as soon as he began his work at City, last season. One of his first major decisions was to drop fan-favorite Joe Hart. While this choice was regarded as a controversial one – especially with Claudio Bravo’s failure to adapt to the Premier League – Pep never seemed concerned about it, not even for a moment.
As a matter of fact, Hart had to go on loan to Serie A’s Torino, before returning to his home-country with West Ham. With the Chilean’s worrying form and with Willy Caballero being released from the club, it was time to buy a replacement.
Ederson showed a lot of promising signs during his time in Portugal, but his performance in a direct confrontation between Bayern Munich and Benfica in the Champions League in 2015, meant that the 23-year old had caught Guardiola’s attention. Two years later, he and Pep have joined forces, as City announced the Moraes’ transfer for around $47 million, making him the second most expensive goalkeeper in football history – behind none other than Gianluigi Buffon ($61 million).
What makes Ederson fit in City’s plans? As mentioned above, Pep is very loyal to his philosophy and is always ready to take high-risk steps in order to maintain it. For the coaching legend, a goalkeeper is a footballer as well – and every footballer should have real skills with his feet, on the ball.
Retaining possession is absolutely fundamental, and for that, you need your goalie to be capable of absorbing pressure, and still make the correct decision. In so many cases, a goalkeeper gives away the ball very cheaply, with a brainless long-balls when he could have easily found an unmarked teammate.
This usually happens when the player does not trust his own passing skills, not even for a basic pass – let alone if he was to take a “major risk” – so he is permanently looking to clear the ball away as soon as possible. However, Ederson understands the system requirements, and is intelligent enough to play to find a way to retain possession, in situations where the likes of Joe Hart would have wasted it.
In a Guardiola system, the back-line is often pushing higher than usual, which means that in case a mistake occurs, the opponent will find space to exploit on counter-attacks, and can easily find himself in one-on-one situations with goalkeepers.
For this reason, Pep wants his man to leave the penalty box and operate, alla Manuel Neuer, as a libero. Of course, quick reflexes and blocking shots are absolutely vital. A great goalkeeper excels in saving his team from dangerous situations, but an intelligent one thrives in preventing these situations from occurring in the first place. Against Manchester United in the pre-season friendly in USA, Ederson made a long run to try and clear the ball before Lukaku got to the penalty box – as he was unmarked. While it is true that it resulted in what was considered a blunder, it is also important to confirm that Ederson took the convenient decision. This is how Guardiola typically wants his goalkeeper to be, knowing that there is always a risk of failure.
But at the end of the day, the most important question to ask has to be, “does maintaining this system eventually pay dividends?” It has been the philosophy that has helped Pep build his legacy throughout his coaching career. This is Pep Guardiola, he comes as a full-package. You either take it all, or leave it all.