Joe Hart's miscalculation cost his City side dear on Sunday in their defeat to Chelsea, further raising questions about the England number one's decline in form of late. It seems like it has all gone downhill since that dramatic final day when Aguero's strike sealed the Premier League title for Manchester United's noisy neighbours back in 2012.
This Hart doesn't look like the unflappable, ever-present force we all know he once was. Sunday's blunder, amongst other high-profile errors this season, has only amplified questions about his starting roles as City's and England's number one goalkeeper.
His manager at the Etihad, Manuel Pellegrini, refused to publicly point the finger at Hart, nor did the Chilean come to his defence, but pretty much every pundit on every channel has 100 per cent blamed Hart for Torres's winner for Chelsea. Sky Sports' Graeme Souness was especially vocal in condemning Hart's error, saying,
"Fernando Torres was not on Nastasic's shoulder, there was no pressure. These are all things Joe Hart should have seen, if he stays it's just a simple, simple header back to the goalkeeper. It's hard to put on Joe because he's having a difficult season but I'm sorry, we're here to call and it's his fault today."
High-profile gaffes have come in other big games too, such as City's Champions League defeat at the hands of a rampant Bayern Munich in which Hart was at fault for two of Bayern's goals. With the World Cup in Brazil little more than half a year away, big game blunders aren't what England needs from their first choice 'keeper in the season leading up to the biggest sporting tournament in the world.
Could it be time for Roy Hodgson to give someone else a chance, like Fraser Forster, to prove himself in goal? It has already been suggested that Pellegrini will opt for his usual back-up Costel Pantilimon and could keep him in goal if he impresses. However, Hodgson doesn't have the luxury of a large fixture list to experiment with.
As we have seen in the past, chopping and changing the England number one keeper spot hasn't always been beneficial. Who could forget Paul Robinson's error against Russia in the Euro 2008 qualifier which led to him being dropped for Scott Carson for the all-important final game against Croatia? However, Carson's mistake in that game, parrying a long-range shot into the net, cost England dear as they failed to qualify for the tournament which subsequently led to Steve McClaren's dismissal. The former England boss was also lamented in the press for picking an inexperienced goalkeeper for such a crucial game.
David James was particularly annoyed at the treatment of the England goalkeepers during that failed qualification campaign. At the time he said,
Will Hodgson give someone else a go?Will Hodgson Give Someone Else A Go?
"Did sitting on the bench prepare Scotty for being in goal against Croatia, five days after his senior England debut, with the fate of the nation resting on his shoulders?"
The past has shown us that the number one England jersey is something of a tenuous commodity. Once upon a time, David Seaman was dropped for David James, who was dropped for Paul Robinson, who was dropped for Scott Carson and so on.
When Joe Hart became a Premier League winner with Manchester City in 2012, he was widely hailed as the best goalkeeper in the division and the nation rightly believed that Hart was the man for the job for the foreseeable future. But is the curse of that position now coming to haunt the 26 year old?
Looking back at the last World Cup in South Africa, David James was the preferred choice but had injury problems in the lead-up to the tournament and though he was selected, Robert Green started England's game against the USA. Needless to say, we all remember what happened in that match and David James subsequently regained his spot for the next game.
It goes to show that swapping such an important position around, particularly for an inexperienced replacement, heaps a monumental amount of pressure on the man chosen for the job. It may have been easier to drop Hart if this blip was happening at the beginning of the qualification campaign, but now it may be too late to throw someone else in at the deep end.
Rather than chop and change, play Hart and give him confidence to go into the World Cup with. What is certain, however, is that the World Cup will either propel Hart to old heights or send him crashing to new lows at the slightest of errors.
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