Many moons ago, at the end of the Claudio Ranieri era and beginning of the first Jose Mourinho era with Chelsea, there was a goalkeeper named Carlo Cudicini.
Cudicini was recognized as a solid goalkeeper who was very good at stopping penalty shots, yet he had one glaring weakness to his game: he was prone to making major mistakes at the most inopportune times in the biggest games. Fast forward to October 2013, and Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart is starting to emulate Cudicini’s big-game gaffes.
Hart’s latest blunder came in Sunday’s Premier League game at Stamford Bridge. In the 89th minute of a 1-1 game against Chelsea, he did a poor job of communicating with central defender Matija Nastasic and saw Nastasic head a ball back which went by him, and put Chelsea striker Fernando Torres in position to score the game-winner.
Now, some people will say Nastasic is at fault for the error. To them, I respectfully say you are flat-out wrong in blaming him for what was an error on the part of Hart.
In a play like that, the goalkeeper must immediately let his defender know whether to play it back to him or let the ball go. Looking at replays, it is clear that Hart failed to notify Nastasic in a timely manner and as a result, he forced Nastasic to make a decision. It led to Manchester City dropping points in a big away game in league play. Anyone giving blame to Nastasic has never played defense on an organized soccer team or has limited understanding of soccer.
Normally, one could chalk such a mistake by Hart as a one-time blunder due to some hesitancy, which Manchester City have had with captain Vincent Kompany out due to injury. However, this is not the first time Hart has had a Cudicini-type blunder in a big game so far this season.
The previous Cudicini type blunder took place during Matchday 2 of Champions League play when Hart let a rather routine shot on goal by Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery squirt by him for a goal en route to a 3-1 loss.
No one is saying that Hart is not a good keeper but at the same time, others can’t be blamed for mistakes he makes, and errors committed by him can’t be called “out of character”.
What is clear is that like Cudicini, what is in character for Hart is making a major gaffe during a big game. Unless he shapes up and puts in the mental work necessary to not to let his guard down and be fully concentrated for 90 minutes, Hart will continue to make major errors that will cost either Manchester City or England games.