There can almost be a line drawn in the history; Manchester City before Ederson Moraes and Manchester City after. More so than the arrival of Pep Guardiola, the arrival of Ederson is the defining moment of this City team. He has established himself as one of, if not the best, keeper in the Premier League over these last 18 months and on Saturday against Chelsea, we just might get to see his best.
Ederson: The Man Who Makes the Difference
Where He Came From
When it was announced that Manchester City had signed Ederson Moraes from Benfica for £36 million, it was quite a surprise. There isn’t a tonne of talk about the Portuguese league outside of Portugal but it’s not like he didn’t have pedigree. Benfica are arguably the strongest team in the history of Portugal and their academy is highly touted.
The youth system at Benfica is one of the strongest in the world. They have some of the best talent scouts at any club in Europe, which has allowed them to debut talent from all over the world. Recently international players like Angel Di Maria, Jan Oblak, Ramires, David Luiz, Axel Witsel and Victor Lindelof burst into their first team.
The Man Himself
Ederson fits right into that group of players above. He came to Benfica in 2009 at age 16 and stayed for a few years before moveing away to find his feet. Once he did, he was brought back in 2015. He replaced Julio Cesar in the derby against Sporting in March of 2016 and never looked back. He secured five clean sheets in ten straight league wins down the stretch; a stretch which secured Ederson’s first league title.
The following season, he won a domestic treble with Benfica. Ederson lost two league games that season en route to that treble, really showing his stuff too. He secured 24 clean sheets across all comps that season as a 22-year-old. That is the type of quality that earns you a big time move to a big time club, and that’s what Manchester City did
Since his move to City, Ederson has continued his fine form. He’s played 65 games for the Cityzens and kept 31 clean sheets, while only losing five of those games. Five losses in his 65 games for City is pretty impressive, but when you isolate the league stats it’s even crazier. Ederson, since getting the number one shirt at Benfica, has lost just four of his 88 league starts at both City and Benfica.
What Makes Him So Good?
When anyone watches Manchester City, so many different players can stand out but it’s hard to find a player that’s more important to their style of play. The passing stats are obvious; he has completed over 80% of his passes at City. However, just how good Ederson is with his feet isn’t completely appreciated.
He has so much more control with the ball than almost any other goalkeeper. On Tuesday night against Watford, he was playing the ball and had all kinds of tricks. First, a no-look pass to Vincent Kompany, next, a clearance that literally went out of the stadium. At the end of the game, up 2-1 and under heavy pressure, he juggled a ball played back to him and blasted it a mile away.
He’s got more power in his kicks than anyone; he can hit a pass to any spot on the field. What stands out the most is that he knows he can, too. He tries things that any other keeper wouldn’t dream of. His defenders can give him any type of pass, just like when Nicolas Otamendi drilled a ball at him in the 90th minute against Watford. Standing on his goalline, he controlled it perfectly and blasted out of his own half without a step.
What That Does
His almost unheard of combination of kicking power and accuracy creates such a threat for City. When he has the ball, whether from a dead ball or in the run of play, City have a distinct and exclusive strategy. It starts with their forwards, whether that be Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling or Sergio Aguero. When Ederson has the ball, they immediately make runs into the space behind the opponents backline.
It doesn’t matter how far they go, Ederson has enough power to find them all the way on the other goalline. In the commentary of the Watford game, Jon Champion suggested the City coaches think he could score from a goal kick. That kind of threat combined with that kind of pace is a nightmare for any defender in the world but that is only the start of your problem because, once your defenders retreat, it opens up a chasm of space.
Filling that space are Manchester City’s most dangerous players. That space is where you find David Silva, Bernardo Silva and, when fit, Kevin De Bruyne. The long ball threat of Ederson opens up miles of space for those creative midfielders and, if you manage to cover their initial threat, you’re still not done because, at the base, is their three-man passing line of John Stones, Fernandinho and Aymeric Laporte and, once they have the ball, the whole process starts again.
Saturday: Chelsea v Manchester City
At Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Ederson’s quality will need to be on full display. Its starts with Chelsea – they are a team that want to keep the ball and have the talent to do so, even against City. When they don’t have the ball, Maurizio Sarri’s sides always bring a strong and complicated pressing scheme.
The press is always on in dead-ball situations, so Ederson will have to be extremely precise and calculated with his passes. He may need to hit more long balls than he usually does to try and keep the Chelsea team honest, and that might be the best thing for City. The Chelsea backline are certainly lacking in one major department: pace.
Aside from Antonio Rudiger, who can move pretty well, there isn’t any pace in that backline. It’s always fun to watch Marcos Alonso keep up with Raheem Sterling, or David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta chasing Leroy Sane. If Sane or Sterling or Mahrez even have a step on his defender, no matter how far, Ederson can utilize it.
That is a huge weapon to use when countering a press but there will still be plenty of times where Ederson is going to play into that press; where he will pass to Laporte or Fernandinho when their under pressure and they know they can hit it right back to him if the pressure is too strong for them.
How It Will Go
In the end, Manchester City’s keeper could have a massive impact on the outcome of this game. This will be two high-flying, high-scoring teams going at each other tooth and nail. It will be a great advert for free-flowing, attacking football; you know, the kind you don’t see on the other side of Manchester.
With that in mind, Manchester City should be able to come out on top. They have more quality, they have more cohesion and they have more ways to hurt Chelsea than vice-versa.