Claudio Bravo injury headache at Manchester City: What Pep Guardiola does next
For a coach that normally has such a settled squad, Pep Guardiola could be set to play his fifth goalkeeper in little over three years at Manchester City after recalling Montenegro under-21 international Aro Muric from a season-long loan.
Claudio Bravo is potentially facing six months out after rupturing his Achilles' tendon, leaving City with only Ederson as a keeper with any first-team experience.
Here's how the situation has unfolded over a busy few weeks...
Remarkably, City went into the summer with four international keepers on their books. Ederson is the undoubted No.1 after an impressive debut season following his £35 million move from Benfica. In fact, the 24-year-old has made such an impression, that he announced a new seven-year contract on the day City secured their record 100th point on the final day of the season.
Bravo, meanwhile, was secure as his understudy after regaining his form following his first troubled season at the Etihad. The Chilean had come from Barcelona to replace the popular Joe Hart, partly because of his superior ball-playing skills, but was dropped midway through his debut campaign after a disastrous performances and replaced by Willy Caballero. The Argentinian was never a long-term possibility and moved on to become a back-up at rivals Chelsea, playing well enough to become his national team's first choice, only to make a horrendous error against Croatia in the group stages of the World Cup.
With the arrival of Ederson, Bravo became the No.2 but rebuilt his reputation last season with a number of fine performances on the way to Carabao Cup success -- twice being a penalty shootout hero and even claiming an assist for Sergio Aguero's opener in the 3-0 final victory over Arsenal.
Hart was back at City after loan spells at Torino and West Ham United and even featured in the International Champions Cup games against Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool in the United States. But it was always likely to be a temporary stay and he finally got the permanent move he wanted when he switched to Burnley.
Angus Gunn, meanwhile, is a highly rated England under-21 international and was called up to Gareth Southgate's senior squad during an impressive loan spell at Championship side Norwich City. But the 22-year-old needs regular game time and was never going to get that at the Etihad, so was sold to Southampton in a deal that could be worth up to £13.5m with City retaining a buyback option.
City's Premier League and Champions League challenge will remain essentially unchanged with Ederson still Guardiola's undoubted first choice. Bravo is still waiting on further tests but if the worst fears are realised, he is unlikely to feature until the Spring of 2019, giving an opportunity to two of City's academy talents Muric and Daniel Grimshaw.
Muric, signed from Swiss side Grasshoppers Zurich in 2016, is likely to become the understudy after being the third choice last season. He is well-regarded by City staff and was sent to Dutch side NAC Breda to gain first-team experience and kept a clean sheet in his only appearance on Saturday -- the 3-0 victory over De Graafschap.
Even at 6-foot-5, Muric is comfortable with the ball at his feet and is not afraid to come off his line to clear up danger, which are the hallmarks of a Guardiola-style keeper. But the keeper needs to retain his composure. In October 2017 he was sent off for headbutting an opponent playing in an U21 game for Montenegro against Slovenia.
Muric is younger than Grimshaw but is seen as ahead of the Manchester-born keeper in his development. But the situation could present a big opportunity for him too, particularly after making a name for himself as spot-kick specialist in City's run to the UEFA Youth League semifinals when he starred in wins over Inter Milan and Liverpool.
Grimshaw, a City fan, signed a new three-year contract in June with director of football Txiki Begiristain commenting: "He is a goalkeeper of great potential and has impressed Guardiola and his coaching staff over the past two seasons with his hard work and progress."
With the Premier League transfer window closed until January, there is possibility of signing an alternative keeper before then.
In the past, clubs have brought in emergency cover as it is such a specialist position that it is considered is an exception. Clubs can apply to the Premier League Board outside of a transfer window to make a temporary signing of a keeper with each case looked at on its merits. Generally, these are granted when a club has only one fit senior keeper. But with Ederson and Grimshaw both over the age of 20, they are considered senior players even though neither Muric or Grimshaw have any Premier League experience.
City would need to sign a free agent if they wanted to bring in any extra experience but that is extremely unlikely. They could look to move when the transfer window reopens in January but a decision is unlikely to be made until Bravo's injury and recuperation is assessed and the form of both Muric and Grimshaw.
Providing cover for undisputed first-choice keepers is a problem for most major clubs throughout Europe and Bravo's setback has made it even more of a headache for Guardiola and City.