Manchester City’s Joe Hart facing stiff competition for number one jersey
Argentinian Willy Caballero signals intent to mount ‘fight for goalkeeping position’
Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart warms up with team-mate Willy Caballero prior to Sunday’s Community Shield match at Wembley Stadium. Photograph: PA
Joe Hart or Willy Caballero? Manuel Pellegrini must decide who will be his goalkeeper when Manchester City travel to Newcastle United on Sunday for the opening fixture of their Premier League title defence.
The City manager is thought to favour Hart, but the fight between the 27-year-old and Caballero to be number one will be one of the new season’s intriguing subplots after Pellegrini declined to confirm Hart as the incumbent after Sunday’s Community Shield defeat to Arsenal.
Pellegrini selected Caballero, who signed from Malaga for €5.5 million last month, in the team that started at Wembley. And while not too much should be read into that the manager is serious about giving the latter every chance to prove himself. Indeed, he enticed Caballero with the prospect of regular football after the Argentinian had been reluctant to leave Malaga, for whom he played every minute of the last La Liga campaign.
As the former Los Boquerones head coach who signed Caballero from Elche in February 2011, Pellegrini is an admirer of his qualities. It was this relationship, and the manager’s promise that Cabellero would be given an opportunity to claim the jersey should Hart slip up, that convinced him to sign.
Since joining City
– who yesterday completed the €40 million signing of Eliaquim Mangala from Porto – Caballero has stated his intent to challenge Hart, who was dropped last season by Pellegrini after a series of costly blunders. Costel Pantilimon was then afforded the chance to play in goal. By selecting the Romanian, who has since joined Sunderland, Pellegrini showed he no longer trusted the England goalkeeper.
Hart was reinstated to the first team but Pellegrini’s doubts remained and speaking after the 3-0 defeat to Arsenal, Caballero again indicated that the 27-year-old faces a fight for City’s goalkeeping place. “My ambition is to fight for the position,” said the Argentinian. “I feel good. It was an important match for me . . . I came to fight for the number one spot.”
Asked about Hart, Pellegrini replied: “All the 22 players we have in our squad must demonstrate who is number one in all the positions. Joe finished last season playing very well. We will see next Sunday which players start for Newcastle.”
Stevan Jovetic reinforced the sense that players are on trial. “Everybody knows that when they come to City, here is the biggest squad creation in the world, especially in attack where we have five very good strikers and we know it is not easy to play every game,” he said.
It would be a surprise if Pellegrini did not select Hart for the Newcastle game, which is the first of a string of tough-looking fixtures for City.
Also missing from the squad that lost to Arsenal were Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Bacary Sagna and Fernandinho, causing Pellegrini to admit City are “not ready” yet for the upcoming campaign.
“This year is going to be . . . tough,” added Jovetic.