Broken Hart | Where did it all go wrong?

Joe Hart won’t be part of the England squad for this summer’s World Cup.

The 31 year old has represented the Three Lions at the last three major tournaments, but has been excluded from Gareth Southgate’s squad, with the England manager opting to include Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, and Jack Butland instead.

Hart has endured a difficult time over the past two seasons, in a time where he should have been entering his prime.

Nevertheless, he has amassed 75 international caps, and started most of England’s World Cup qualifiers.

The Manchester City goalkeeper was regarded as one of Europe’s finest goalkeepers as recently as three seasons ago, so where has it all gone wrong?

Rapid rise

Given his recent struggles, it’s easy to forget how good Joe Hart can be.

The former Shrewsbury Town shot stopper has won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, and  four Premier League Golden Glove awards. He was previously nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award, and has been included in the PFA Team of the Year twice.

After an excellent loan spell at newly promoted Birmingham City for the 2009/10 season – in which he was named the club’s player of the year – Hart returned to Manchester and usurped the experienced Shay Given as Roberto Mancini’s first choice goalkeeper.

Hart kept a clean sheet in the FA Cup final as City beat Stoke City 1-0, and kept an impressive 18 clean sheets in the league (29 in total). He ended the 2010/11 season as City’s undisputed number one, and with his first Golden Glove award.

The Shrewsbury native didn’t miss a single league game the following season as City clinched their maiden Premier League title. Hart was included in the PFA Team of the Year, and won his second Golden Glove.

 

Some of his heroics in Europe were breathtaking, and his performance against Borussia Dortmund led Wayne Rooney to describe him as the best goalkeeper on the planet. At his peak, he made 10 saves against Barcelona – including a Messi penalty – which led Messi to describe the England international as “a phenomenon”.



He did not miss a league game for three consecutive seasons, and his 300th City appearance on the final day of the 2014/15 season earned him his fourth Golden Glove.

While his form dipped at various times from the ’12/13 season onwards, Hart remained virtually an ever present for City until Pep Guardiola’s appointment.

Euro errors

 In some ways, Hart’s ongoing problems have stemmed from Euro 2016.

Hart was hugely culpable for Wales’ goal in the group stage, and was again poor when Roy Hodgson’s side were stunned by Iceland in the last 16.

He failed to keep out a somewhat routine free kick from Gareth Bale in the former game, and let a weak shot – which proved to be the winner – squirm under his body in the latter.

It was a dismal European Championships for England and their goalkeeper, who has so often seemed devoid of confidence since that tournament in France two summers ago.

“I’ve always said I don’t think Joe is as good as a lot of people think he is,” Peter Shilton – the only ‘keeper to play more times than Hart for England – said afterwards.

“He’s a good keeper, but he’s prone to making errors, and not just for England.”

His costly mistakes raised serious questions over his reliability, and no doubt worried new Man City boss Guardiola.



Indeed, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager brought Claudio Bravo to the Etihad, and it was soon clear that Hart did not feature in the Spaniard’s plans.

Hart made just one appearance under Guardiola – in a Champions League qualifier against Steua Bucharest – before being sent to Serie A club Torino on loan. After a shaky start (which saw his error cost a goal on his debut), Hart went on to enjoy a relatively strong season in Italy, without ever recapturing his best form.

Guardiola brought in Ederson last summer, and sent Hart on loan again after returning to his parent club, this time to West Ham.

However, despite some good performances, Hart has failed to convince at the London Stadium.

An alarming mid-season dip in form saw David Moyes drop the loanee in favour of Adrian, and Hart made several high-profile errors throughout the season.

On the day where West Ham ensured safety with a 1-1 draw against Stoke, it was Hart’s horrendous blunder which gifted the ultimately doomed Potters the lead.

Poor positioning

Hart’s major weakness is an obvious one.

He struggles to make saves to his left.

It is an enormous flaw, and one that has been prevalent for years.

As far back as the 2012/13 Premier League season, seven of the first 10 goals Hart conceded were on his left side.

In the 2015/16 season, five of the six long range efforts he conceded were on his left side. Worryingly, Hart ranked 16th for save percentage from shots coming in from outside the box during that campaign.

The last City defeat that he participated in was a 3-1 loss to Southampton, and Hart was beaten at his left twice by Sadio Mané on the day.

In his first 18 matches for West Ham this season he made four mistakes which led directly to opposition goals.

Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope failed to make one such error in over 60 combined appearances, while Jack Butland made just one in 31 matches.

The mistakes have also been evident at international level.

His positioning was particularly poor for both of Leigh Griffith’s free kicks in England’s dramatic 3-3 draw with Scotland last year.

Gareth Southgate was quick to defend his goalkeeper in the wake of that match, but he is obviously no longer convinced that Hart can be relied upon.

What now?

It has been an extremely tough two years for the four time Golden Glove winner, but there is still hope for his future.

Gareth Southgate has not ruled out an international future for Hart, and having just turned 31, the English ‘keeper has plenty of time left to rediscover his form.

He is clearly struggling for confidence, and while his stock has fallen considerably over the past 24 months, his previous form suggests that he is worth the gamble for any club outside the top six.

Hart will likely be available for a bargain price this summer (as he is not wanted at City), and it will be interesting to see whether he can rediscover the form that led to Messi describing him as “a phenomenon”.