Hart starts to runs out of defenders as form slips through his fingers
Playing future will now depend on manager Pellegrini’s tolerance levels
Joe Hart winces after the Manchester City goalkeeper’s latest calamitous episode saw his side lose out in the last minute to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Photograph: Reuters
In fairness to Joe Hart, he was not the only goalkeeper at Stamford Bridge who will wince when he sees the replays. Petr Cech got his angles badly wrong for Sergio Aguero’s goal. Cech seemed to be anticipating a shot to the opposite side and his body weight was leaning the wrong way. Watch closely and you can see his left leg buckle slightly as Aguero let fly.
There is, however, a good reason why all the scrutiny has been on Hart since Manchester City’s defeat at Chelsea and it is not solely because his mistake, coming in the last seconds, was the decisive one. It is the deja vu that accompanies it, the sense of it being another one to heap on to the list, and the wonderment that there always is in sport when someone who once excelled has started to unravel publicly.
If we are going to be generous, it was the sixth time this season Hart has been at fault when the opposition have scored. Others would contest the numbers are even worse and that there was a degree of responsibility for Romelu Lukaku’s goal for Everton and maybe one or two others. But let’s cut him some slack and call it half a dozen, starting off with the one he let through his gloves when James Morrison took aim for Scotland against England.
Fraizer Campbell’s first in the 3-2 defeat at Cardiff is another one. There was Andreas Weimann’s winner for Aston Villa. Plus, of course, two more against Bayern Munich. Not even three months have gone and, however it is dressed up, it is a wretchedly long list.
Then go back to last season and the first part of Hart’s annus horribilis and it is not too difficult to bring the number into double figures. His worst performance of the lot, vulnerable from first minute to the last, was probably England’s 4-2 defeat against Sweden last November. By then, Hart had already misjudged a corner, just as he did against Cardiff, for Kamil Glik to head in a soft equaliser in England’s 1-1 draw in Poland. At other times, goals have originated from simple handling errors: Adam Johnson at Sunderland; Andy Carroll against West Ham and Steven Davis (from a Rickie Lambert shot) at Southampton. Others, too; in total, 15 or so goals in the last season and a bit can be aligned, to varying degrees, to Hart’s goalkeeping.
Totting them up is the easy thing. Understanding what has gone wrong, and why it has reached this stage, from the odd aberration here and there to a full-blown slump, is far more difficult.