Every Pep Guardiola team has had one player that revolutionises their position.
At Barcelona, Lionel Messi mesmerised defences in a false nine role, defying convention and accepted football tactics. At Bayern Munich, Phillipp Lahm fulfilled a role never heard of before – the inverted full-back – to devastating effect.
At Manchester City, Ederson has re-invented the wheel when it comes to goalkeeping.
On Wednesday afternoon, City announced that their Brazilian goalkeeper had signed a new five-year contract, a one-year extension to his previous deal keeping him at the club until 2026.
Speaking to the club’s official website, director of football Txiki Begiristain said: “he has added a new dimension to our game and revolutionised Premier League goalkeeping in the process.”
That’s high praise indeed, especially given that City have employed some of football’s finest shot-stoppers over the years. So, is Txiki right?
Guardiola’s tactical set-up at the City involves practically every player being involved in build-up play – there are no defenders hoofing the ball, no midfielders only there to run. The position of goalkeeper is no different.
You only need to watch half an hour of a City game to realise no other goalkeeper in the world would fit this team as well as Ederson.
City’s No.31 has accelerated a gradual shift from goalkeepers launching the ball forward to instead exchanging shorter passes with their defenders.
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Since Ederson joined City in 2017, the percentage of passes longer than 40 yards made by goalkeepers in the Premier League has decreased year on year, according to FBref.
In 2017/18, 57.7% of keeper passes were launched, but by 2020/21, that figure was down to 45.1%. Others have seen what Ederson can do and are modelling their game around him.
“He is perfectly suited to our philosophy here at Manchester City and his ability with the ball at his feet makes his fundamental to our style of play”, Txiki said.
Ederson doesn’t actually make long passes all that often, owing to Guardiola’s preference for short and frequent passing, but when he does there are few better at hit than he. His 45.6% completion rate for passes over 40-yard long was bettered only by Edouard Mendy and Alisson last season.
In 2018/19 especially, he showed just how deadly a weapon his long-range passing ability can be. His kicks cover great distances but travel low and flat through the air, making them much harder to deal with than high lofted balls.
In the Champions League last-16 first-leg tie away at Schalke 04, Ederson set up Raheem Sterling for a late winner, capping off a City comeback and giving them three precious away goals.
There’s no way that any of City’s previous goalkeepers, Joe Hart and Claudio Bravo included, could have pulled off such a move.
As a ‘sweeper keeper’, Ederson makes what Manuel Neuer was doing circa 2014 look like child’s play.
His laid-back demeanour when the ball is at his feet often leaves City fans with hands clasped firmly over their eyes, but his composure and poise mean he’s rarely caught out.
His ability to not only read the game and anticipate counter-attacks but to deal with them when opposition strikers are bearing down on goal is an insurance policy that allows City’s attackers to roam forward and not worry about the consequences.
In a 2-1 home defeat to Lyon in 2018, Ederson showed his composure by leaving his box to meet an awkwardly bouncing ball, calmy controlling it with his chest while under pressure from Memphis Depay, before sliding the ball down the line to Fabian Delph.
As we have seen with the passing abilities of Alisson and Edouard Mendy, Premier League goalkeepers are following Ederson’s lead.
It is now not enough to be good at shot-stopping and commanding your penalty area. Rather than being isolated from the outfielders, elite keepers are now finally expected to be the 11th player on the pitch.
The likes of Victor Valdes and Neuer started this process in Europe, but it was Ederson that brought it to the Premier League.
Do you think that Ederson has revolutionised Premier League goalkeeping? Follow our new City Fan Brands Writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.