Joe Hart is unquestionably one of the best goalkeepers of his generation. Blessed with an almost cat-like agility, a knack of pulling of stunning reflex saves and a domineering command over his penalty area- Hart has all of the required attributes to be one of the Premier League’s best. But his recent lapses in performance and seemingly frequent mistakes have led me to somewhat question his status as “best in the league”.
Hart’s inexplicable drop against Southampton in the Saturday evening kick off which led to a decisive two-goal lead for the home side is the latest in a seemingly uncharacteristic catalogue of errors in recent times for the England number one. Whilst I still firmly believe that Hart is the best English goalie out there, I am finding it harder and harder to justify his place amongst the worlds elite- and perhaps even more tellingly, the Premier League’s elite.
Hart seems to fluctuate from moments of brilliance to moments of madness- and his performances often seem to be erratic to the extent of exhibiting arrogance at times. As a pure-blooded English footballing supporter, I would love to justify his place as one of the best goalkeepers on the planet but I suggest that as a nation we have perhaps raised Joe Hart’s perceived ability to overly-extensive levels.
Of course, I would still argue that Joe Hart is the best shot-stopper in the league (closely followed by the likes of David De Gea and Ben Foster) but he does lack the basics at times. Ever since a shocking performance at Leicester City in the FA Cup a couple of years back, Joe Hart has proved on too many occasions that he is only human. Hard as it is to swallow as an England fan, I think it is time to stop blinding ourselves to the reality and confront the fact that Hart may not be as good as we say he is. So the question is, if we are all living under the Hart delusion, who is the best goalkeeper we have in the Premier League?
Pepe Reina of Liverpool has always been up there, but in my opinion he is too prone to rushes of blood to the head; you only have to look back two weeks to see his mistake against Manchester City which led to their second goal. David De Gea can match anyone for shot-shopping but his command of the area is weak and he often looks too feeble coming to collect the ball. The likes of Petr Cech, Michel Vorm, Tim Krul and Ben Foster are all worthy candidates and high calibre goalkeepers but I would argue that based on current performance, the title can go to one of three men:
Candidate One: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)
In terms of pure ability and natural talent- you cannot look far past the French Numero Uno, Hugo Lloris. Blessed with a remarkable agility and fantastic reflexes, Hugo Lloris is easily one of the best goalkeepers in the world today. Lloris has 44 caps for the French National side- with most coming as captain, and was the standout goalkeeper in Ligue 1 for four years despite the presence of the likes of Salvatore Sirigu and Steve Mandanda. Tottenham signed him as somewhat of a coup from Lyon in the summer and Lloris has grabbed his chance at the big time with two safe hands. He has pulled off some of the most remarkable saves of the season and has the best clean sheets to game ratio in the division. Lloris truly is a goalkeeper who can claim to be “world class”.
Candidate Two: Julio Cesar (Queens Park Rangers)
A goalkeeper of massive international prestige and experience, possessing over 60 caps for Brazil, and a Champions League winners medal with Inter Milan to boot. So, as you can imagine, there was an air of surprise when the grizzled veteran goalkeeper rocked up at Loftus Road on a loan deal this summer (especially given as QPR had only just signed Robert Green from West Ham). Nevertheless, despite a frankly awful season so far for the West London side, Cesar has arguably been the one shining light for the Super Hoops. Cesar has pulled off wondersave after wondersave, and at times has been a one man barrier defending his team from annihilation. His most notable performance was perhaps against Champions, Manchester City, where Cesar made at least four world class saves as QPR picked up a surprise and much needed point. Whilst at times the London based outfit have been lacking, Cesar has at times been the only reason, they are still in touch with the rest of the relegation candidates this season.
Candidate Three: Asmir Begovic (Stoke City)
The stats speak for themselves. With the second most clean sheets in the league (9 from a possible 26) and the second most number of saves (333 in total), Asmir Begovic has enjoyed one of the best seasons of his life. Having firmly established himself at the Britannia Stadium after joining from Portsmouth in 2010- Begovic has been enjoying the form of his career. The Bosnian has been an ever present for Stoke this season, and has proven his worth numerous times. Capable of remarkable reflex stops and with a menacing stature and command of his defence, Begovic is almost hand crafted to be a world class goalkeeper. With the arrival of Jack Butland to the Britannia Stadium, a summer move to Manchester for big money looks like the increasingly likely, and deserved destination for this shot-stopping Bosnian.
The argument is simple and clear. We cannot continue trying to convince ourselves Hart is the best in the world when his performances display exactly the opposite. Will he be in five years time? Perhaps. But right now we need to thrust the spotlight onto more deserving candidates for best goalie in the league before we glorify the likes of Hart anymore.