The past week or so in football has highlighted the dynamic role Ederson plays in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side. There are two instances which immediately spring to mind, one which showcased the importance of Ederson’s sweeper-keeper instincts to the side, and another which perhaps doesn’t paint the Brazilian in as positive a light.
Flash back to the recent 4-0 victory over champions Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium. Midway through the first half, with the game still very much in the balance, a chipped through ball from the Liverpool midfield sent Mohamed Salah through for what seemed like a one-on-one chance to score. But Ederson came sprinting out to clear the danger, and a situation from which Liverpool would surely have scored against any other team was made null.
It’s Ederson’s starting position that makes such interventions possible, with the Brazilian tending to stand well outside his box when City are in possession, but such positioning leaves him vulnerable on rare occasions. This is what happened in City’s next match against Southampton. Olexsandr Zinchenko lost possession cheaply just inside his own half, before Saints’ Che Adams sent a lofted, curling effort, high over the advanced Ederson and into the City net.
It’s rare to see the pros and cons of Ederson’s goalkeeping instincts laid bare so clearly in two successive Premier League matches, but it’s fair to say that the benefits of his dynamic presence in the City rear-guard far outweigh the negatives. After all, the amount of chances he denies the opposition by simply being on hand to rush out and clear a potential one-on-one situation is far greater than the amount of times he is punished for his distance from his own goal.
Ederson has made this kind of rushing his trademark, with City and Guardiola the chief beneficiaries. Before he arrived at the Etihad, the team were lacking that confident presence in goal, with both Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero guilty of numerous mistakes in Guardiola’s first season in charge. The signing of Ederson coincided with – or effected, most would agree – a surging upturn in form, as City broke all kinds of records in winning the title in the 2017-18 season, including a rise to 18 clean sheets from a total of only 12 the season before. City went from being shaky to being sure-fire favourites each week in the Premier League odds.
You only need to look at Liverpool and Alisson to see the difference an assured goalkeeper can make to a team, and Ederson helped City ascend from mere title hopefuls to an unprecedented winning machine. He gives City that extra edge at the back, preventing goalscoring chances that other teams would almost certainly concede. His presence in goal undoubtedly causes strikers to think differently. The classic tactic of playing the ball in behind for a striker to run onto and score is hardly ever effective against City, and this is because of Ederson’s quick feet and his ability to read the game in nanoseconds. This was evident against Liverpool, where what seemed a goalscoring chance for Salah was quickly snuffled out.
There is a tendency to be too gushing in one’s praise for Ederson. After all, City have lost nine Premier League games this season, more than Manchester United, Arsenal and Wolves, but it seems as though these shortcomings are a result of the defenders in front of Ederson, rather than anything to do with the Brazilian himself. The fact that Guardiola has been forced to convert Fernandinho into a makeshift centre-half proves that City have lacked the requisite defensive strength to challenge Liverpool this season.
However, in Ederson they have a goalkeeper to inspire confidence in any defender. His mercurial presence allows City to play a high line with minimal risk, and he has transformed a side once defined by goalkeeping blunders in the days of Joe Hart, Caballero and Bravo. You would expect there to be more league titles coming to the Etihad before too long, and you can bet that Ederson will more than play his part in winning them.