Previously, I have discussed (here & here) the determinants of player selection for the English football squad, specifically whether form or reputation is the dominant effect. Last week, Gareth Southgate stated that Joe Hart remains England’s number 1 for next summer’s World Cup. Southgate insisted that despite Hart’s club having a difficult start to the season, Hart has been excellent. This sentiment was clearly not shared by his new club manager, David Moyes, who dropped Hart for West Ham’s recent home fixture against Chelsea. To add insult to injury, Hart’s replacement kept a clean sheet (something which Hart has failed to do in his previous 7 games) in an unlikely win against Chelsea.
This prompted me to analyse whether Hart remains England’s number 1 based on merit or reputation. Table 1 shows all English goalkeepers in the Premier League that have played 10 or more games this season ranked by Fantasy Premier League (FPL) points earned.
Similarly, Heaton’s replacement at Burnley since his injury – Nick Pope – has not been mentioned as a likely call up. Pope has the most clean sheets of all English keepers in the Premier League despite playing the least amount of minutes. Pope leads the English goalkeepers in FPL bonus points earned and ranks second overall in FPL points. One might suggest that Pope has benefitted from playing in a predominantly defensive set up at high-flying Burnley. However, Pope ranks third in total saves which suggests he has been far from a spectator in Burnley’s matches.
England’s current keepers (Hart, Pickford and Butland) have failed to outperform Forster and Pope in any key performance category. Joe Hart has conceded the most goals and has made the least number of saves of all keepers included. Hart ranks third from bottom in FPL points won, FPL bonus points earned and clean sheets. Last week, Southgate claimed “I don’t think anyone else has had an opportunity yet to stake a strong enough claim to take over”. However, from an economist’s perspective, it is difficult to make a case statistically for Hart to remain as England’s first choice.