Man City have sent Joe Hart packing for another season as the England number one was loaned out to West Ham until next summer. There is no way back for Hart at The Etihad as long as Pep Guardiola is in charge, but is axing the man that helped inspire City to two Premier League titles the right move?
Replacing him with Claudio Bravo last season proved an absolute disaster as the £16 million Chilean made a series of high-profile blunders. Guardiola has admitted his mistake and has now broken the world transfer record for a goalkeeper by signing Ederson from Benfica for £35 million, and is also aiming to capture Pepe Reina as a back-up, having offloaded Willy Caballero.
Ederson has a lot of potential and could develop into a top keeper, but he is a long way from being the finished article. At 23 years of age he has just two seasons at Benfica under his belt and made just 37 appearances for the Portuguese club. He is Brazilian but has never represented the national team. It seems an absurd amount of money to spend on someone so unproven, and while he could be a revelation, there is every chance he could flop as badly as Bravo did. Goalkeepers do not really peak until they are 30, which is incidentally the age of Hart.
Ederson has a long way to go before he can stake a claim for the Brazil number one jersey and justify his transfer fee. But what he has got going for him is that he is comfortable on the ball and that fits in with Guardiola’s system, which essentially views the goalkeeper as another outfield player when in possession of the ball. There is very little hoofing it up the pitch, and plenty of playing it out from the back. This leads to plenty of errors – and this was a huge contributor to Bravo’s error-strewn tenure between the City sticks – but Guardiola’s devotion to it is unwavering.
Hart is not so comfortable on the ball, more of a hoofer up the pitch, but he is a very good shot stopper, as he proved time and time again over the years as Man City’s number one. His 6ft 5in frame makes the goal look very small and he is remarkably agile for such a big man, while his handling and ability to take crosses is strong. There is a reason why he was trusted by previous Man City managers, title-winning managers, and a reason why he is still England’s number one, holding off pretty intense competition from the likes of Fraser Forster, Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford. West Ham have got themselves a very good keeper.
What have City got? Little is known about Ederson. He is a few inches shorter than Hart, but still seems a good shot stopper, and appears comfortable with both feet. But he has only really been tested in the Portuguese league and this is a huge step up in quality. He is far from the finished article and starting the season as the number one goalkeeper for the Premiership favourites is a very big responsibility to shoulder.
Guardiola has been busy trying to buy up full-backs this summer and has not addressed a glaring weakness in the side: centre-back. City concede far too many goals and they will need an exemplary performance from Ederson if they are to win the title next season. The odds on them are low compared to their rivals: William Hill, which as this review shows offers some of the most competitive odds around, has 7/4. Given City’s attacking riches it looks a good price, but they will need to be tight at the back and a lot will depend on Ederson. If not, Reina could be used in his place, City could struggle again and Hart could have the last laugh at West Ham.