Between the sticks and out of sorts!

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Between the sticks and out of sorts! Published 30/01/18 on Moore Than Just A Club

Fortuitous it may have been, but when Hart was excluded from the team that faced Man City, Adrian stepped in and has never looked out of favour…but should he be resting on his laurels?

The goalkeeper situation at West Ham has given rise to much debate and with prejudices set aside, we are looking at two men who have very similar performance statistics but fans seem to favour the Spaniard over the Englishman.

Last season Adrian was dropped for a series of mistakes and was replaced by Randolph, whom I also thought was susceptible to error. In many games I wondered if it was justified to keep Adrian in the shadows, hidden away to spare us his shame…and this season we seem to have done the same to Hart.

We have to remember that although Hart may have been suffering with confidence, his overall performances were not tantamount to treason. He was becoming the fall guy for a defence and midfield that was under performing. Of course he made errors, but any keeper that does not resides only in our imagination…indeed, there are few hiding places in the spotlight of the goal line realities.

When Moyes arrived, he continued with Hart but with a team that was still reeling from its own inadequacies. When the penny finally dropped and the players started to up their game and demonstrate desire and commitment to the cause, this coincided with Adrian’s chance to prove himself.

There is no doubt that he seized his opportunity with great gusto and indeed pulled off some fabulous saves in the first couple of matches. The team was becoming more streetwise and were growing in confidence, just as Adrian was. He had faith in the players in front of him and they in return had faith in him. This new found circle of trust would be the foundation of an impressive string of performances and better yet, results that would see West Ham gradually rise up the league table. However, were there indications that our blind faith in Adrian could be called into question and hopes would be restored for Hart?

Hart had taken his demotion with grace and ultra professionalism whilst continuing to be outwardly supportive of his colleague. Moyes had taken the tough decision to drop Hart and had proceeded to go on form with his selections, but was also mindful that there possibly wasn’t that much to separate the two talents, hence Hart was favoured for the cup ties…in which he has performed really well.

One could argue in the cup tie against Shrewsbury Town, our opponents were much the better side and only Hart, of the senior contingent, was able to hold his head high. A truly woeful team performance and had it not been for Hart’s saves especially in the first half, then it would have been curtains on this year’s cup run.

In Moyes I have found admiration for a man who appeared to make his decisions based solely on performance…He didn’t play Noble at the start, he dropped Hart and put in Adrian who continued to shine whilst his passion for the game and the club was endearing him to the West Ham faithful. However in equal measure, Moyes has frustrated me with his persistence in playing out of form players such as Kouyate or not finding a solution to provide suitable service to a strike force that was floundering.

I am now at the stage where Moyes needs to reevaluate his goalkeeping choices and analyse with greater scrutiny the performances of both Hart and Adrian.

When West Ham suffered a defeat to Newcastle and drew with Bournemouth, Adrian conceded six goals in two games. Now, this is not to say that they were all his fault, however he did make mistakes too. Whenever a goalkeeper is left exposed by a malfunctioning defence then ultimately the piercing shame of letting balls fly past you into the net is never far from being revealed.

Since the Newcastle game I have been paying particular attention to Adrian and his performances for I felt there was reason to doubt the faith most of the fanbase had placed in him and the ridicule being bestowed upon Hart. Overall he continues to provide stability at the back but more and more errors are becoming evident and in crucial moments too.

When Bournemouth took the lead in the return fixture at the London Stadium last week, Adrian hesitated to come off his line and narrow the near post angle…this ultimately led to the goal. Whilst there are indeed narrow margins for error in the professional games and of course our defence was dissected with a scalpel’s blade and Zabaletta was left in no mans land…ultimately that last line of goalkeeping defence came up short.

So the question now is why should Moyes continue to show faith in Adrian when he is making the same kinds of mistakes that Hart was making before, albeit Hart was playing in a much inferior team?

For Hart, well he is having to jump through hoops to prove his standards and his opportunities to shine have to be tempered with the fact that his is being forced to play in weakened fields in our cup tie dreams that have been burst.

Once again Hart put in a committed performance over the weekend in the cup game against Wigan. He controlled his area, made decent saves and saved our blushes more than once…although he may have been weak in the first goal and could do nothing about the penalty. Perhaps it’s time to put him back into the showcase games…perhaps the time is right for him to stake his claim for first team football and his seat on the World Cup plane…perhaps it is time to put him back in a team with another first choice ten outfield players and see how he does.

The reservation that many fans would feel, is one that I also share…Should we really invest our fortunes in a player that is on loan or should we continue with Adrian…who is our player. We have a financial obligation to get the best value for money whilst we have Hart on loan, but surely that does not mean that we should place greater loyalty in him over Adrian.

In truth we have to put aside the long term goalkeeping debate and focus on the immediate performance trends of both keepers. In the uncertainty of whether Moyes himself is here for the long term, his focus should purely be on the next result and the next performance. With that in mind I would think he will gauge Adrian’s performances against Crystal Palace & Brighton…depending on results and specifically his performances and errors in crucial moments, may indeed lead him to reconsider his first choice keeper.

If Moyes is true to his word then he will be forced to make a change if this error trend continues. Whilst his performances have not been awful, neither were those of Hart…for the most part. We have a much better team now, if we ignore the injuries and out of form players, so possibly it is time for Hart to come out of the shadows and shine bright once more.

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