There is a temptation, perhaps even pressure from outside to invest and reinforce when the financial riches are as boundless as they are at Manchester City.
Joe Hart, a tale of a goalkeeper who has lost his way, isn’t something so unfamiliar to the football world. Even putting aside his youth, which in goalkeeping years means he is well short of his prime, forces a look at those around England and Europe who have come across similar problems.
Costel Pantilimon has come into the starting XI at Hart’s expense. The Romanian, despite being on the books at City for the past two seasons, is relatively unknown to those outside of the club. We can pass judgement, create a series of events that could play out over the coming weeks or even months, but they’re unlikely to be too accurate or confident, such is the lack of exposure Pantilimon has had.
Pantilimon is the in-house option that every club, no matter their resources, has to utilise. Importantly, it’s also the best option when handling such a delicate situation. We all know what Hart is capable of from a talent perspective, so why should City discard him now, even after such high-profile blunders?
Neighbours Manchester United have been down this road too. David De Gea didn’t so much lose his way as fail to initially find it in English football. Once again, he was a young goalkeeper who needed to overcome mental obstacles rather than environmental. When you’re dealing with talents such as that, you have to look to the option that best offers the outcome of long-term success.
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In de Gea’s case, United stayed true with their two goalkeeping options, rotating in Anders Lindegaard and easing the burden on the far more talented Spaniard. At this time, there is no doubt as to who the first choice is at the club.
Joe Hart needs time away from the spotlight, time to work on his mental game in private and inside the walls of Manchester City. Overcoming such a problem as an out of form goalkeeper is something that rarely goes to plan when done in competitive matches. It breeds nervousness, with the spotlight shining ever brighter and increasing the likelihood of failure.
Fraser Forster has been tipped as a quick-fix solution. So too has Asmir Begovic, with both the Celtic and Stoke keepers more than likely to be available in the coming transfer window.
But the long-term problems outweigh the short-term benefits. Hart will eventually come good. Even this short spell on the bench could be enough to kick start the England international’s career and see him firmly over the line.
Real Madrid are a good example to look at. Iker Casillas is out of the team and will not see any action in the league unless something seismic happens beyond an injury to Diego Lopez. The Spanish No.1 – Casillas has clearly not lost his place in Vicente Del Bosque’s side – will therefore move on, forcing the loss of not only one of the world’s best keepers, but also an icon for Real Madrid.
Comparisons to Casillas’ status would be premature and a little irresponsible, but Hart has the talent to leave a real dent in Manchester City if he departs off the back of the mistakes of the past year. There’s simply too much to give up by pursuing another goalkeeper.
Much of the same could have been said for Arsenal, who perhaps needed another goalkeeper, namely a veteran choice, to help in Wojciech Szczesny’s education and to shore up the backline.
What happens then when the club have two goalkeepers who are good enough to be first choice? It’s far too risky for any club to switch endlessly back and forth each week. And which high-end goalkeeper would be happy to sit on the bench for a prolonged spell, even if you tell him that the club may be going places with two strong choices? It simply doesn’t happen. As seen in the case with Real Madrid, Casillas will probably be off come the New Year.
Money and financial capability shouldn’t dictate how a club deals with internal problems. City are not in a bad way by any means. The inconsistencies they’ve faced this season are to be expected with any new manager. But working on the personnel they have will bring the most rewards.
Pantilimon is an able deputy for Hart, and certainly one who understands the demands of the club well enough to share some of the responsibility. But after the sea is crossed, it’s unlikely we’ll see such problems in Hart’s performances again. It’s simply part of the experience and learning curve, and one that doesn’t need rash transfer decisions.
Does the solution to the Joe Hart problem lie internally at Manchester City?
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