If you haven’t seen the stats making the rounds after City’s 0-4 loss to Everton and one of the worst performances you’ll ever see from a keeper in a blue shirt, Claudio Bravo is a real problem right now.
He can’t seem to make a single save. For the last 22 times, he’s faced shots on goal; he’s conceded 14 of them into the goal behind him. It’s the worst ratio in the league. It has some wondering, what’s the point of even having a keeper if he can’t stop shots?
This isn’t a knock on ball-playing keepers, not by a long shot. Victor Valdes has the best ratio in that same statistic, having only conceded three goals for Middlesborough from the last 22 shots faced. He’s the paradigm for keepers who play with their feet.
This also isn’t a knock on City’s transfer business. No one seriously questioned the purchase of Claudio Bravo this past summer. The man has won almost everything at club and country level. He’s had astonishing performances for Barcelona and lights-out displays for Chile in huge high-pressure games.
This also isn’t a clarion call to bring back Joe Hart. Blues everywhere love the guy, and rightfully so. He loved this club and gave it his all. However, the club has moved on. He should be allowed to move on and play as a first choice keeper in European football.
Also, we’re not getting a new keeper in this January transfer window. We’re not buying Geronimo Rulli back, we’re not getting Ederson, and we’re not getting rid of Bravo.
Goalkeepers are odd beasts. Their mentality is unique when compared with field players. They often have a touch of eccentricity, which is probably necessary when filling the one role on the pitch that simply cannot make a mistake. They have to have the temperament to handle being the saviour without getting a big head, and the resilience to keep on in confidence when you’ve just single-handedly blundered in the losing goal.
Some keepers need just to keep going, to play through their dip in form and regain their confidence on the pitch by just sticking it out. Some need to be relieved of duty, shielded from the hailstorm of criticism while they mend their wounded mental state on the sidelines. Some need to feel pushed by competition, only reaching their consistent best when there’s a firecracker at their heels.
So what should Pep do with Bravo right now? If it’s to rest him, we only have two alternatives.
Caballero is a capable backup. His shot-stopping is exquisite, while his decision-making and passing leave a bit to be desired, especially in a play-out-from-the-back style. But they couldn’t be much worse than Bravo’s right now, and Caballero would probably make some actual goalkeeping saves.
Gunn is a bright young talent, a giant in physical proportions with good feet and competent skills in net. He’s not a prodigy like Donnarumma of AC Milan, though, and he isn’t pushing any first choice Premier League keeper for a spot right now.
City need to bench Bravo. Give Caballero a boost in game time. Let Bravo feel the heat of some competition that fueled him so well at Barcelona. It may even mix things up for a backline that really needs a shakeup, as well.
Pep probably won’t do this, but let’s see what happens against the ever-more-frightening Tottenham on the weekend.