The goalkeeping position has undergone revolutionary reconstruction over the previous two decades. Brazilian shot-stopper Ederson, who’s currently plying his trade at Premier League leaders Manchester City, is the perfect example of the modern goalkeeper.
Goalkeepers were previously judged on the quality they possessed with their hands, but that all changed when the pass back rule was introduced in 1992. From that point onwards, goalkeepers were unable to rely on the safety cushion of handling the ball when receiving it from their teammates and had to apply more focus to their footwork.
It was condemned by a number of managers and several goalkeepers suffered as a result of the new rule. However, Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel thrived in the evolving era and the likes of Hugo Lloris, Manuel Neuer and Andre Ter Stegen are as adept with their feet as they are with their hands.
In previous generations, goalkeepers were simply perceived as the last line of defence, whereas a number of clubs have implemented systems which make them the first line of attack.
This notion is clear when you watch the likes of Bayern Munich, FC Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur. Their style of play consists around squeezing the space on the pitch and building from the back and the role of the goalkeeper is far more expansive than simply hoofing the ball into the area of maximum probability or foiling the opposition with his shot-stopping capabilities.
FC Barcelona played a pioneering role in evolving the role of the “sweeper keeper.” Johan Cruyff made it an integral feature in his style of play as it enabled his team to set-up with a high defensive line and press the opposition defence more intensely from the attack.
Pep Guardiola quickly adopted a similar tactic when he took over as manager of Barcelona in 2008. Victor Valdes moulded into the role which was played by Andoni Zubizarreta during the Johan Cruyff era and The Catalans restored glorious times to win a staggering 14 major trophies.
Manuel Neuer played a similar role for Bayern Munich both prior to Guardiola’s arrival at the Allianz Arena and during his time at the club. Bayern Munich won the continental treble in 2013 and have won six consecutive Bundesliga titles with Neuer between the sticks.
Guardiola has always preferred goalkeepers who’re adequately capable with both their hands and feet. It was a surprise to see Joe Hart ousted out of the Etihad Stadium in the senseless fashion that he was, but Guardiola had a clear vision and Hart would’ve been unable to adjust to his system.
Ederson arrived at Manchester City during the 2017 summer transfer window and seamlessly slotted into the starting line-up. He took very little time to become accustomed to life in England and is the product of football evolution.
Why is Ederson so Crucial to Manchester City?
As aforementioned, goalkeepers have traditionally been judged on the saves they make and their towering presence over the opposition. The fundamentals of the goalkeeping position was originally their shot-stopping qualities, their communication skills and whether they can tower over opposing players to obtain the ball on set pieces.
Although Zubizarreta, Valdes and Neuer have all symbolized the “sweeper keeper” over the past 25 years, it’s taken far longer to transfer to England. Hugo Lloris plays the role exceptionally well for Tottenham Hotspur, but Ederson is significantly more sophisticated and dependable.
Opposing teams frequently set-up to play a counter-attacking system against Manchester City and commit an abundance of players in defensive positions to foil their dangerous attack. However, this plays into the hands of The Citizens, as Ederson can prepare himself to intercept the opposition with his erratic and adventurous style, which enables his defence to maintain a high defensive line.
Therefore, Manchester City squeeze the space on the pitch and the opposition are either denied by Ederson when launching a counter-attack via the long ball system or they become flustered by the intensity of City’s press in every department of the pitch.
It also preserves energy as the less space on the pitch; the less ground there is to cover. This emphasizes his importance to the style of play but he also has exceptional technical ability, which can create goalscoring opportunities from thin air.
After many years of attempting to adjust to the pass back rule, we’re now witnessing the maximum quality that a goalkeeper is able to provide to team performance. Ederson has completed the evolutionary process in England and his influence in the Premier League is likely to inspire future generations.