When Pep Guardiola took over Manchester City at the start of this season, much was made of their goalkeeper situation.
While Joe Hart had been with City since 2007, and made 266 first team appearances for the club, he was quickly dismissed by Guardiola, in favor of a keeper who was more skilled with his feet. Thus, Hart was promptly loaned out to Torino in Serie A, while City shelled out $20.9 million for Barcelona’s backup Claudio Bravo. Guardiola hailed the Chilean national team keeper as someone who was better with his feet than Hart, and thus more suited to play in Guardiola’s style.
I bet after Wednesday’s game, the City faithful are wishing they had Hart back in goal.
In City’s biggest game of the season so far, a midweek Champions’ League game at the Camp Nou, Bravo was undeniably the scapegoat in a 4-0 loss for the English side. In the 53rd minute, with his side down 1-0, Bravo came out to play the ball with his feet, and inexplicably kicked it right to Barcelona striker Luis Suarez. Suarez tried to deftly blast the ball into the open net, and Bravo reached up with his hand to save it, earning a red card because he was outside the box.
Down to ten men, City were lit up by a talented Barcelona side for three more goals, but all anyone wanted to talk about by the end of the game was Bravo’s boneheaded play.
Roy Keane, the former Manchester United captain, was especially critical of Bravo after the game, saying:
“I’ve never read or heard so much about a goalkeeper coming to a club about what he does with his feet. Ultimately the bottom line is he’s a goalkeeper and he wants to play out form the back and he wants to play as much as he can but not there and then. If one of your defenders does that you’d be critical of them, particularly for your goalkeeper and as I said there’s a time and a place and there’s a time to clear your lines. The decision making was all wrong there.”
I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in disagreement.
The issue is, this wasn’t an isolated incident. Bravo has been criticized for this same type of sloppy play in the Premier League, but has yet to pay the price. Needless to say, against a team as good as Barcelona, he felt the repercussions of his actions.
With this in mind, it raises the question, why did City buy Bravo at all? As demonstrated today, he hasn’t been that great with the ball at his feet, and as a shot stopper, he leaves a lot to be desired. Bravo has given up nine goals in eight games since arriving in Manchester, including some very dire results against the likes of Spurs and Celtic.
Meanwhile, Joe Hart has been playing very well in Torino, giving up just five goals in six games, with a much inferior side to City’s in front of him. Considering Bravo’s recent blunders, you have to wonder if Guardiola is seriously regretting his decision right now.
To be clear, I fully believe Bravo is a better keeper than what he has shown over the past few games for City. However, it’s looking more and more everyday like Hart was the better man between the posts for the Manchester side. Time will certainly tell if this was a good long-term solution at goalkeeper by Guardiola, but in the short term it certainly feels like he made the wrong move in selecting Bravo.