Ederson: The linchpin for Manchester City’s success

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 30: Ederson Moraes of Manchester City in action during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on September 30, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 30: Ederson Moraes of Manchester City in action during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on September 30, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) /

Manchester City look and feel a team reborn from last season and while many new faces came over the summer, none have been as influential as their new goalkeeper Ederson.

Cast your mind back to last year and it all seems so far away. 2016 was a simpler time, with simpler pleasures. There was no Donald Trump, Rangers hadn’t been dumped out of Europa by a team that finished fourth in the Luxembourgian league, and, speaking of football, it was just a bit easier to write about. We had so many clone teams which were the low hanging fruit most ripe for the picking for lazy journalists. Manchester City, for example, fell squarely in a bundled group of “big attacking sides with papier-mâché defences”, the stereotypical glass cannon as it were.

Not just City, you could throw Liverpool and Arsenal in there too. All the same thing, really. They like to attack, tend to press high, score not too infrequently yet ship a lot of goals at the other end too. Can just write an article about how wildly bad Liverpool’s back four are and, a week or two later, copy and paste the very same for the Blues yet find-and-replace Dejan Lovren to John Stones.

Leaving aside the fact that Pep Guardiola’s system really isn’t the same “high press” style as is on show at Anfield, Pep plays a zonal game seeking to exploit spaces between lines in the opponents formations and find passes through them, there is some truth to the argument that these teams struggled when it came to conceding last term.  With so much else going on in the World however, 2017 is a different beast entirely, at least for Manchester City.

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By this time last season, City had played the same amount of games (7) and had the same amount of wins (6), but in the process had scored 4 goals less and conceded 5 more. Perhaps more clinically, their positive results were against lesser opposition while, when faced with a top team in Spurs, they buckled and had no answer. So far this season, Pep’s side have seen off Liverpool and Champions Chelsea in games that were…not very close at all. What’s the major difference?

Well, if it has to be condensed down into one individual, my vote goes for new goalkeeper Moraes Ederson. We all know how bad Claudio Bravo was last year, right? I mean, by January he had conceded 66% of all shots on target, the worst in the League by a measure, and the number continued to balloon so badly he got the hook later that month for Willy Caballero, despite the latter’s distinctly uncomfortable attempts to play out from the back as Guardiola desires.

Fast forward to present, and Ederson has let only two goals past him, despite an average 7 shots conceded per game and maintains the league’s best statistics for pass accuracy and number of clearances respectively. The man is a force, you just have to watch him. He runs head first out of his goal at the earliest opportunity, the like of which has not been seen at City for an age.

Not foolishly, mind you, but certainly it continues to take all, opposition strikers included, by surprise. He’s got reflexes too, some of the best around, and is an expert penalty saver who also has a history of averaging 1-2 assists per season with bullseye long throws/kicks. The most expensive, in pounds sterling at least, keeper ever, but worth every single penny.

And here’s the rub, that’s only Ederson. It’s clear to all who watch the like of Stones this year that he’s stepped it up a level. Otamendi too. Heck, even Guardiola experimenting with players who aren’t defenders as defenders hasn’t gone wrong, as Fabian Delph is remarkably showing. Why? I maintain that Ederson is a major contributor to this. The confidence that he exudes is palpable. Last year, a single defensive mistake, or a misplaced pass, or a trip, would almost certainly result in a goal. This year, Ederson’s on it and he is right now arguably among the safest pair of hands in football.

Ederson’s proven reliability has undoubtedly raised the performances of those in front of him, not even just the defence. His game is clearly ideal for what Pep is looking for and now he seems an irreplaceable part of the system. Guardiola may claim Bravo is still in the picture, but if the stats lie your eyes certainly don’t, Ederson is simply better and Claudio’s extended bench-warming time shows no sign of abating.

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Whether Manchester City capitalise on having a vastly improved defence, alongside arguably the most devastating attacking lineup in the league, is anyone’s guess. Certainly, many have suggested that City were one good goal keeper away from going the distance. Now they’ve got him and 2016 seems so very far away indeed.