The US sports media is not Premier League fans favourite source for comment and opinion on the beautiful game.
They do however often make predictions and calls that grab headlines, and they have certainly managed that this time. In selecting who they believe to be the ‘Most Important Players‘ of the top six in the Premier League ESPN’s Alexis Nunes and Janusz Michallik make some choices that are difficult to disagree with. The pair agree on Zlatan Ibrahimovic being Manchester United’s most important star, while both also list Alexis Sanchez as the player most at the heart of Arsenal’s title tilt.
One selection that will raise eyebrows is the that of Claudio Bravo as Manchester City’s most important player. Bravo has proved himself to be one of the least effective shot-stoppers in the Premier League, and the statistics more than bare that out;
13 – Claudio Bravo has conceded from 13 of the last 21 shots on target he has faced in the Premier League. Update.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 15, 2017
City can boast of many other star performers in their squad. Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero have been at times irrepressible this season in torturing opposition defences.
The notion of Bravo being their ‘most important’ player however, is more credible than one may initially think. So often have Premier League goalkeepers been praised as excellent ‘shot-stoppers’ that they phrase almost lost all meaning.
Bravo has, however, in his own unique way shown their value. While his composure on the ball is hard to dispute, his inability to effectively deal with crosses or to block shots is staggering. Indeed, Pep Guardiola’s press conferences often take on the tone of strident defences of his keeper and the footballing strategy he underpins rather than any other aspects of their games.
Given how central he is to any conversation about Manchester City, he must be their most important player. He is directly responsible for more goals than any of their other players, even if they are scored at his end.
His importance could be greatly diminished in one swoop however. We are currently in the middle of a transfer window, and a team of City’s funds could surely afford to replace Bravo with a competent shot-stopper who will not feature in back-page headlines quite as regularly as their current number one. Until such a signing is made, Bravo being their most important player may be a notion Manchester City fans have to learn to live with.
The complete list of their selections are as follows:
Chelsea: Diego Costa and Eden Hazard
Tottenham: Harry Kane and Christian Ericksen
Arsenal: Alexis Sachez
Liverpool: Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho
Manchester City: David Silva and Claudio Bravo
Manchester United: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
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