Ederson becoming indispensable to Manchester City
Thirteen months ago Manchester City’s 2016-17 campaign began to take shape. Its season began on a strong note. Six wins in a row made the Sky Blues favourite to lift the Premier League trophy.
However, winter brought along not just snow but a bad turn of luck. Back-to-back defeats in December effectively killed City's title hopes. Ultimately, the club's third-place finish left it 15 points behind title winner Chelsea.
Pep Guardiola transforming his side into serial winners this season has been more than commendable. Twenty wins from 22 played games has placed the Citizens 15 points beyond all contenders. With the season barely halfway gone, City is all but assured of winning the title.
What is responsible for the incredible surge in form? Or rather who? In terms of personnel, Guardiola’s team is similar to last season. Nevertheless, two summer arrivals have been highly impressive.
Kyle Walker came in from Tottenham Hotspur, bringing a lasting solution to Pep's right-back crisis through his pace and guile.
Undoubtedly, however, the biggest improvement came between the sticks. When Guardiola exiled England number one Joe Hart to Turin, he signed Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo believing the Chilean would be a perfect fit for his style of play. About that...
Bravo was unable to keep up with the Premier League's intense competition. He fell into several errors that cost City vital points. Guardiola stuck with him through the season. When he didn't come good, City fans wondered whether their notoriously stubborn new boss would make at least one concession to English football's rigours by bringing Hart back.
The answer was no. Hart was banished again, this time to West Ham.
Pep looked instead to the transfer market, spending £35 million to sign Ederson Moraes from Portuguese club Benfica. The fee made the Brazilian world football's second most expensive goalkeeper.
Although some disagreed at first, it was money well spent to Guardiola. Whereas Bravo never looked comfortable in a City shirt, Ederson has settled well into his new surroundings. The Selecao number one looks every inch a world-class shotstopper. Crucially, he is comfortable enough on the ball to satisfy his manager’s needs.
Pep requires his goalkeeper to be able to build attacks from the back by passing to a nearby teammate rather than kicking long for his midfielders or forwards to win a 50-50 ball in the air. Unlike Bravo, Ederson has struck the ideal balance between using his hands and feet.
In the Manchester Derby, he also demonstrated the ability to bail out his defence. The double save that denied Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku a goal was torn directly from David de Gea's book.
Ederson is already being compared with De Gea, who is arguably the best in his position at the moment. Just 24, the Brazilian has enough time to draw level and surpass the Spaniard. Still, his current contribution to City cannot be overemphasized.
Last season, Guardiola’s attack was betrayed by poor defending and goalkeeping. With the foundations fortified, Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, and the now injured Gabriel Jesus have been free to run riot. City is on pace to score 110 goals, which would shatter Chelsea's 2009-10 mark of 103. For that, Pep has his new keeper to thank.