In this article, Michael Lowdon of FOOTY.COM looks at the shaky start to Bravo’s City career and asks whether we’ll ever see him between the sticks at the Etihad again.
How to solve a problem like Claudio Bravo. The under-fire keeper (in every sense) has taken hits from all angles.
In a debut season for both Bravo and Pep Guardiola in English football, the Citizens will finish trophyless and well off the pace of both Chelsea and Spurs. A lot of the blame will inevitably fall at the feet of the Chilean stopper after a list of errors, lack of clean sheets, and a poor shot-to-save ratio.
However, throughout the season Guardiola has made it very clear he’s not going to hang his number one out to dry, having publicly backed the former Barcelona keeper on a number of occasions.
The Spaniard’s support for Bravo not only demonstrates his commitment to his signings, but more importantly to a football ideology he’s become renowned for and was brought to the Etihad to implement.
At Barcelona, Guardiola had Valdes and at Bayern Munich he had the imperial Manuel Neuer. Both were excellent shot stoppers, but crucially, they were both comfortable on the ball too.
Guardiola’s philosophy of passing it out from the back heavily relies on a confident sweeper keeper, a role he feels Bravo is perfect for. From the moment Pep arrived in the North West, it was clear he didn’t put much confidence in Joe Hart’s footwork and quickly decided the English keeper wasn’t fit to be the foundation of his tactical blueprint.
“The most important thing for a keeper is to save the goals with the hands,” expressed Guardiola in March.
“But the way I believe to play football, when I grew up as a little boy in my consciousness as a human being and awareness with what I do as a trainer, it was so important for the goalkeeper to take decisions,” he added.
Pep backed Bravo further after his display against Huddersfield in the FA Cup— a game in which he was ironically cheered after a save following a preventable goal from the Terriers.
The signing of Bravo was not only a statement of his intent on bringing in a keeper he trusted, but his passing and possession philosophy. However, despite Pep’s best efforts, it hasn’t all gone to plan.
Moving to a new league and country is going to be difficult for any player — especially at a club like Manchester City — and having a manager’s vote of confidence can be used to help a player settle.
Bravo’s teammate Pablo Zabaleta also showed his support for the keeper. “We need to understand that sometimes it is tough for players when they go to another league,” explains the defender.
Zabaleta adds: “We all need to support Claudio – the players and the fans. He is one of us and I just wish the Manchester City fans would give massive support to him.”
As Bravo was one of Pep’s first buys and represents his philosophy, the keeper’s performances will undoubtedly shine a light on his manager’s tactics and influence fans’ opinion. But the fact the City gaffer holds Bravo in the same regard as Manuel Neuer should give Blues confidence he still has more to provide, despite a rocky first season in the Premier League.
Guardiola’s persistence with his tactics and in playing the Chilean between the sticks shows he’s well and truly sticking to his guns, even if the performances and results haven’t always gone in their favour.
With the 34-year-old currently sidelined after a muscle injury in the Manchester Derby, he may not play again this season for City. Quite an eventful first season on English soil for Bravo to say the least.
As neither he, or Willy Caballero has pulled up any trees under Pep’s watch, and Joe Hart unlikely to retain the number one shirt at City, it looks like Guardiola’s loyalty towards Bravo will be tested further in the summer.