Since Joe Hart’s signing from Shrewsbury to Manchester City in 2006, two Premier League titles and an FA Cup trophy later and the 27-year old appears to have asserted his number-one status at domestic and national level of late. During Hart’s eight seasons with the current champions, he has frequently demonstrated high levels of mental fortitude, particularly during challenging circumstances, most notably throughout last season.
Manuel Pellegrini adopted faith with number-two goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon in October 2013 after a testing spell from the England number-one. However Joe Hart latter redeemed his place in December after some prominent displays, and acknowledged that “managers have got decisions to make, regardless of whether they are personally beneficial, and you have to be man enough to take it and bounce back from them”. While he capped his successful run of form with his second Premier League title, Pellegrini opted to increase the competition for Hart’s place by signing a new goalkeeper in Willy Caballero from his previous club Malaga in the summer, perhaps recognising the impetus in maintaining Hart’s boosted form. “Joe is having a very good season. The arrival of Willy Caballero is the best way for him to have competition and high performances in the future”.
Senior figures at Manchester City Football Club believe that a conclusion to contract negotiations is “imminent” with Hart understood to be ready to agree a new deal worth a basic £120,000 a week (previously on £80,000) with lucrative incentives linked to the club’s success. Hart’s new four-and-a-half year deal with the Etihad outfit (worth £25m) marks the England shot-stopper as the highest-paid keeper in the world. The impending signing of Hart’s new contract aroused speculation over which English keeper possess the qualities necessary to prevail Joe Hart’s international supremacy as the number one.
Southampton’s Fraser Forster has certainly excelled since joining Southampton from Celtic in August 2014 for £10m. The Saints’ visit to the Emirates stadium last week proved a challenging test for Forster, where a successful string of saves prevented Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck (amongst others) to break the stalemate. Ultimately, the potency of Sanchez was enough to surpass Forster two minutes from time, however he had already secured the man of the match award for his efforts. Having quickly acclimatised to the Premier League from Celtic, it is pertinent to examine his international credentials as to the underlying reasons for his number two role. Forster’s recent period of notable form comes on the back of a solid display for England in a friendly with Scotland in November, where his role triggered many considering that further opportunity to prove himself may be deserved. It appears that Roy Hodgson favours Manchester City’s proven performer between the sticks than Southampton’s Forster, which was expressed by the England manager recently. “Fraser has got a great future however it would be injudicious to suggest that he should be given the responsibility over Joe Hart”. While Hodgson’s recent ethos often advocates the insertion of younger talent in the England squad, question marks remain as to whether this stance is echoed with his goalkeeper selection process.
Regardless of subjective opinions of Joe Hart, receiving a contract extension may likely heighten Manchester City’s conviction in the wake of a pivotal week, where a win is necessary away at Roma on Wednesday if they plan to extend their Champions league run into this year’s knock-out stages.
Which attributes may Joe Hart require in order to be recognised as the most productive Premier League goalkeeper?