There is no doubt Claudio Bravo has the full backing of his manager ahead of Manchester City’s clash with Liverpool.
“Why should I doubt any player in my team? Why do you ask these questions?” a spiky Pep Guardiola said on Friday.
“It’s a team game and sometimes you make a mistake; sometimes you make a good save and sometimes not. But why should I not have any confidence with one player in my team? He wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
It was a staunch defence of a player whose errors in his first season in England were highly scrutinised, before he then lost his place to £35million man Ederson.
Bravo came on against Atalanta after Ederson sustained an injury, but his outing only lasted 36 minutes until a rash run from goal ended in a red card.
Still, with Ederson not fit to start at Anfield, Guardiola will be turning to Bravo again on Sunday. He insists he has no doubts about the former Barcelona man, who was the hero in the Community Shield penalty shoot-out win over Liverpool in August. But should he?
21 – Of the last 40 shots on target that Claudio Bravo has faced in the Premier League, he’s only saved 19 and conceded a goal with 21 of them. The Opta expected goals on target tally for these 40 shots was just 12.6. Recall? pic.twitter.com/ND2eLvfgEc
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 8, 2019
EDERSON IS STILL THE SHOT-STOPPING SUPREMO…
Exploring what might be called the basic elements of goalkeeping, there is little to argue against Ederson having the edge over Bravo.
The Brazilian has made 85 Premier League appearances, keeping 41 clean sheets – almost one every two games. Bravo, in 24 games, has managed six shut-outs, or one in four.
Ederson, of course, has been playing behind a stronger defence than Bravo did in 2016-17, when he made all but three of those appearances. Dig deeper, though, and the numbers are still not on Bravo’s side.
The Chile international has faced 64 Premier League shots on target, saving 37 of them, giving him a save percentage of 57.8. Ederson, with 145 saves from 202 shots on target faced, is at 71.8 per cent.
…AND HE IS DEFYING EXPECTATIONS
Going further, Ederson outperforms Bravo when it comes to Expected Goals on Target Conceded (xGOT) – Opta’s measure of the quality of a chance created by a team, and therefore a good indicator of how many goals a keeper can reasonably be expected to have conceded.
Excluding own goals, Ederson has conceded 57 times in the Premier League, with an xGOT rating of 62.9. Bravo, who has conceded 27 times, has an xGOT of 19.9.
In other words, Ederson should realistically have conceded six more goals than he has in England’s top flight, given the quality of chances his opponents created. As for Bravo, he has let in seven more goals than he should.
KLOPP’S RIGHT – EDERSON CHANGES HOW CITY PLAY
Speaking to Sky Sports, Klopp said this week: “If he wouldn’t play then [City’s game plan] would change, because Ederson is an important part of their game, 100 per cent. Bravo can do similar things, but exactly the same? Nobody can do [that]. That’s how it is.”
Although he didn’t specify what makes Ederson so crucial to City, it’s reasonable to assume Klopp was referring to his sweeper-keeper tendencies. And he has a point.
Ederson is a critical part of City’s possession play. He boasts a passing accuracy of 84.7 per cent, and he has completed 26.2 per cent of all passes ending in the final third – a hugely important ploy when it comes to escaping the Liverpool press.
He also has a massive ‘keeper sweeper’ accuracy of 95.1 per cent. Opta defines a keeper sweeper as any time that a goalkeeper rushes out at least to the edge of his area, under some pressure from an opposing forward racing to the ball, in which he reacts quickly and reads the play.
As for Bravo, his passing accuracy is down at 74 per cent, with his ‘keeper sweeper’ accuracy at 79.3 per cent. As for those long passes into the last third, he has completed only one in 10. Klopp does not need telling that those are significant drops.
To give Bravo his due, though, perhaps Guardiola is right not to be worried about the risk of mistakes, at least. Bravo has only twice committed an error leading to a shot or goal in the Premier League. Ederson has done so nine times.