Big Hart – But Big Hole

Manchester City’s 2-0 loss has been and will continue to be picked apart by the arm chair managers for at least another few days – did Pellegrini get the tactics right? Was it really a penalty? Did City show Barcelona too much respect?

While it is often overly harsh and unfair to bring any result down to the actions of a single player in a team game, many, at least those with a goalkeeper bias, will be asking today if Joe Hart could have done better on the second and possibly tie killing goal for Barcelona.

In the previous article I talked about Lukasz Fabianski and he highlighted his well tuned ability to close players down in the FA Cup match between Arsenal and LIverpool. On two occasions Fabianski’s ability to close the space, stay on his feet and make himself big thwarted Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge.

In Tuesday’s Champion’s League match Hart seems to all these things as well on the second Barcelona goal – he closes the space well and quickly, he stays up and if anything throws a bigger profile at Barca’s Alves but still the ball ends up in the back of the goal. Why?

Some of it is down to obviously the speed and power of Alves’ shot alone perhaps but Hart’s shape at the crucial moment must also be questioned.

First thing though Hart does get his positioning and space minimizing run absolutely correct – the only way to goal for Alves is through him…

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Unfortunately for Hart that’s exactly what happens as Hart’s final position presents a target Alves cannot miss:

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The question is why? What does Fabianski do differently than Hart. Lets look at the two keepers body shape and their movement just as the shoots are about to be taken.

First Fabianski who has stayed upright, left almost no target and as he closes down the final few inches between himself and the ball lowers his hand and body towards the ball.  The result Sturridge pulls up on the shoot keeps going wide and eventually fires into the side netting.  Even though the Arsenal keeper probably went down a little early his scrambling efforts kept the ball out of the net all because he “won” the small mind game between keeper and shooter.

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In Hart’s case he presents something entirely different to the shooter despite closing the distance and “making himself big” – his hands are too high to be of too much use and he has presented a target not just too tempting for Alves but one he can’t miss.

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The final image shows the difference in the two keepers shape in the crucial moment – Hart’s feet much too wide and hands again much too high to really influence either the shot or the psychology of the shooter. The result a goal. A goal that while definitely not the fault of the keeper alone one that a few minor adjustments in approach may have prevented.

Analysis, Coaching