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Claudio Bravo's injury could be a blessing for Pep Guardiola

Saturday 29th April 2017
Pep Guardiola's first season in the Premier League has not quite gone to plan for the Manchester City boss. From poor performances, bad decisions and even worse transfers, the former Bayern Munich manager needed a lift. He may just have gotten it with Claudio Bravo's injury.
City played in classic Guardiola style on Thursday night against their inter-city rivals but failed to break Jose Mourinho's team down. Manchester United's spirited defensive display was rarely threatened; David de Gea was largely under-worked.

The draw favoured Mourinho's men hugely. City's momentum was halted but they are still in prime position to take a Champions League berth, sitting just a point behind Liverpool with a game in hand.

The game abasing United was Guardiola's latest failure though, following swift exits from the Champions League and FA Cup, preceding this goalless stalemate with their biggest rivals.

City's Spanish manager entered into the Premier League with much fanfare as supporters assumed his first season would be a successful one, with the Manchester City team already holding many of the necessary tools to win a trophy. However, there will be no silverware for Guardiola in his debut season, and it is surely a failure on his part.

Perhaps more so than anything else though, is his difficulties with transfers this campaign. The purchase of Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus have been astute buys, but John Stones is one that has not lit up the league. However, his most confusing transfer choice came in the form of forcing Joe Hart away from the Etihad and bringing in Claudio Bravo.

It is common knowledge that Hart was not the style of goalkeeper Guardiola was looking for. The England international's ability with the ball at his feet is in no way his strongest attribute, something Bravo is renowned for. However, while playing in La Liga, the former Barcelona shot-stopper was probably not under as much pressure from the opposition. The Catalan side were good defensively last term and their opposition were often well contained; Bravo was rarely called into action.

In the Premier League though, with such a counterattacking style of play, goalkeepers are often left vulnerable, meaning they must be comfortable with trying to deal with one-on-one situations, something Bravo needs to improve.

In conjunction with this, Bravo has showcased how vital it is for a goalkeeper to be powerful in both body and mind as the physical nature of the English top flight means there can be no place for weakness. Too often this season he has been found wanting with his decision making.

Of course, Guardiola signed the Chile international for his ability with the ball at his feet and it is something he has excelled in, allowing City to start attacks from the back and keep possession. However, it is more important for a goalkeeper to be comfortable with their hands than just an extra outfield player with a useless pair of gloves on.

Claudio Bravo's injury, sustained to his calf, is one that is unfortunate for the goalkeeper, but it gives Guardiola a way out of his mistake. He can cite the age of his injured goalkeeper, 34, as the main reason why he needs a new man between the sticks.

The timing of Bravo's absence is perfect and, while it is unlikely to herald the return of Joe Hart, it does mean that Guardiola, a man renowned for not going back on his decisions, can escape the mistake that has haunted him from the season's opening day.
Ben Darvill

I graduated with an upper second class degree in English and Creative writing from Cardiff Metropolitan University. I have been a freelance sports writer since leaving University and have written for a number of online websites. I am a Chelsea and England fan but I enjoy watching any team play as I have an intense passion for football.

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