Joe Hart faces City and England axe – how did it all go wrong?
Costel Pantilimon to take over for Man City against Newcastle, and he could keep the shirt
THE knives are out for Manchester City and England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who looks set to lose his place in the side for City's Capital One Cup clash with Newcastle tonight following yet another howler on Sunday, which gifted victory to Chelsea.
Hart came hurtling out of his area in the final moments of the high-stakes match at Stamford Bridge to try and deal with a long ball, only for centre back Matija Nastasic to head it past him, allowing Fernando Torres to nip in and score the winner for Chelsea.
All three of City's league defeats this season have now been pinned on Hart, and he has also been criticised for displays in the Champions League and for England.
In the aftermath of the Chelsea game City manager Manuel Pellegrini appeared unwilling to back his keeper, and if his understudy, Costel Pantilimon, performs well in the Capital One Cup this week he could take over for the Premier League game against Norwich at the weekend.
"Pellegrini is running out of patience with Hart after a string of costly errors and fears his position at the Etihad Stadium will come under increased pressure if the England goalkeeper makes many more mistakes," says the Daily Telegraph.
If Pantilimon gets the nod for City against Norwich "it could be a very long way back indeed for the goalkeeper largely considered to be the Premier League’s best over the last two years", says Ian Ladyman in the Daily Mail.
The omens for Hart do not look good, he adds. "After Sunday's latest mistake at Chelsea, Hart's coach said he needed time to see 'how to arrange things' which, frankly, is the kind of thing people say when they are about to dump their girlfriends."
And the 26-year-old will be particularly concerned with a World Cup around the corner. "Hart must fear that losing his place as City's No 1 could also jeopardise his status as Roy Hodgson's automatic first choice for England," explains The Times.
The Mail agrees, saying Hart could also be relieved of the England jersey next month. It predicts Hodgson will test Fraser Forster in the friendly against Chile. It all means that Hart is now experiencing "the toughest period of his career", according to the paper.
Daniel Taylor of The Guardian has a theory about what has gone wrong. "Hart has actually suffered, as odd as it sounds, from his own excellence," he says. "By being so accomplished in City's title-winning season, perhaps he reached a comfort zone, with no real danger of losing his place, either for his club or national side... Hart, to put it bluntly, has had it too easy, too long." ·