There is a scene in the Head and Shoulders advert running throughout the European Championships that featured the back page of a red top newspaper emblazoned with the headline ‘Hart Under Pressure’. The camera then cuts to our Joe (mercifully free of dandruff) who is in the process of being measured up for a snappy new suit. ‘Pressure?; he shakes his head at the camera dismissively. In a sorry case of life imitating art(?), England’s number 1 will have woken to some eerily familiar back pages after he was dropped for Manchester City’s opening game of the season.
When given his chance over the last couple of seasons, Willy Caballero has seemingly done his upmost to re-enforce the theory that he was rated by Manuel Pellegrini and by no one else. However, Guardiola deemed that the Argentinean was in the better form and dismissed the widespread theory that Hart was de-selected for his inferior kicking game, stating the choice was “not tactical”. But how could anything Pep does not be tactical, he is the closest we will get to a tactical messiah, and as such his decision to drop Hart has left a sense of unease among pundits and journos.
If Hart had been benched for shot-stopping errors (as he committed against Wales and Iceland) this would be acceptable, understandable, but for being less good than others with his feet? Come on Pep, he is a goalkeeper for God’s sake, not a real player at all, and besides, does Pep not know that Hart to Carroll was the most successful passing combination when England got knocked out of Euro 2012 by Italy?!
The decision seems harsh on Hart in all honesty; he may have a knack for rubbing fans up the wrong way but he is a genuine top class keeper and would get into Liverpool and Arsenal’s first choice line-ups. He has won the Premier League; not something you can say of an English keeper since David Seaman, and despite having an error in him (and which keeper doesn’t?) he has put in a number of outstanding performances for his club in the Champions League. Choices regarding goalkeepers often boil down to stability, but increased competition for places has to be seen as a positive. Making a change between the sticks is always a gamble; if it is viewed as bravery or folly -only time will tell.
Andrew Grillo, The Sweeper Football Blog