The signing of Joe Hart on a season long loan from Manchester City forms part of what looks to be a very good transfer window for the club.
Out of all summer acquisitions, however, none have split our fan base as much as England’s number one. Sure some may question whether or not Marko Arnautovic is worth a club record fee, or whether collectively signing multiple players over the age of 28 is good long-term planning, but getting hold of Hart has caused much discourse.
Javier Hernandez is an obvious improvement on Jonathan Calleri. Arnautovic is a talented man who will excite rather than frustrate as Gokhan Tore did. Pablo Zabaleta is a seasoned professional who offers more than Sam Byram currently does, and ensures Antonio or Kouyate should end up nowhere near the right back position this season!
But is Hart really any better than Adrian or Darren Randolph? There are many who think not. Twitter was full of people who, at best were underwhelmed by his signing. At worse, there was serious frustration at the acquisition. The reasons for this are fairly apparent. Hart has had a rough season or two, and his performances during Euro 2016 where hardly inspiring – we’ll never forget him being beaten from 35 yards by a Bale free-kick.
He also only managed to get a weak glove on Iceland’s winner in our humiliating 2-1 defeat before he was then jettisoned from City by Pep Guardiola upon his arrival at the Etihad. His season on loan at Torino was hardly his redemption song either, with numerous clips appearing on Twitter of his fumbles and flapping at crosses.
On top of this, his stay with us is, at present, only for a season and has ruffled the feathers of last seasons shared incumbents of the number one spot. Darren Randolph has departed in search of first team football and Adrian’s dissatisfaction was also audible.
Both are players who have endeared themselves to many of the faithful. As a result many are unhappy that we have brought in a player for a season, whose presence could leave us without a recognised first choice keeper once his loan is over. Marry this to the statistics that seemingly support the view there is little between the keepers, and you have a recipe for the frustrations aired across social media.
Adrian kept more clean sheets last season even though he did play 20 less games. Combined Randolph and Adrian made 105 saves, Hart made 91. Our two number 1’s conceded 64 goals, Hart let in 62. Their successful catches are also similar (109/107). In fact the only statistic that Hart is significantly superior in is his distribution which is successful 73 per cent of the time compared to 55 per cent for Adrian and Randolph.
Is that worth the additional wages and the potential loss of two fan favourites? Does Joe Hart bring anything else to the team? What he does brings is character, leadership and a wealth of experience from the very top of the game. He has won two league titles, two League Cups and a FA cup, as well as four Golden Glove awards. He has been capped by his country 71 times and was touted by many as a potential captain when John Terry and Steven Gerrard passed on the armband.
Sinisa Mihajilovic (Torino manager) is quoted as stating that Hart’s ‘presence made the whole team feel more confident’. His teammate in Turin, Joel Obi also claimed he ‘changed the mood of the club’s dressing room’.
There are numerous clips of Hart in the tunnel before matches where he is vocally ‘geeing’ his teammates up before they step out onto the pitch. It is a valuable asset that our squad last season lacked. Mark Noble delayed his hernia operation because he knew that without him the side lacked leaders. Hart definitely falls into that bracket on and off the pitch. And let us not forget that Hart, on his day, is up there with the very best.
England are blessed with good goalkeepers at present and it is Hart who retains the jersey. His save the season before last at the Boleyn from Dimitri Payet’s free kick will rank as one of the best the great ground ever saw.
Over the last decade he is one of the few England players who you could put into the world class bracket, and he is only now hitting the peak years for a goalkeeper. For all the viral videos, he only made two mistakes that led to goals last season. If he has learned to curb his enthusiasm and those rushes of blood to the head, we could be the beneficiaries. Only time will tell. But maybe Hart’s biggest attribute is that he settles the ‘who’s number 1?’ debate. Last season, many couldn’t decide who should be first choice; Adrian or Randolph? Now the choice is clear.