Five Thoughts: A Joe Hart Special

Shaun Botterill

Normally we would focus on the game as a whole but in the aftermath of City's defeat, notably the manner of it means we will take a closer look at Joe Hart, the issues surrounding his game and what may be on the horizon.

Was the goal Hart's fault? However you slice and dice the catasrophe that befell City in injury time there is no escaping that the blame lies with Hart. Questions can be asked of Matija Nastasic but the decision Hart took to come charging from his goal created the uncertainty and indecision in Nastasic's mind, all of which led to the header which ended up far from being a clearance and served only to provide retribution for Fernando Torres. Hart does have a history of charging from his goal, often proving costly. As Torres wheeled away in celebration Hart may have attempted to berate Nastasic but this in truth may well have been directed at himself as much as anyone.

Costly mistakes. Manuel Pellegrini may have trotted out the collective responsibility line, saying he discusses issues in private with his players but in saying 'we are losing stupid points' he could have replaced the 'we are' with 'Joe Hart is'. Think back to the set pieces at Cardiff, the charge from his box at Aston Villa, even Romelu Lukaku's goal against Everton. Factor in last season and the story gets worse. Hart survived the last decision on whether to keep him in the side but there is a sense though that a tipping point has been reached. City are now six points off top spot and cannot afford further leeway in terms of dropping points. Are they at a point where long term thoughts may need to give way to short term necessity?

Coaching. Daniel Taylor had an excellent piece on Hart in today's Guardian in which one of the areas he discussed was the issue of coaching, namely that the changes that Hart has undergone in this area of late and that he wasn't entirely comfortable with Roberto Mancini's set up. Hart, Taylor suggests, pushed for Dave Watson, his goalkeeping coach at England, to be brought in and could the style of coaching Hart has been subject to undermined not only his technique and decision making, but crucially his confidence?

Will the axe fall? Costel Pantilimon will come into the side for Wednesday's match against Newcastle in the Capital One Cup in what could be a trial for the foreseeable future. Pantilimon looks to be the archetypal back up - solid if unspectacular, but good enough to steady the ship if called upon. Goalkeeper isn't a position where you carry two top players, unlike in other positions where rotation and formation play a far greater role. The difficulty is that Pantilimon hasn't been tested over the long run. Would putting him in the side for the long term actually prove to be a benefit to the side or would you be swapping one problem for another one?

What about the long term? If Pellegrini is of the opinion that Pantilimon is no more than back up does he make a move in January for another goalkeeper? This will of course be driven by his thoughts on Hart, as inconceivable as it appears that he would jettison Hart long term. Pellegrini though has so far proved he does possess a ruthless streak in terms of selection and Hart's position is by no means guaranteed. The name of Willy Caballero, who Pellegrini had at Malaga has been mentioned, whilst also in Spain there is a certain Iker Casillas who is currently languishing on the Real Madrid bench. If given any hint of interest would Pellegrini be foolish to pass up the opportunity? However the short term plays out there is the real sense that the remainder of the season will be pivotal in determining Hart's future at the club. If he can rebound then he will be in a position of strength once again. If not, his days could well be numbered.

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