Is Joe Hart a better goalkeeper than Claudio Bravo? Most people I think would probably answer this question yes and I wouldn’t be surprised if Pep was amongst one of those people who voted for the England number one, yet Pep still loaned Hart out to Torino in favour of the Chilean. Why?
Simply, because Hart does not fit into the way Pep wants to see his teams play.
There have always been keepers who have been comfortable with the ball at the feet but in the modern game a keepers’ footballing ability is increasingly a factor when managers look for a goalkeeper. This is because the current trend is for teams to retain possession of the ball for long periods of the game and one way to do this is to bring the keeper into play with the use of the much derided back pass. An interesting bi-product of this possession based approach, allied with the tactic of pressing the opposition as quickly as possible, is that goalkeepers nowadays are increasingly having fewer number of shots to save. Thus placing even more emphasis on their ability to play football, a sort of goalkeeping Catch 22.
And there is a catch.
If Manchester City find themselves in the final of the Champions League this season, maybe against one of Pep’s old teams, whoever their goalkeeper is, they are going to have to deal with a lot more than the half a dozen or so shots they would have to deal with on a typical Saturday afternoon. In this situation who would you prefer between the sticks, Hart or Bravo?
It may be the sweeper keeper, as these ball playing goalies are now being called, are here to stay and I am not saying this is a bad thing but like most of the modern innovations in football the core values have to be retained, the ability to stop a shot and to deal with crosses. I am not saying Bravo is a bad goalkeeper but is he a great one? A keeper you have confidence in to deal with anything comes his way? For me, no.
Nowadays, watching the Boy play football on a Saturday, the emphasis on playing the ball out from the back has necessitated even junior and youth team goalkeepers being able to play the ball with their feet and this can be a good thing. But it can be the case that the better keeper is being demoted to the team below because they are not as comfortable on the ball as their less able contemporary, instead of clubs doing what they should do. If you have a good goalkeeper who is not very good with their feet work on this aspect of their play with them. Just think the guy in the first team may play like Claudio Bravo but the one you overlooked could be the next Joe Hart or David De Gea.