Since Pep Guardiola has taken charge of Manchester City, one big move that has been talked about a lot was replacing long serving, England number 1 for Claudio Bravo from his old club, Barcelona. Many people refer to Bravo’s passing and that’s why Pep likes him and that Hart’s distribution wasn’t good enough to cope in the new Manchester City team under Pep’s style.
Chance Analytics has also had a piece on Joe Hart’s Impact at Torino here.
I’ve always been a fan of Joe Hart and think he’s one of the only England players that you could possibly currently call ‘World Class.’ So, all this discussion and debate on Joe Hart’s passing ability made me want to look into it and write about it here.
I’ve handed picked all the passing data below from FourFourTwo’s Statzone and have used data from Hart’s first nine games for Torino.
Here you can see the passing accuracy and number of passes into these 15 areas of the pitch established using the lines on the pitch on the Stats Zone website. Attacking from left to right.
It’s very clear that, as you’d predict, passes into closer zones are more accurate. Passes to wider areas are also more successful and Hart’s distribution to the left third of the pitch is better. Although he attempts passes to the right side significantly more. Hart should stop passing so often to the two central areas of the pitch. He attempts passes there fairly regularly yet only 9 have been successful out of 44 (20.4%).
Hart has produced a 69.8% passing accuracy overall but this chart gives better context to his passing habits and accuracy.
Also, I looked at the length on his passes. There is a clear drop off after the third and fourth zones. Hart has wasted a lot of possession by aiming for the 6th and 7th zones when possibly the third or maybe fourth would be a better option. This decision making could be based on managerial instructions.
This graph is borrowed from Sam Jackson’s piece (who I recently interviewed here) on the metric RPI. RPI evaluates a goalkeeper’s pass success compared with the average of keepers in the sample, weighted depending on the average success in that zone. Sam’s piece shows the average passing accuracy from GKs in the big leagues of passes into each zone.
Here you can see a comparison of Hart’s accuracy at each length compared to the Average for GKs in the top three leagues collected by Sam Jackson.
Overall, Hart is pretty decent and never falls far from the average, except for zone 9 which he only attempted to pass into once. He also is far better than the average in zone 8, but again small sample size with three attempts there. Zone 6 is his strong point.
Here is the same thing but with pass frequency to each zone. Hart places more of his passes into short zones than the average keeper. At Torino he’s been more reluctant than the average keeper to pass long, which may be due to instructions from the manager.
Here is Joe Hart’s RPI (Relative Passing Index), which is explained here, is 1.31%. Read the linked article as I’m sure it will explain it much better.
Above is Sam Jackson’s data from 2015/16 showing the RPI of keepers in the top three leagues. You can see Hart having a negative RPI last year and is in the bottom half. Meanwhile, Bravo is 13th with approximately 3.75% RPI value.
Hart’s rating at Torino would move him up a few places on the rankings but still not to the level of the elite passers.
To conclude, Joe Hart is a pretty average passing goal keeper and maybe would not be able to cope in the new Manchester City system. He is a decent distributor but, I don’t think he has the quality of passing of Claudio Bravo to take opposition players out of the game and build the attack. Read this article by Tom Payne to see what I mean about Pep’s preferred goalkeepers. If Hart was going to struggle and make mistakes I’d rather not see him at City to be honest. It can’t be good for confidence and we need England’s number 1 to be in form. He should maybe look at his numbers and consider passing to certain areas less as it is inefficient use of possession.
Passing accuracy for goalkeepers isn’t the best metric due to the fact that the success rate may heavily depend on the receiver of the ball’s ability to keep it.
I plan on a few follow up articles comparing Hart to goalkeepers that Guardiola prefers. For example: Valdes, Neuer and Bravo. Also, I know comparing a Serie A keeper to the top three leagues isn’t as accurate but that is a lot of data to record, but maybe something you’ll see on this site at some point.