Deadwood: Why Manchester City must resolve club's goalkeeping issues

Manchester City unsurprisingly made light work of their FA Cup replay with Huddersfield in midweek, romping to a 5-1 win. That being said, the match wasn’t without the customary scare at the back as the Premier League side once again failed to keep a clean sheet. Pep Guardiola’s side have registered just six clean sheets in the Premier League this season, a disappointing return for a team harbouring title ambitions. Guardiola may been lauded for his tactical approach and meticulous planning for opponents, but a lack of serious investment in the defence has held them back this term.

With Claudio Bravo returning between the sticks for City in midweek, the usual concerns over the Chilean were once again brought to light. Harry Bunn opened the scoring for David Wagner’s side early on, firing through Bravo’s legs in what was a clear error of judgement by the former Barcelona man, and he could easily have shipped a second moments before the interval as Jack Payne came close to netting a second for Huddersfield. Bravo’s save was met by rapturous sarcastic applause from the home support, who are tiring of the 33-year-old’s inability to perform the basic goalkeeping duties, especially as his arrival hastened former favourite Joe Hart's departure.
Fans must fear the worst when the City lineup is announced and they see Bravo’s name on the teamsheet. Indeed, he has been beaten with the first shot against City’s goal in 13 of his 25 competitive appearances. Moreover, he has only saved the first shot on his goal on three of his last 11 outings, while from New Year's Eve onwards, he has made just one save from four league appearances, conceding eight goals in the process. A save success rate of just 53.4% is the worst in the Premier League this season, with Bravo proving a liability to City’s defensive resolve.
Much of the reason for his signing was down to Bravo’s ability to play the ball out from the back. Guardiola favours a goalkeeper who rather than simply denying opponents, is able to help instigate attacks, which is more important for a team that averages more possession (60.6%) than any other side in the Premier League this season. As such, Bravo’s acquisition made sense in that regard, with his pass success rate (84.3%) the best of all goalkeepers in Europe’s top five leagues last season, though that came as little shock considering Barcelona averaged 62.9% possession in La Liga last term, facing very little pressure in their own third.
Their sheer dominance of opponents meant Bravo found it easier to pick out a teammate, though his ability to find a Barcelona player ensured he was able to kickstart attacks rather than aimlessly punt the ball upfield. For City, this strength to his game hasn’t deserted him either with a 71.3% pass success rate from 31 passes per game a respectable return for the shotstopper. That being said, his pass accuracy is the third best in the Premier League this season behind Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris (71.7%) and Willy Caballero (73.7%).
Caballero, whose contract expires at the end of the season, has claimed the number one spot in the league and Champions League of late and City are perhaps better for it. While he is very much a temporary solution to a permanent problem, he’s holding his own having usurped Bravo between the sticks. Indeed, Caballero has kept two clean sheets from his six Premier League appearances, a stronger return than Bravo’s four from 19, and has a superior save success rate (66.7%) than his South American teammate. That isn’t to say Caballero has been immune to criticism upon his return to the first team fold, however.
In Manchester City’s enthralling 5-3 win over Monaco last month, Caballero was responsible for Kylian Mbappe’s first half strike as his long ball for Fernandinho found its way to Fabinho, who played in Monaco’s teenage sensation to fire past the City shotstopper. While a great finish by Mbappe, it was a goal that could have been avoided had the goalkeeper successfully picked out Fernandinho, who slotted in at left-back on the evening. That being said, his shotstopping ability was again on shown as he successfully denied Falcao his second hat-trick of the season, first from the penalty spot, then a smart stop with his foot.
That performance is unlikely to see his position in the starting XI come under considerable threat, especially after Bravo’s showing against Huddersfield, but there is still room for improvement in the goalkeeping department at the Etihad Stadium. “The performance from Claudio was amazing. He can start build-ups like no-one else can,” Guardiola said of Bravo after the 5-1 win over Huddersfield. The manager’s unwavering confidence in his summer signing is commendable to an extent, but there is no denying that the Chile international has flattered to deceive, noted in him being dropped by the Spanish boss.
Yet while Cabellero has filled the void well enough, City need to improve their last line of defence if they are to progress accordingly under Guardiola. Bravo has been an unmitigated failure of a signing following his arrival from Barcelona and with Caballero currently set to leave at the end of the campaign, it would be in Guardiola and the club’s best interests to identify possible goalkeeping targets sooner rather than later.
Source: All Football

No comments

Powered by Blogger.