HEY, ARE YOU READY TO BE EVEN MORE NERVOUS ABOUT THE NORTH LONDON DERBY? There are two reports out right now — one from Matt Law in the Telegraph and one from Alastair Gold in football.london — that suggest Joe Hart could very well start in goal for Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday’s North London Derby against Arsenal. This is due to nebulous concerns over the health and fitness of starting keeper Hugo Lloris.
There’s not much substance in either report. It doesn’t say what’s potentially wrong with Hugo, whether he’s carrying an injury or sick, or anything. All it says is that there are “concerns” about Hugo’s fitness and Hart is now preparing for the possibility that he could be in Tottenham’s goal when Spurs’ first match of the season against their main rivals kicks off on Sunday.
So I don’t have to tell anyone reading this blog that this is emphatically not a great situation. It’s double-plus-ungood just a day after Spurs limped to a 3-3 draw against LASK in Austria, a match in which Hart played 90 minutes and also let in three savable goals. Hart wasn’t the only Spurs player who had a bad match in the Europa League last night, but good lord, Hart was notably poor against LASK.
The idea of starting Joe Hart in the NLD is bad, but if there’s a saving grace it could be that Arsenal might be even worse. Spurs are heading into this match as huge favorites over Arsenal — I’m not sure there’s been a point in the Premier League era where Tottenham have been this much better than their north London rivals, on paper. With or without Hugo, Tottenham could quite possibly score four on Arsenal and make it not matter.
But this is the Derby, and in the Derby often times you can throw those kinds of metrics out the window. The thing about Hugo is that even if you have a defensive breakdown, you know you’ve got a guy between the sticks who’s more than likely going to make a good stop. With Hart... I do not have that same level of trust. To be fair, I don’t have that same level of trust with Paulo Gazzaniga either, but at least with Gazinga we have a proven track record of him doing decent things in goal in the not-so-distant past with Spurs. Hart has rarely been tested in his games this season, and he has a fairly lengthy trail of not-great performances at Burnley and West Ham.
The articles do not say that Hart is definitely starting — it’s simply an area of “concern” and that Hart is going to be ready if the call comes. That leads me to think that whatever’s wrong with Hugo is probably relatively minor, and that he could be a game-time decision. But brace yourselves for the possibility that Spurs could be without their club captain and best keeper on Sunday.