Joe Hart has had a terrible week.
A week is putting it mildly. Criticism has followed Hart since the beginning of the year, whether he has been playing for City or appearing on the international scene as England’s supposed number one goalkeeper.
His determination to charge out of his goal has led to a series of Youtube-worthy howlers, and with City needing every point available to make a challenge for the title, Hart has become too much of a liability.
Hart’s poor form has reached a breaking point and enough is enough.
There was once a cockiness about Hart: a self-assurance in his game that made him England’s first choice goalkeeper. It may have been this complacency that led to his downturn in form.
There has been no real challenge for Hart’s position, either domestic or internationally. Only a year after his international debut he was being touted as the next England captain. There was a sense that he could do no wrong.
So when the first errors began to creep into Hart’s game, it was almost seen as acceptable. No-one can be 100% all of the time; Hart should be cut some slack; his past performances were strong enough to justify his place for the conceivable future.
Not anymore. Hart’s poor form is costing City dearly. He has become a victim of his own talent.
Manuel Pellegrini has attempted to introduce a more attacking dimension to City’s football, yet City have made five errors this season which have led directly to goals – errors which a keeper should be stopping from happening.
Hart is fundamentally a confidence player. The deterioration of his relationship with Roberto Mancini towards the end of last season – Hart said that Mancini’s criticism of him made him feel he wasn’t ‘up to the job’ – showed in Hart’s on-field performances and a strained relationship with Pellegrini will hardly have helped Hart’s woes.
Keeping Hart in the starting line-up will do little for anyone’s confidence, least of all Hart. Hart must know that he is down on form. Why keep making him play when everyone, including the man himself, is watching and waiting for the mistake to come?
Pellegrini wants to win matches. The fans want to win matches. Hart too must want his club to win matches. If he continues to play in this form then it will do nothing for his confidence. While he has been accused of arrogance, that arrogance almost certainly leant something to his game.
City’s problem is the lack of a quality reserve goalkeeper. There is no Joe Hart, mark two.
Costel Pantilimon was harshly dropped after playing the majority of the FA Cup campaign and was then left on the bench for the final.
Normally, Pantilimon is not a major threat to Hart’s place, but with Hart playing the way he is, Pantilimon is the best option City has.
Hart needs time away to regain his confidence – put the Head and Shoulders adverts to one side and regain the swagger that made him the best goalkeeper in the Premier League.
Image courtesy of MCFC Official via YouTube, with thanks