Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola described Claudio Bravo’s display in the Citizens 2-1 win at arch-rivals Manchester United as ‘one of the best performances he has ever seen from a goalkeeper’.
The City boss refused to criticise the former Barcelona star for what could have been a nightmare City debut.
The Chilean was at fault for United’s goal, although a misunderstanding with centre-back John Stones did not help the ‘keeper.
He probably should have been dismissed for a lunge on Wayne Rooney in his own penalty area as well.
Luckily for Bravo, his team came out on top in the derby and drew first blood in the fight for Mancunian supremacy this season.
Guardiola loves ball-playing ‘keepers
Pep Guardiola brought in Bravo because he felt he had the ability to start attacks with his feet and was more comfortable with the ball than former City number one Joe Hart. The England number one would not have been human if he did not raise a smile at Bravo’s performance in the derby.
However, that smile would not have lasted long, as Hart produced a clanger on his debut for Torino in a 2-1 debut against Atalanta on Sunday afternoon.
Bravo described his debut as ‘comfortable’. It did not seem comfortable when he lunged in on Wayne Rooney and took the chance of giving away a penalty kick. Comfortable it was not and I doubt City fans would have used that word to describe his debut.
Guardiola actually praised the 33-year-old for carrying on playing the teams preferred style, despite the mistake. The Catalan boss was put in a difficult position, but in truth surely Bravo’s display raised concerns?
He will be targeted
At Barcelona Bravo was probably a fine last line of defence because in truth they have the ball most of the time against opposition, especially in La Liga when they are not playing Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid and sometimes even then the Blaugrana dominate possession.
Manchester City may well be the best team in the Premier League and like Barcelona dominate possession, to a lesser extent, but teams are more likely to challenge the Chilean and test him in the English top-flight. If he is not up to that challenge he will flop in the Premier League.
Opposition teams will have watched his debut and thought the goalkeeper is one of the few weak links in Guardiola’s team. They will be looking to intimidate Bravo and target him whenever they can, so they can establish some sort of foothold against City, who under Guardiola are likely to be dominant.
Bravo has to adapt his game and become mentally tougher, as every team will give City a game in this league, this is not La Liga where he could have got a sun lounger out and watched his team knock five or six past teams on a regular basis and the ‘keeper only occasionally has to touch the ball.
City may be involved in a number of high-scoring games because of their sheer attacking threat, but Bravo is going to have to step-up when the big games come around and hold his nerve.
He got away with his jittery debut, but he cannot continue like he did on his debut or he may soon find himself being replaced.
Another goalkeeper that found life in the Premier League at first was Manchester United’s David De Gea. However, as the Spanish international has matured he has grown more and more confident and is now arguably the best ‘keeper in the English top-flight. Maybe Bravo needs to cross the dreaded blue-red divide and ask the Spaniard for some advice!
He may just get away with it at City
Watching Bravo in La Liga with Barcelona he never seemed that error-prone or nervous. Maybe the pace of the game against United took him by surprise and it was a one-off for the Chilean international.
On current form and with Guardiola in charge City look to be heavy favourites for the Premier League title this season and are odds of 10/11 to be crowned English champions at the end of the season.
Whether Bravo will be a help or a hindrance to their title challenge only time will tell, but if a great manager like Guardiola thinks that Bravo is a good goalkeeper then it is difficult to argue with his judgement and Bravo may well turn out to be a good buy.
Will Claudio Bravo be a success at Manchester City?