Pep Guardiola’s arrival at Manchester City was always going to bring big changes to the club, but many were left stunned as he favoured Willy Caballero over Joe Hart in their season opener against Sunderland on Saturday.
That decision was always going to get the media, pundits and fans talking in the attempt discover the reasons behind dropping England’s number one.
Just hours before their 5-0 win over Steaua Bucuresti yesterday, reports broke that Manchester City had agreed a £15m-£17m deal to bring Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to the Etihad, while Hart was forced to settle for a place on the bench once again.
“…the modern day sweeper-keeper…”
Every manager has their own philosophy as well as how they like their team to play the game, and Pep Guardiola clearly favours structured player positioning, possession and constant movement of the ball.
At Bayern, Pep had arguably the best goalkeeper in football today within his ranks and employed him as a so called sweeper-keeper, which is an approach that not only helps utilise the whole pitch but the entire 11 players on the field of play.
Manuel Neuer’s ability with the ball at his feet is what made him such a perfect fit for Guardiola’s possession-heavy style of football.
Neuer made 879 passes in the Bundesliga under the new City boss last season, and to put that into perspective, Premier League winner Riyad Mahrez made just 133 passes more playing in midfield for Leicester City last term.
In comparison, Joe Hart attempted just 390 passes in a City shirt in the 2015/16 season, just 44% of Germany’s number one.
“…build from the back, then attack…”
Manchester City’s capture of John Stones from Everton for £49.5m just further illustrates the style of football and the type of player Guardiola wants at the club.
The Barnsley born central defender isn’t your typical tall and aggressive centre back, he is a player that, while will not shy away from a tackle, dribbling out with ball from the back and his confidence on the ball is a big part of his game.
Pep had a similar character at Barcelona in the shape of Gerard Pique, and he clearly desires the same confidence from a goalkeeper with the ball at their feet.
In light of this, Joe Hart registered just 6.34 successful passes per 90 minutes in the Premier League last season, which is a pass completion figure of just 56%, while his average pass length was 42.8 metres.
In contrast, Manuel Neuer made 20.86 successful passes per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga for Bayern last term, completing 80% of attempted passes in total, with a significantly lower average pass length of 27.1 metres.
“…the perfect alternative…”
Having signed a contract back in April to stay at Bayern until 2021, bringing Manuel Neuer to Manchester was somewhat out of the question, so Pep has needed to find an alternative solution.
If speculation is to be believed, Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo has been chosen to be that very solution and the statistics show why the choice was made.
The 33-year-old Chilean international is somewhat used to the possession mindset at Barcelona, so will likely be able to adapt instantly under his new boss.
Bravo made 611 passes in La Liga last season, successfully completing 85%, with a pass length of 27.8 metres, statistics strikingly similar to those of Neuer.
On top of this he also produced 3.4 saves per goal last term, a figure which bettered both Manuel Neuer (2.73) and the doomed Joe Hart (1.91) for their respective clubs.
Where next for Joe Hart?
It’s very unlikely Joe Hart will be happy to become the number two at the Etihad, which suggests a likely exit before the window slams shut at the end of the month.
At this stage of his career, no doubt it’s important that he will want to be in contention for winning silverware, and although he doesn’t fit Pep’s demands, he is still one of the best goalkeeper’s in Europe.
However there doesn’t appear to be many Premier League suitors, with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham all in possession of quality between the sticks.
The Merseyside duo of Liverpool and Everton are the Premier League teams seen as potential candidates and the current standout favourites for his signature.
Liverpool have fallen from 16/1 to 9/1 and again to 7/4 of the last two weeks prior to Bravo’s arrival.
It should be a rumour-filled week ahead.