Form, as they say, is temporary; class is permanent.
Just as strikers don’t suddenly become bad players when the goals start to dry up, goalkeepers like Joe Hart don’t go from champ to chump after making a few errors.
Hart is, in my opinion, unquestionably the best English goalkeeper around at the moment, and any suggestions that he should be relieved of his England duties are naive and unfounded.
That said, the Manchester City keeper is not going through the happiest of times at present, and I have a theory as to why.
Hart has been taught—as most English goalkeepers are—as a "reactive" stopper, not a "proactive" one.
English keepers learn how to react to any move, shoot or cross instead of anticipating it and understanding the game as an outfield player. It’s something I know Hart recognised himself early on in his career and why he has spent so much time watching Italian and Spanish goalkeepers in action.
Under the new regime at Manchester City, Hart has been asked to change some of the things he has been doing his whole career—including the way he jumps and walks, his basic technique and generally small things that the new people at the helm felt would improve him as a goalkeeper.
Of course, this brings problems with it. When you finally make it as a professional—to the top of the greasy pole that is the highest level in football—you do so by playing subconsciously, almost on instinct.
Ask Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo how they do some of the things they do and I honestly believe that they couldn’t tell you. It’s carved in their DNA after thousands of hours of practice.
It’s something they’ve just always done, and goalkeeping styles are no different. Great players can always improve—fine-tune if you like—but essentially what they have is instinctive, natural actions made real but born of the subconscious.
Unfortunately, when you try to make alterations to your basic footballing DNA and consciously analyse and alter things you have been doing subconsciously, you have a problem.
Not least is the fact that potentially this is a process that anyone would struggle with and fight against. When someone suggests to you that you do something differently to the way you have always done it, then the natural reaction is to dislike it.
But before anyone thinks about writing Hart off, I would suggest that he is made of sterner stuff. He is going through a process, but I feel sure he will eventually come out the other side as he makes that journey from the subconscious to the conscious and back again.
And he will come back a better keeper for it.
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