'Anyone going to tackle him?'
When this blog was very young and trying to be a serious collection of articles about what was, at that time, still a serious sport, it was very de riguer to fly in the face of widely-received wisdom to appear distinct. Well, never ones to be more than three years behind a developing trend that everyone else has already milked into oblivion and pastiche (watch out for our book, coming soon, by the way), here we are with a treatise on the reasons that Joe Hart is NOT overrated, despite the fact that a) he is, b) he’s been pretty poor for two years with the exception of a good game against Dortmund last season, c) we’ve variously read that the England manager has ‘misgivings’ about his form (doubtless following the shipping of TWO goals to Scotland), d) that he ‘flapped’ at not one but two corners against Cardiff on Sunday, and e) like all footballers, he just is.
To deal with the obvious issue first, we can probably all get past the fact that Roy Hodgson has ‘misgivings’, having seen the midfield of the English national team for some unknown reason AGAIN entrusted to Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the latter stages of the game with Scotland. We also saw Kenny Miller score a goal, which basically means England are shit.
So a manager of a shit team thinks a goalkeeper with a Premier League title and FA Cup winner’s medal under his belt is a bit dodgy? That Ben Foster is a better bet? The same Ben Foster who, along with seemingly every other goalkeeper in England, retired from international football because he wasn’t getting a look in past Joe Hart? Hmm. Let that one swill around your head for a minute.
But not too long. We’re trying to be contrary here, not make well-constructed points that actually make sense. We only want you for your imprint on the hit counter.
Must… get above… 27.
The next major criticism of Hart was his further giveaway of not one but two (and arguably, three, given the score) goals to Cardiff at the weekend. The two principle offences appear to be merely that he was the only one of about 16 large men in a small box approximately 18 yards by 44 yards that was wearing a goalkeeping kit, and that as this particular set of circumstances gives him the distinct advantage of being able to use his hands, there is no way that anything should be getting the better of him, certainly not a ball dropping out of the sky in the 90th minute of a football match when the referee is loath to interrupt proceedings by doing anything like blowing his whistle amid what has basically become legalised brawling in said box with the score at 2-2.
The next little facet of insight is that City’s defence is weak – too weak for a Window’s password as we’ve read to no little hilarity on the hive mind(lessness) of Twitter. As part of this defence, clearly Hart takes his place in the weak collective, but really, if we still understand football (no guarantees), a weak defence sort of increases the probability that your goalkeeper will have to make saves, and also, that with more shots permitted, the probability of some attempts on goal actually going in the goal also increases.
So City’s weak defence – and it feels suspiciously like we’re falling into that old trap of 2 + 2 equalling 4 here – means Hart is more exposed. Ergo more shots. Ergo, probably, more goals. Moreover, with a naff centre-back pairing and full backs who aren’t up to the job, why are City expected to be able to defend corners? Because they spent a fortune, partly. But as everyone knows, not least the editors of this blog, spending a fortune on impressing fans/women (delete as applicable depending on whether you are a multi-billion pound football club or a multi-drink liability) has absolutely no guarantees and a fair chance of backfiring spectacularly when you fail to notice that you’ve bought loads of fancy stuff up front but made no improvements to your underlying stability (does that still work? Course it does).
Remember when David de Gea was shit? Remember how we all decided he wasn’t up to it? We thought most people had learned their lesson when he became good – they all watched their tongue by saying he was ‘threatening to become the goalkeeper Alex Ferguson believed he could be’. But that doesn’t sound like Ferguson, does it, to buy a player to play in goal who wasn’t already a goalkeeper.
But now Hart is under pressure? After keeping a clean sheet in his first game of the season and making a couple of mistakes in his second? With Liverpool and Spurs top of a de facto league table, it’s time to bench him and sign Asmir Begovic?! Sign a back-up for Vincent Kompany, remember that your go-to centre back is Joleon Lescott and you have no decent full backs and stop griping about a goalkeeper who has kept his place in the team this long and has continued to be picked by a brand new manager who presumably has reviewed his options in every position.
A couple of fun facts about Joe Hart to close. He’s only 26 years old, for one. He won the ‘Barclay’s Golden Glove’ (for keeping the most clean sheets in the Premier League) in 2010-11, 2011-12 AND 2012-13. That’s three years in a row he’s kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League, the last one being a season in which his team finished second by 11 points but he managed to keep teams out in 18 matches (one more than the season in which City won the title). That season City conceded 34 goals, nine fewer than United and the least amount in the league that year. So he was actually – technically – better last season than the one in which City won the league.
And that, friends, is why you shouldn’t believe anything you read, hear or see. Ever. Because no matter what happens there’ll always be some smartarses around trying to tell you the complete opposite and doing so with a set of ‘facts’ that frankly no one wants to hear about. We want to believe Joe Hart is flappier than a flapjack in a cat flap! We don’t want to hear about how it was mostly the defence’s fault, because that’s not as interesting as pillioring someone we previously lauded but is now as fallible as the next person. And we CERTAINLY don’t want to hear about how, with United and Chelsea only managing a total fucking snoozefest – and no one developing a clear advantage – maybe City’s result in Wales wasn’t the end of days for their goalkeeper, defence, manager and existence after all.
Hang on, is that Wayne Rooney over there?