Pep Guardiola may have started his season with two straight wins and oversee Manchester City’s encouraging start at the top of the table preserved, but that hasn’t stopped him from igniting one of the riskiest transfers this year.
Joe Hart has been a core part of the team for the last six years, a representation of a carefully nurtured talent since a £100,000 move from Shrewwsbury in 2008. An immovable presence through the reigns of Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, experienced enough to bark orders at defenders more seasoned and more travelled than he, and unquestionably this century’s finest England goalkeeper. Yet Guardiola has seen fit to remove the 29 year old from his starting XI, and give every indication possible that Hart is surplus to requirements under his tenure.
The reason behind Guardiola cutting short the career of a mainstay of a City squad undergoing another revamp is simple: Hart’s goalkeeping talents do not play to Guardiola’s preferred tactics. With goalkeepers like Victor Valdes, Manuel Neuer and Marca-Andre ter Stegen, Guardiola has demanded a high octane level of distribution, with attitudes aimed at combative goalkeeping and full use of the penalty area with both hands and feet.
Although somewhat more reserved in his distribution of the ball, his instincts, command of his area and his outright bravery in the crowds are commendable attributes for the high class goalkeeper to observe. Both Gianluigi Buffon and Lionel Messi have earmarked Hart’s performances as world class following performances against the duo’s respective teams.
This is not to mention the array of awards Hart has picked up for his performances, including four Golden Glove awards for the most clean sheets in a Premier League season. That is, four awards in five years. Guardiola’s decision may seem incredibly harsh on a player who, domestically, has done little wrong in the five years of consistent game time, and on the occasion when he has made mistakes and been dropped, has always bounced back with professionalism and commendable vigour.
On the flip side, critics of Hart can say that he and the entire city squad knew that Guardiola was inbound, and could have easily done homework as to how the Catalan likes his players to play. Adapting his way of playing could’ve taken months that Hart had on his side when Guardiola’s appointment was announced in December; yet he stuck to his own methods. In that respect, you could believe he had every entitlement, as such methods seemed to work against the big clubs and in Premier League competition. However, his confidence was slain during England’s hugely ill fated trip to France for the Euro’s, with high profile gaffes against Wales and Iceland becoming the focal point for criticism that was eventually dished out to the entire squad.
This is a goalkeeper who has stood tall and with consistency since he became a first team fixture in 2010. His perseverance when dropped by Pellegrini, and his performances having regained his spot on the pitch, were commendable. Guardiola thus remains dissatisfied, and is unlikely to be moved in this stead, even when dealing with a hugely popular member of his squad, in the dressing room and in the stands. He is stamping his own authority on a team that despite the investment afforded to them, have yet to hit the heights he would like them to. Ultimately no one is safe, not even the Blues most loyal players.