Joe Hart’s place in the Manchester City and England team has come under scrutiny, but is there sufficient competition to push him?
After Joe Hart’s performance against Bayern Munich last week in the Champions League, there were further questions asked over his form and whether he should continue in goal for Manchester City.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini said he even thought about promoting Costel Pantilimon for the match against Everton last Saturday, adding that it is hard call to not drop him but you have to have confidence in your players.
Hart has been backed by many of his peers and, crucially, by England manager Roy Hodgson. Pablo Zabaleta recently told the BBC: ‘He’s still the best. Right now is not his best moment but this happens.’ The ability of goalkeepers inspires confidence in the rest of the defence and this has not been lost on Zabaleta, who went on to add that the team still feels safe with Hart in goal.
Standing at 6’8″ Costel Pantilimon is the tallest player in the Premier League. He has yet to make an appearance in the division though, and has featured a total of 12 times in other competitions. He was superb during City’s run to the FA Cup Final last season, keeping four clean sheets in a row. He lost his place to Hart for the final despite being promised he would start by Mancini. He has looked good, and could be more than capable if given the chance.
Hart made his senior debut for Shrewsbury Town; his hometown club, just one day after his 17th birthday. He has never looked back from then, going on to establish himself as the club’s number one a year later. Following scouts from practically every Premier League club watching Joe Hart according to manager Gary Peters, the ‘keeper inevitably moved on to Manchester City.
A few appearances followed but after City signed Shay Given, Hart moved to Birmingham City on loan and it was here that people stood up and begun to notice that he could be world class.
Many said that he should have been England’s number one for the 2010 World Cup and following Rob Green’s howler they could have been right. He established himself as the country’s first choice after the World Cup, and many pundits believed he could stay there for the next 10 years. So far he has done, but are his errors – most notably his weakness at the near-post – down to the fact he doesn’t have any serious competition for his England spot?
In the current England squad John Ruddy has one cap and Fraser Forster is yet to receive one. Ruddy has given further support to Hart, saying he is deservedly the number one and the media scrutinise and put too much pressure on players.
He does have a point, after all Joe Hart has been on the losing side of 2 of the 35 games he has played in for England. Furthermore any mistake a goalkeeper makes is going to be a lot more costly than a midfielders, for example.
Forster has shown he is a top ‘keeper with great displays against Barcelona standing out. Opta stats indicate that since the 2009-2010 season Hart has made 15 mistakes leading to a shot or a goal. On par with Cech, and better than Valdés, Casillas and Neuer. Whilst Buffon and Lloris come in at nine each. Unfortunately the SPL is not covered and maybe Forster needs to be playing in a better league before he gets a chance to guard goal for England while wearing the number one on his back.
Ben Foster is currently injured and even in the past suggested he didn’t want to be an understudy. Jack Butland seems a few years off challenging for a place, and it is unlikely that Rob Green will come back into the mix.
So yes maybe Hart could be forgiven for being a little complacent with limited competition. Regardless of that I have utmost faith in him for England’s crucial World Cup qualifiers, and I’m sure England and City fans share the same views.