Joe Hart had a shocking Euro 2016, making two errors, with the second one a major reason for England crashing out of the tournament to the over-achieving Iceland. It is important not to make any rash decisions about the England and Manchester City number one, after all he has been labelled world class by many in the game. However, there has to be questions asked about the goalkeeper as they were two errors that a quality number one wouldn’t make. Pep Guardiola is going to introduce a new era at the Etihad and he won’t want uncertainty in his goalkeeping position. If he thinks that Joe Hart is too error prone and doesn’t have the elite level personality that he demands, he will look into signing a new goalkeeper.
At the age of 29, Joe Hart has yet to reach the level that is consistently hit by David de Gea, Manuel Neuer and Gianluigi Buffon, the three leading goalkeepers in world football, despite many believing he would. In fact, many considered him a brighter prospect than De Gea after the Spaniard’s first season in the Premier League, and felt he was a more complete goalkeeper, in terms of his presence especially. However, De Gea is now one of the best keepers in the world and is a level above Hart.
A character flaw that is intrinsic to Joe Hart is that he allows his mistakes to bother him, which can impact his future performances. That was clear during his interview given after the Wales game, in which he was at fault for Gareth Bale’s free kick finding the back of the net. He didn’t entirely recover from that and he made a similar mistake against Iceland, as he couldn’t get a strong enough hand on an average Kolbeinn Sigthorsson strike. The England number one looked to be over-thinking his game, with his positioning and dive both being poor.
The likes of De Gea, Neuer and Buffon all make mistakes, but they are fewer and they don’t let them affect their future performances. They isolate the mistakes and eradicate them from their thought. This is the elite level personality that Joe Hart needs to add to his game. It was evident during Spain’s loss to Italy, as De Gea made a mistake for their first goal, but still put in a good performance and came out of the match as one of the few Spanish players with credit. Hart made a good save later in the Iceland game, but it was more luck than judgement.
Guardiola is seen as the best coach in world football and is a great judge of talent, which is why his position on Hart will be interesting. It is obvious that Hart has the raw talent to be a world class goalkeeper, but it is his mentality that is the main question mark. If Guardiola believes that he can instil it in Hart, he may think that he is worth persisting with. There are also doubts about his ability to play the sweeper keeper role that Guardiola has become famed for wanting in his keeper. His ball skills and distribution aren’t his best attributes. However, these can be coached as Guardiola showed with Jose Manuel Pinto at Barcelona. The problem that the new Manchester City manager will have with Hart, is his mentality and how he lets mistakes affect him.
The one positive for Hart is that there are few world class goalkeepers out there and Guardiola may think that he is better off keeping Hart and coaching him to improve. Real Madrid have showed how difficult the goalkeeper market is as they struggled to find a successor to Iker Casillas. Although Keylor Navas has developed into a fine keeper, he was never seen as the long term option until recently. Marc-Andre Ter Stegan and Claudio Bravo are both options, with two not going into one at Barcelona, while Victor Valdes has also been mentioned as a short term stop gap for Manchester City. Another name that may appeal to Guardiola is Jasper Cillessen, who is capable of playing the sweeper keeper role, but doubts remain about his ability to deal with the physical side of the Premier League.
Joe Hart is the favourite to start the season as Manchester City’s number one, but he is facing the biggest six months of his career. He needs to prove himself to Guardiola and show that he is capable of reaching the world class levels, that many believe he is capable of. Guardiola is a perfectionist and will bring in a new goalkeeper if Hart doesn’t grow into the number one that he wants his side to have. He may get a stay of execution and he must make that count. His international future is also in doubt, but if he convinces Guardiola that he is his man, then he will convince the new England manager of the same.