Is Manchester City Goalkeeper Joe Hart a Victim of His Own Success?
It’s undeniable to any observer of Manchester City that Joe Hart’s form has suffered terribly during the last 12 months. The confident goalkeeper who led City to the FA Cup in 2011 and the Premier League in 2012, has been replaced by a man struggling for form.
His City and England teammate, James Milner, today leapt to his defence, insisting that Hart is a victim of his own success. Milner believes Hart’s rapid rise to stardom means people’s expectations are now so high that any mistake is magnified.
He's a victim of his own success because of how good he's been and how quickly he's become England's No. 1 and playing for Manchester City. People said he had a poorer season last season but he won the Golden Glove.
Some of his performances and the saves he made—the Dortmund game stands out. We could have lost that game 8-1 very easily and that's not exaggerating. It was one of the best goalkeeping performances I've ever seen.
Today in training, I know it's only training but you can see he's not struggling for form or confidence, it's [just] mistakes.
Although there may be a modicum of truth in Milner’s assertion, it’s very obvious that Hart must improve.
Milner is absolutely right to praise Hart’s showing in the game against Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad last October—it was a truly world class performance. Some his saves that night defied our expectations of a 'keeper.
However, his clanger against Cardiff, where he allowed a corner to travel straight over his head for the onrushing Fraizer Campbell to head home, was the latest in an uncomfortably long line of bloopers since that Man of the Match performance.
He was beaten at his near post by an Adam Johnson shot against Sunderland last Boxing Day; he let a ball slip through his grasp and his legs away at Southampton; and just a few weeks ago he somehow allowed Scotland's James Morrison to beat him with a poorly placed shot in a friendly against England. And that is by no means an exhaustive list.
Hart isn't commanding his area well enough, isn't confident enough when dealing with crosses and has become too prone to a mistake. His culpability for goals has become much too frequent.
One reason for this could be the lack of competition he faces: For both club and country, Hart has been an automatic choice for too long.
Costel Pantilimon and Ben Foster are solid backups to Hart but they aren’t at the level City and England expect. Hart's form of the past, and his obvious ability, put him way ahead of both those challengers, even when his poor form is taken into account.
Manuel Pellegrini has hinted that could change, recently saying, “For the moment Joe will continue being our goalkeeper, but I spoke with him and he knows he must be quickly in his top form again.” This is good news for Hart—nothing improves a player’s performances quite like the threat of losing their place.
There's no doubting that Hart is a seriously talented goalkeeper—he’s proven that comprehensively in the past—he just needs to get his confidence back, something England defender Gary Cahill acknowledged earlier today.
There is always going to be a stage in your career when you make a mistake or two. We'll see in the character, the way he can bounce back—that's the most important thing—but he's top drawer.
Cahill is spot on. If Joe Hart shows character and fights his way back to his imperious form of old, he will once again be considered one of the top 'keepers in Europe. His reflexes, shot-stopping and bravery were the hallmarks of his game and those things are still present. Concentration and confidence will be key to any reemergence.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity
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