Manchester City continued their dominance of the Premier League with an emphatic win over Spurs at the weekend. A record-setting sixteen wins in a row have many believing the blues now have an unassailable lead at the top. There have been star performers throughout Pep Guardiola’s side this term. The style of one of those players in particular is helping redefine the position in which he plays. Ederson Santana de Moraes, known simply as Ederson, is more than simply a goalkeeper.
When Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich side were beaten 3-2 at the Etihad in 2014 Sergio Aguero’s brilliant hat-trick rightly stole the headlines. There was one statistic from the night though which would probably have escaped most onlookers.
Manuel Neuer in the Munich goal made 43 passes on the night with a completion rate of 81%. Joe Hart meanwhile completed just half of his 16 passes for City. One could argue that this particular stat is down to the stylistic differences of the teams. When Pep arrived in Manchester he clearly believed that Joe Hart didn’t have the ability to adapt to this style.
Although he was undeniably better with ball at his feet, Harts replacement Claudio Bravo failed to impress in his debut season. This lead to the summer capture of Brazilian Ederson from Benfica. His impact has been immediate.
Ederson has 8 clean sheets in City’s unbeaten first 17 games. It's the goalkeeper’s contribution going in the other direction which has caught the eye though. Against Tottenham he completed more passes in the match than both Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen in the Spurs midfield. His ability and accuracy are an essential element to Guardiola’s football style.
The ability of the Brazilian international to read the game is also a key component to his armoury. The way he rushes from his line to disrupt counter-attacks means he plays like a deep-lying sweeper. This effectively gives City an extra outfield player both in and out of possession. Not every keeper would have the skill set to play in this manner. Guardiola clearly identified early in his time that England's number one wasn’t up to it. It was a hard decision on the face of it, Hart was popular with team-mates and fans alike. Ederson’s performances have certainly vindicated that decision.
Ederson isn’t the only goalkeeper who plays in this fashion. Amongst others, Germans Manuel Neuer and Marc Ter Stegen are both adept with the ball at their feet in the ‘sweeper keeper’ style. There certainly isn’t anyone doing it better in the Premier League than the City number (thirty) one.
As Manchester City’s season goes on there is no doubt their vast array of attacking players will continue to grab the headlines. Ederson’s contribution shouldn’t be overlooked though. In the future all goalkeepers may be as fully rounded and accomplished as the City number one. If that is to be the case, I’m sure Ederson will be looked back on as one of the first of a new breed. For now he is City’s number one and he may yet go on to become the worlds best.