Unique Ederson helps Manchester City return to the top of the table

Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League table with a 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night. It was a mixed performance from the defending champions. On the one hand, the visitors to Wembley created enough chances to have scored more than just a single goal on the other, their defending was sloppy at times and on another day they could easily have dropped points for the third time this season.

Ederson played a key role in ensuring they did not. It was his long kick which sent Raheem Sterling clear in the sixth minute, with the England international beating Kieran Trippier to the ball and then teeing up Riyad Mahrez to finish. It was a clear mistake by Trippier, who should have headed the ball clear rather than attempting to steer it back to Hugo Lloris, but the chance came about because of Ederson’s ability to generate both power and accuracy on his long passes forward.

The best example of the Brazilian’s prowess in that regard came in the 4-1 triumph over Tottenham last season. On that occasion, Mauricio Pochettino instructed his players to press high up the pitch in an attempt to disrupt City’s build-up play; the visitors also stationed themselves in advanced areas whenever their opponents had goal-kicks, trying to prevent Guardiola’s men from getting into their passing rhythm.

It did not work, largely because Ederson repeatedly bypassed the press by firing accurate diagonals to City’s forwards and setting his side on the attack. In total the former Benfica glovesman played a total of 19 long passes, which was substantially more than his season average of 3.7 per match. Kevin De Bruyne was sensational for City on that December afternoon, but Ederson was arguably his team’s most important player.

ederson

There were not as many instances of Ederson directly turning defence into attack at Wembley on Monday night, but he was still a leading contributor to the only goal of the game. He otherwise showed his usual composure in possession, as well as a willingness – perhaps strengthened by the state of the Wembley pitch following the weekend’s NFL action – to simply clear his lines when the situation called for it (indeed, the 25-year-old’s pass accuracy against Spurs was just 51.7 per cent, which is far lower than usual). Ederson’s decision-making is excellent, and given how often he has the ball at his feet it is testament to his quality that last term’s mistake in the defeat by Liverpool remains the sole high-profile example of him making a costly error.

The Brazilian also demonstrated more traditional goalkeeping attributes, namely when he raced off his line to deny Harry Kane a one-on-one shooting opportunity in the first half. That too was pivotal, and the speed with which Ederson bore down on the England international certainly seemed to take him by surprise.

“He has this quality, in the goal-kicks when the opposition makes high pressing and it is complicated now we have the chance to put the ball in the other box, and of course we have a little bit more space in the middle,” Guardiola said before the start of the 2017/18 campaign.

“When I was at Bayern Munich we played Benfica in the Champions League and he was there, and when we tried to analyse them we saw it four or five times and we organised a meeting to say ‘Guys, what’s the matter? What is that?’

“We tried to work about that because he has this quality to put the ball in the other box and it is not offside [from a goal-kick]. We spread out the opponents and we can have more space in the middle.”

Ederson’s long pass to set Sterling clear on Monday was from open play rather than a goal-kick, but it was yet another demonstration of the Brazilian’s phenomenal passing ability; many goalkeepers in the modern game are comfortable with the ball at their feet, but few can match the 25-year-old’s ability to ping it forward with such accuracy over long distances.

Not only is Ederson the perfect goalkeeper for a Guardiola team, he should also be considered one of the most significant signings Manchester City have made in recent years.

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