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Manchester City

Can new Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson bring out the best of Claudio Bravo?

The Boot Room

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Claudio Bravo

Claudio Bravo endured what was probably the worst year of his career after his debut for Manchester City turned sour in the Manchester Derby last season.  A miscalculation saw him come off his line in an ill-fated attempt to reach a Wayne Rooney free kick. Zlatan Ibrahimovic capitalised on the error and successfully shot into the goal mouth, where Bravo was nowhere to be seen.

It did not help that many City fans were still smarting from the sudden departure of long time goalkeeping stalwart and fan-favourite, Joe Hart. Hart left on loan for Torino after it became clear that he would not feature as the number one goalkeeper for Manchester City. As a result, it was easy for those fans who sympathised with the Englishman to quickly turn against the new Chilean keeper after his glaring mistake in the derby.

Bravo’s howler against United was just the first in a season-long string of poor performances at City. By January of the 2016-17 season, Bravo had conceded a horrid 43% of shots on target – the Premier League’s other top four goalkeepers were all performing better than him in this area. To add context, Bravo has saved only three out of 11 shots on target in his 2017 league games.

In sharp contrast, Bravo put in an exemplary performance for his national team. As Chile’s number one goalkeeper at the Confederations Cup this summer he won the competition’s Golden Glove and impressed the whole world in a semi-final penalty shoot-out. It was in this shoot-out that the Chilean put in his most epic performance to date. He saved three out of three penalty kicks to take his team to the final, which they eventually lost to Germany.

If Bravo remains at Manchester City it is likely that he will be the number two goalkeeper behind the new acquisition, Ederson Moraes.  The Brazilian keeper has impressed in pre-season making a number of eye-catching saves despite one significant mistake against Manchester United. He advanced too far off his line only to be beaten by Romelu Lukaku who slotted the ball into an empty net – shades of Claudio Bravo’s debut.

Pep Guardiola, whose memories of Claudio Bravo’s Premier League season are probably still fresh in his mind, has hinted that Ederson will be his number one choice. A recent ESPN article quoted the Catalan coach as saying:

“I never had doubts about the quality of Claudio, but we decided to buy Ederson. He has shown us amazing things in this period, not just the goal kicks, but also he saves a lot of balls and quickly closes down the space for the strikers.”

Bravo has indicated, however, that he is willing to rise to the task of fighting for his position and he is not bothered by the challenge. In an interview with Spanish outlet AS, before the impending arrival of Ederson, Bravo stated:

“There is always competition at this level. This was my experience at Colo Colo, the national team, Real Sociedad and City. My whole life has been about competition”

Indeed, the Chilean will know this better than most. Only last year he was still at Barcelona where he shared the limelight with fellow accomplished goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen. The competition was so close between the two that up until Bravo’s departure for Manchester City it was still a matter of debate as to who was the number one goalkeeper at the Catalan club.

Claudio Bravo has openly stated that he is determined to stay at Manchester City and fight for his place. The question is, can that determination help him return to the finer form of his pre-City days? His record certainly suggests that he can do that.

He obviously had the “right stuff”at Barcelona to challenge a very talented and much younger Ter Stegen. Being a two time Copa America champion with the Chilean national team is also a demonstration of his drive.  He played a key role for the team in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals making two important saves in the penalty shoot-outs of both games. This year’s Confederations Cup performance was the latest reminder of his pedigree.

What was particularly amazing in Bravo’s Confederations Cup semi-final performance against Portugal was the fact that he was injured. This handicap did not stop him from rising to the challenge and giving everything. It was reported by ESPN that after the match he said:

“I was injured, I didn’t play and when I did, I didn’t perform at the level to which I’m accustomed. But I normally take things calmly and quietly. Like I said, I’m balanced.”

Such achievements over the past few years speak not just to Claudio Bravo’s extraordinary ability but also his character. And success requires great character in addition to talent. To accomplish what he has done so far in his career takes determination and professionalism.

If Bravo stays at the blue half of Manchester, Ederson should soon feel the pressure of that determination competing against him. This can only be good news for City who will be hoping that a rivalry between the two will bring forth the very best of two very talented goalkeepers.

The Boot Room is a football analysis website, bringing original and creative content to the fans of the English Football League.

Manchester City

Manuel Pellegrini’s poor China record should give West Ham cause for concern

The Chilean international looks set to join the Hammers.

Max Cohen

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Pellegrini
Photo: Getty Images

As Manuel Pellegrini inches closer to being named West Ham United’s new manager, many have applauded the potential appointment of a Premier League-winning boss.

With spells at some of the world’s most successful clubs, the Chilean is certainly an impressive acquisition for the Hammers.

Yet Pellegrini’s most recent coaching assignment has been nothing short of mediocre, a sign that should slightly worry West Ham supporters.

Pellegrini officially left Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune on Saturday, after just under two years at the club.

The Chilean was appointed in August 2016 and registered an unspectacular record at the club.

Pellegrini’s first season ended with Hebei in fourth position, yet the club missed out on AFC Champions League qualification by one place.

This year, the team has taken a dramatic step back in the opening months of the season.

(Photo by Geoff Caddick/Getty Images)

Under Pellegrini’s management, Hebei China Fortune currently sit eighth out of the 16-team Chinese Super League.

The side has only picked up just 15 points from 11 matches to date, a disappointing return considering Pellegrini has talents such as Ezequiel Lavezzi, Hernanes, and Gervinho at his disposal.

As the Chinese Super League is a far less important and internationally relevant league than La Liga or the Premier League, Pellegrini can perhaps be forgiven for not taking his job as seriously as his past assignments at Malaga, Real Madrid, and Manchester City.

Yet, his Chinese struggles are worrying nonetheless, as ideally West Ham supporters would like to be acquiring the services of a manager who enjoyed success at his most recent club.

In all, the ex-Manchester City manager still has a Premier League title to his name, a fact that makes his recent tough spell in Asia less concerning.

Nevertheless, Manuel Pellegrini’s underwhelming time at Hebei China Fortune reveals that the manager still possesses flaws and should not be expected to work immediate wonders at West Ham.

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Manchester City

Record-breaking Manchester City show Pep Guardiola was right not to change his philosophy

The Spaniard won his first Premier League title in swashbuckling style.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

When Pep Guardiola was appointed as manager of Manchester City in the summer of 2016 it is fair to say that his arrival was met with a mixed reaction throughout British football.

First, there was obvious excitement throughout the blue half of Manchester. Guardiola was widely regarded one of the best managers of his generation after trophy-laden spells with Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

He was renowned for the exciting, possession-based style of play that he implemented and the team that he built at the Nou Camp at the start of the twenty-first century produced some of the best football of the modern era.

Then there were the sceptics – and there were plenty of them. The comments were predictable and filled with clichés, unevidenced assumptions and meaningless jargon.

It was suggested that Guardiola had only won trophies with clubs where the race for the title was a two-horse race at best and that he had always inherited world-class players.

Furthermore, it was claimed that the Spaniard’s total-football philosophy would never work in the hustle and bustle of English football.

His technical style of play would come unstuck in the so-called ‘best league in the world’ and would not be effective on a cold, wet Tuesday night at places like Stoke City in front of a tribal, raucous home support.

In his debut season with Manchester City some of the negative predictions appeared to be coming true.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Despite winning all of their opening 10 games of the season under Guardiola, City experienced a poor run of form during the Christmas period that left them trailing their title rivals.

The team were unpredictable and inconsistent during the second half of the campaign and heavy defeats against Everton (4-0) and Leicester City (4-2) left many onlookers wondering if Guardiola had finally been sussed.

The Spaniard never shied away from the critics and he staunchly defended his philosophy despite some poor results and vowed that he would not change his style of play.

City finished the season without a trophy and the sceptics went into the summer proclaiming how they had correctly predicted Guardiola’s failure.

What a difference a year can make.

City’s last-gasp victory against Southampton on the final day of the season rounded off what has been a record-breaking campaign in which Guardiola’s team have swept aside all before them in the Premier League.

The list of achievements is remarkable.

City this season have set new records for most consecutive wins (18), most goals scored (105), most wins (32), most away points won (16), most points (100), the biggest goal difference (+79) and the biggest points gap (19).

Suddenly the sceptics are beginning to look incredibly foolish.

In truth, it is hard to remember a campaign in the modern era where one team has been dominant from start to finish in the way that City have been. Furthermore, not only have the won, but they have won with style.

Guardiola’s playing philosophy has clicked over the last twelve months, undoubtedly aided by effective recruitment during the summer, and the team have played with flair, energy, creativity, pace and innovation.

Opponents, barring perhaps Liverpool, have simply not found any way to combat City’s free-flowing football.

(Photo by Paul Ellis/Getty Images)

Critics will still point to an early exit in the FA Cup against Wigan Athletic, where City played most of the game with ten men, and defeat in the Champions League to Liverpool, where a poor first half at Anfield effectively ended the tie before it had begun, but the success of Guardiola’s style of play is undoubted.

No one is suggesting that the Spaniard needs to alter his philosophy to meet the demands of the English game anymore.

Instead, it is English football that will need to change in order to meet the challenge of Guardiola’s football revolution.

The concern for other Premier League clubs is that City are threatening to establish themselves as the new dominant force in the domestic game. There is nothing to indicate that Guardiola or the team that he has assembled will be loosening their grip on the Premier League trophy any time soon.

The future is bright. Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, John Stones, Leroy Sane, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Aymeric Laporte and Ederson are all under the age of 26. This is a group of players that is still improving and will be hitting the peak years of their career over the next half-a-decade.

Manchester City’s success this season is just the start of what could turn into a period of unrivaled dominance, further underlining that Guardiola was right not to change his philosophy.

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English Premier League

With or without David Moyes, West Ham should target his former player John Stones

West Ham would be wise to swoop on the apparently fragile status of Stones’ Man City career.

Mathew Coull

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Back in 2013 then-Everton boss David Moyes secured the signature of a very highly rated young Yorkshireman named John Stones. The Everton manager signed the teenager from Barnsley for a fee reported by the BBC to be in the region of £3 million.

The same report suggested Everton fended off interest from the likes of Chelsea, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Manchester City and Wigan Athletic to complete the deal.

Soon enough Stones started earning rave reviews among the Everton fanbase but Moyes himself never got much chance to work with the defender. Moyes left Everton for Manchester United just six months after signing Stones. The youngster then went on to become a regular in the Everton and England defence, eventually earning a move to Manchester City – reportedly worth £47.5 million, according to Sky Sports.

(Photo credit should read Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

But this summer, should Moyes consider trying to sign Stones once again.

Despite making big improvements to his game at Manchester City, Stones looks like he could leave The Etihad this summer. The champions signed French defender Aymeric Laporte in the winter and Stones currently finds himself fourth-choice centre-back at the club.

In order to continue improving and maintain his place in the England starting XI, the defender needs to be playing regular football. Moyes, now manager at West Ham United, has the opportunity to offer him just that.

Of course, much of this depends on whether West Ham retain Moyes as manager which, according to The Telegraph, looks increasingly unlikely.

Moyes would no doubt be a big lure for Stones if West Ham were to make a move for the player, clearly as a loan deal considering the vast sum necessary to pry him from City.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

But even if Moyes does go, West Ham should try and bring the England man to the London Stadium.

He could offer a brilliant ball-playing option at the back that West Ham fans would greatly appreciate. His experience of playing at a higher level could also be vital for the development of talented Irishman Declan Rice and in a back-three, often West Ham’s recent choice, Stones is a brilliant central defender.

So, with or without Moyes at West Ham, Stones should be on the radar for the London club this summer.

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