Pep Guardiola praise for under-fire goalkeeper Claudio Bravo
Pep Guardiola claims under-fire goalkeeper Claudio Bravo delivered a "masterpiece" by executing his gameplan perfectly in Manchester City's midweek win over Huddersfield.
Such an assertion may raise eyebrows given the Chilean was generally considered to have endured another difficult night in the 5-1 FA Cup fifth-round replay victory at the Etihad Stadium.
Critics rounded on him after an error gifted the Championship side an early goal and fans piled in by sarcastically cheering and applauding when he later made a save.
The 33-year-old has failed to convince since being controversially signed to replace England number one Joe Hart earlier in the season, ostensibly because of his superior footwork.
He was even dropped after conceding six goals from six successive shots in back-to-back games against Everton and Tottenham in January, with Willy Caballero taking over.
But while Guardiola acknowledges goalkeepers need to be able to stop shots, he will not deviate from a philosophy that also requires them to play a key part in the build-up. It is in that regard he continues to back his £15.4million signing from Barcelona.
Guardiola said: "The most important thing for keepers is to save the balls with their hands, but the way I believe in playing football - from when I grew up as a little boy and my conscious awareness as a human being and as a trainer - what I want to do is so important.
"To take decisions like Claudio Bravo did in the last game was a masterpiece, how he took decisions, short and right, left, along and behind.
"We knew Huddersfield would be high pressing. For example they would press to Kevin De Bruyne, to Fernandinho and the space was in behind them.
"How he put the ball there - it wasn't a long ball, it was a pass. How he took the decisions was right all the time, it was really perfect, definitely what I want from Claudio and, of course, Willy.
"The goalkeeper has less quality than the outfield players - that's normal - but we try to train that to help us to create the build-up from behind to front."
One move in particular in which Bravo caught the eye was the build-up to City's fourth goal, scored by Sergio Aguero.
The keeper exchanged passes with Aleix Garcia before chipping the ball back to the midfielder over the head of a Huddersfield player. That sparked a swift City attack, with the ball in the net 14 passes and less than a minute later.
Guardiola feels this shows how his philosophy is about meaningful possession, rather than just retaining the ball.
He said: "People believe I want to build up with 30-40 passes between the full-backs. That is not good build-up. When you use the goalkeeper four or five times in the same action, that is not good. That is because something is not going well.
"You need time to improve but my feeling is it is a little bit better game by game."
Despite this, Caballero, who has played five of the last seven games, could return for Sunday's Premier League game at Sunderland.