Joe Hart: Manchester City's Number One Trumps Manchester United's De Gea
The debate over goalkeepers is well worn at this stage, with Joe Hart and David De Gea in particular attracting both positive and negative hyperbole on a weekly basis.
“Well if Hart/De Gea did that…” is the new cliché in town when one or the other so much as slices a back pass out for a throw in, and it’s all growing a little bit tiresome.
So with that in mind, it’s time to settle the debate once and for all by deciding who is better. Admittedly it’s a tricky one because both are extremely talented so I’m going to be completely biased and say it’s Joe Hart.
Having played in every Premier League game so far this season, Hart is on course to be an ever present for the third successive campaign since being given the nod by Roberto Mancini to start between the posts ahead of Shay Given back in 2010.
Hart spent the 2009/10 season on loan with Birmingham City and impressed so much that he made it into the PFA Team of the Year before returning to Eastlands to displace Irishman Given. Since then, he has won the Premier League title, the FA Cup and two back to back Golden Glove awards. He also made another appearance in the PFA Team of the Year for 2011/12.
With just 27 goals conceded in the 31 league games to date this season, an average of 0.87 per game, City possess the Premer League’s tightest defence. David De Gea currently averages 0.91 goals conceded per league game.
Last season City shipped just 33 goals in 38 games, coincidentally also an average of 0.87 per game, so while they haven’t been firing on all cylinders at the other end of the pitch, they are on pace to match their title winning campaign from a defensive perspective.
City have also kept 14 clean sheets in the league, an excellent achievement when you consider that their best defender and captain, Vincent Kompany, has missed nine games through injury. Matija Nastasic is only just gone 20 and even though he has been very impressive, he is still settling into the Premier League having joined from Fiorentina last summer. Neither Kolo Toure nor Joleon Lescott have been in favour with Mancini and have only played when absolutely necessary.
When you take all that into consideration, City’s defensive record is even more impressive, and a lot of that is down to having a reliable number one.
Last year, ex-City chairman John Wardle revealed that Hart cost the club just £100,000 when he joined from Shrewsbury Town in 2006. Contrast that with De Gea who cost around £17m and it’s safe to say that City got the bigger bargain.
Indeed, Sir Alex Ferguson has publicly stated that he regrets not signing Hart. "If you look at the England goalkeeper situation for the last 20 years, I would think he's easily the best," said the United boss. Fine praise indeed.
Of course, Hart is prone to the odd gaff or two like any other keeper and has received criticism from Mancini this season for errors against Spurs and Southampton in particular. However, De Gea is just as guilty of mistakes (against Fulham at Old Trafford and Spurs at White Hart Lane for example) so there’s no one-upmanship to be had in the f**k up category.
De Gea is regularly lauded for his excellent ability with the ball at his feet, following in the footsteps of Edwin Van der Sar, however it is Hart who actually boasts a better pass completion percentage – 62.1% versus 55.1% (Premier League and Champions League games).
As a City fan it’s very hard to have a bad word to say about Hart in terms of personality; he strikes me as the kind of bloke you could go on the p**s with, one of the lads, while also coming across as very down to earth when interacting with fans. If you haven’t seen his ‘My Special Day’ episode then you really should give it a watch.
Hart’s honesty in post-match interviews is also quite refreshing, with his opinions after the defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League testament to the high standards to which he holds both himself and his team mates.
Still only in his mid-20s, Hart is a good few years off peaking as a goalkeeper and is currently contracted to remain at the Etihad Stadium until 2016. He may not be the best goalkeeper in the world but with all things considered, I wouldn’t swap him for anyone else, David De Gea included.