Joe Hart Dazzles Again for Country: Can He Finally Impress for Manchester City?
Joe Hart produced a magnificent performance on Tuesday night to keep England's hopes of automatic qualification for Brazil 2014 very much alive. However, Roberto Mancini must wonder why his goalkeeper is not performing at the same level for his club.
The Manchester City stopper was in inspired form as England escaped Montenegro with a valuable point despite a late onslaught from the home side in their World Cup qualifier.
Hart made a series of world-class saves during the second half and was clearly Man of the Match on the night.
But while his position as England's number one looks secure for the foreseeable future, the same cannot be said at the Eastlands.
This time last year, Hart was well on his way to winning his second consecutive Golden Glove award as well as Manchester City's Performance of the Season for his role in the 1-0 win against Spurs.
Complacency could be a big reason for his dip in form. Competition is so important at both club and country level.
For England, it is perhaps easier for Hart to maintain concentration because games are so infrequent yet always meaningful.
But for City, playing every week, motivation is crucial, especially when in goal.
It's no coincidence that Hart's last two award winning seasons have come when Shay Given was strongly pushing the youngster for a starting spot in the side.
Competition for places is incredibly important to maintain performance and Hart relished the battle with the Irishman, making him almost undroppable.
However, the ex-Shrewsbury Town player may have become a victim of his own success with Mancini selling Given to Aston Villa in 2011, essentially giving the England international no major competition for his position.
With all respect to Costel Pantilimon, Hart is not losing sleep about the prospect of being replaced.
And that is where the main problem began.
Add to that the surprise vocal criticism from his manager after the Southampton defeat, and you have a young goalkeeper who's devoid of confidence.
Was Mancini Right to Publicly Criticise Hart?
Despite errors, it was a surprising stance for Mancini to take when many other managers would have defended their player in the same circumstance.
Was it to get a reaction? Or maybe stoke the fire for Hart to prove him wrong?
Whatever it was, it didn't work. Hart recently came out in the media saying his confidence had been directly affected by the criticism.
So what about the future?
There is still no disputing the fact that Hart is one of the best goalkeepers in world football. That is fact.
This recent performance should give the youngster the renewed motivation to finish the season strongly. Home games with Wigan, Newcastle, West Ham and Norwich appear strong contenders for clean sheets.
I don't think Hart is going anywhere unless a ridiculous offer comes in during the summer, and even then I doubt whether City will part with their number one.
The relationship with Mancini can certainly be mended both privately and publicly, however, don't be surprised if it's the manager that is the one to leave at the end of the season—not the goalkeeper.
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