Bravo er­ror high­lights risk in Guardi­ola’s de­mand­ing style

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

With one of the world’s best strik­ers bear­ing down on him, Manch­ester City goal­keeper Clau­dio Bravo had a quick de­ci­sion to make as he re­ceived the ball five me­ters (yards) out­side his penalty box. Smash it downfield and quickly re­treat to his area? Or keep pos­ses­sion and in­sti­gate an­other at­tack for his team? Most goal­keep­ers in that sit­u­a­tion would choose the safer first op­tion, but not Bravo. In­stead, he at­tempted a del­i­cate lob-pass over Luis Suarez to team­mate Fer­nand­inho - and com­pletely fluffed it. The mis-hit pass went straight to Suarez, whose goal-bound re­turn shot was blocked by the out­stretched hands of Bravo out­side the area. Im­me­di­ate red card and, just like that, any re­al­is­tic chance of City fight­ing back from 1-0 down van­ished at Camp Nou. City lost 4-0 to Barcelona on Wed­nes­day in a Cham­pi­ons League game that turned on this avoid­able mis­take by Chile’s in­ter­na­tional goal­keeper in the 53rd minute. The au­thor of the er­ror was per­haps not Bravo, but his coach. One of Pep Guardi­ola’s foot­balling philoso­phies is that the goal­keeper must play the ball out from the back at all costs. That’s why, months into his ten­ure at City, Guardi­ola made the big call to drop long-serv­ing goal­keeper Joe Hart and sign Bravo from for­mer club Barcelona. “There will be no change. It stays the same,” Guardi­ola said after the Barcelona match. “I’m sorry, un­til the last day of my ca­reer as a coach, I will try to play from our goal­keeper.” Guardi­ola knows it’s a risky ap­proach - he says so openly and reg­u­larly - but he be­lieves the value of re­tain­ing pos­ses­sion out­weighs the chances of mak­ing a mis­take. “Most of the time, when we play good, it starts from there,” he said. How­ever, hav­ing that rigid pol­icy at his pre­vi­ous clubs, Barcelona and Bay­ern Mu­nich, is fine con­sid­er­ing the qual­ity and type of goal­keep­ers and de­fend­ers that Guardi­ola had at his dis­posal. At City, the tech­nique of some of his play­ers isn’t as good and he may be ask­ing too much of de­fend­ers like Ni­co­las Ota­mendi, Gael Clichy and Pablo Za­baleta to keep pos­ses­sion in often ex­act­ing sit­u­a­tions. Bravo is one of the best ball-play­ing goal­keep­ers in the world - he started out as a for­ward as teenager - and cen­ter back John Stones was also bought by Guardi­ola this sum­mer for the pri­mary rea­son that he is good with the ball at his feet. The rest of the back line is not so com­fort­able, how­ever. “Very brave, but very stupid,” was the ver­dict of for­mer Manch­ester United mid­fielder Roy Keane, an­a­lyz­ing on Bri­tish tele­vi­sion, when asked about the way Guardi­ola en­cour­ages Bravo to play the ball from the back. Bravo has had an up-and-down start to his City ca­reer. Handed his de­but in the Manch­ester derby against United at Old Traf­ford, he dropped a high ball to al­low Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic to score a goal that re­duced the deficit to 2-1. Later that game, Bravo might have been shown a red card and con­ceded a penalty when he drib­bled away from Ibrahi­movic in his area, only to take a heavy touch and then dive in studs-first at Wayne Rooney as the for­ward went for the ball. Bravo just about con­nected with the ball. Oth­er­wise, he has looked com­posed and con­vinc­ing with the ball at his feet - un­til his high-pro­file Camp Nou mis­take. “It is a game of mis­takes and cor­rect de­ci­sions,” Bravo said. “It’s just bad luck that I was the per­son that changed the course of the game, but it’s like that.”

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