Glancing at the football headlines a manager drops his goalkeeper and makes it clear that he wants a new number one. It appears that his current keeper can’t play with his feet and therefore does not fit in with the style of football that he wants his side to play. Of course it is big news in the sense that it relates to the England international Joe Hart but hardly unexpected considering that the manager is Pep Guardiola who sees his goalkeeper as being a fifth defender who acts as a sweeper. Furthermore as the new coach of Manchester City it is way too early to question his judgement considering the success that Guardiola has enjoyed at Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
Consequently it is a surprise at the euphoria and the hysteria that Guardiola has decided that Joe Hart is not his first choice. Joey Barton declares that his former teammate deserves to be treated better and given a chance whilst a caller to five live believes that due to being an international and having spent most of his professional career at City that this should be taken into consideration.
What is forgotten and certainly would be expected from any top manager is that sentiment or a player’s reputation should never be allowed to interfere with a decision in making the team selection. All the top manager’s from Shankly, Paisley, Fagan, Clough, Busby, Stein and Ferguson never allowed sentiment to cloud their judgement. It was never ever an easy decision to tell a player that he was no longer part of their plans but was made for the sake of the team. After all that was their job and it was never personal. Football is an unforgiving sport that can brutally brush aside those who have dreams and aspirations to be a professional footballer to the journeyman pro who fails to be given or find a new contract. Why therefore should Joe Hart be treated any differently?
Furthermore Hart’s form has been erratic to put it mildly with some high-profile gaffe’s in the European Championships most notably the defeat against Iceland. There is always a feeling that there is a mistake waiting to happen within Hart even before his performance at the Euro’s.
This may not have played a major decision in Guardiola’s to opt to buy Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo’s in preference to Joe Hart but it would have been something to have been considered. Nevertheless it seems that Guardiola after watching Hart in various training sessions did not think he could play well with his feet. As previously stated this seems to be a requirement of any goalkeeper that wants to play under Guardiola.
In many ways the defence is expected to build up from the back and in some respects it could be argued that Guardiola has changed the perception and expectations of a defender. Whereas previously a centre-half was expected to be robust, good in the air and hard in the tackle, Guardiola expects his defenders to be good on the ball and to quickly bring it out to support the attack.
Some Evertonian’s criticised John Stones inability to defend off set pieces yet in many ways Stones is a typical Pep Guardiola centre-half. Of course defending is a requirement but it will be his skill on the ball and moving it swiftly that he will be judged on.
It shouldn’t really come as a shock that Joe Hart is now not seen as Manchester City’s first choice goalkeeper. Neither should it be a surprise that Guardiola does not allow reputations or sentiment to influence his decision. All one has to do is look at his ruthlessness when first taking charge of the Barcelona team for the 2008-09 season. Ronaldinho who had previously dazzled the Nou Camp and been applauded off the pitch by arch rivals Real Madrid was shown the door as he seemed more intent on partying than training. This was the same with Deco and other high-profile player’s that were considered either unprofessional or too disruptive in the changing rooms.
Joe Hart despite his faults is still a good goalkeeper but just simply doesn’t fit into how Guardiola wants his team to play. Only time will judge whether it was correct but Guardiola’s track record would suggest that he will.