After mistakes against Scotland for England and Cardiff for Manchester City, Joe Hart has faced criticism for his inconsistent form over the last year. But should he be dropped by either club or country?
In the short term, the question is an easy one – Joe Hart shouldn’t be dropped. However in the long term the increased regularity of Hart’s mistakes will prove a problem to both Hodgson and Pellegrini. Both managers have come out in defence of the goalkeeper, but Pellegrini has warned Hart that he is not undroppable.
Last season, the Manchester City number 1 made a total of 6 errors, the same as recently departed Pepe Reina, and 5 out of those 6 errors resulted in a goal to the opposition. Compare this to the season before when City won the league when Hart made 2 errors and only one of them resulted in a conceded.
A big weakness of Hart’s game is his ability to come for crosses and successfully deal with the danger, whether he punches or catches the ball, which was seen recently in Manchester City’s defeat to Cardiff where Hart left his line, missed his punch, and offered Frazier Campbell a straight forward chance to score and ultimately win the match. While stats show that he only missed 3 crosses, they don’t factor in the crosses that were not properly cleared. The number of high crosses that were caught by Hart is a better statistic to look at and shows a sharp decrease in the amount made. The number has decreased in the last 3 seasons from 62 catches down to 37 in 2011/12 and to 26 catches last season. Whilst the City defence has improved during this period the Manchester City defence has still been the best in the league, with 33 conceded in 2011/12 compared 34 goals last season.
Despite his poor form Joe Hart collected his third consecutive Golden Glove award in the Premier League, and proved last season that his shot stopping isn’t a weak area in his game with world class performance against Dortmund. Out of the last season’s top 7 teams though, Hart only had a better save to shot percentage (70%) than Lloris and Reina. The two previous seasons that Hart won the Golden Glove his save to shot percentage was the same as Cech’s, who had the highest percentage last season with 77%.
Somewhat ironically, Joe Hart claimed the number 1 spot for England after poor performances and mistakes by Robert Green and David James at the 2010 World Cup, and it doesn’t look like another player will be given the same fortune as Hart at the current time.
Fortunately for Hart English goalkeepers have been hard to come by in recent years with John Ruddy and Ben Foster, who is now injured until late 2013, the only guaranteed starters for their Premier League sides. Ruddy will push Hart hard this season after recovering from a injury hit season where he was nearing the form of his life (I wrote an article on how good he is in June when linked to Chelsea) and Celtic’s Fraser Forster will hope to take advantage of Champions League football to prove he can play at the highest level – something that
Hart’s breakthrough year was during a season-long loan to Birmingham in 2009/10 after his performances helped a goal-shy side survive relegation and his first inclusion into the PFA Team of the Year. Early on in the season though mistakes made by Hart were costing Birmingham goals, yet despite at a young age Hart managed to overcome this to keep his place in the team and get into the World Cup squad.
This is the challenge Joe Hart faces for a second time, and with every mistake or poor game scrutinised due to the level of quality he has previously reached, his character to improve once more will prove whether he is one of the top keepers in the world he believes himself to be. Roy Hodgson will be hoping that he overcomes this before next summer and England don’t face another goalkeeping dilemma before a World Cup.
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