Celtic 'keeper Joe Hart and the statistic that shows real improvement

By Euan Davidson

September 24, 2021

When it comes to goalkeepers, Celtic man Joe Hart included, it’s hard to argue that stats matter an enormous amount.

Is your goalkeeper making saves? Good. Are they keeping a decent amount of clean sheets? Fine. Beyond that, there isn’t a great deal to worry about, is there?

But with distribution becoming such a key part of a goalkeeper’s game these days, there’s more than just saves and clearances to worry about. It’s not a particularly new phenomenon, but in the post Tiki-Taka era of world football, the short passing ability of shot-stoppers was given far more scrutiny.

If anyone knows that, of course, it’s Hart.

Technically-minded goalkeepers with good short and long passing have been extremely popular – and expensive – since the early 2010s. Especially with coaches like Pep Guardiola, who jettisoned the England keeper when he took over at Manchester City. Even after completing 100% of his passes against Steaua Bucharest, his last game for City [Sky Sports].

That created a bit of a myth around Hart, that he couldn’t play with the ball at his feet. And now?

Celtic 3-0 Raith Rovers | LIVE Reaction

Celtic 3-0 Raith Rovers | LIVE Reaction

Well, he’s the most successful passer in the entire Scottish Premiership.

Yep. According to the stat gurus at WhoScored?, Hart ranks highest in the top-flight for his distribution. So much for a goalie who couldn’t pass the ball, then.

Perhaps even more promisingly, Celtic players dominate the top ten. Stephen Welsh is second with 93.4% pass success. Carl Starfelt is 4th, with 92%. Then, you’ve got Callum McGregor, David Turnbull, Ismaila Soro, Greg Taylor and Josip Juranovic.

This is particularly interesting if you’ve read Derek Whyte’s comments on building an understanding between the goalkeeper and defenders. Celtic have established exactly that.

What the stats actually mean for Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart

Let’s break this down a bit.

For a goalkeeper, passing averages can get notched way up by playing quick, simple passes to defenders under no pressure. Given that Celtic like to play it out from the back, we ought not to be overwhelmingly surprised here.

Also, it’s important to remember that not everyone in Scotland pushes high up, and puts pressure on the opposition off the ball. Joe Hart and Celtic will face many sides willing to absorb pressure, hope to win aerial balls and win possession that way.

Photo by DAX Images/NurPhoto via Getty Images

But still, it’s impressive stuff. Especially when you consider it isn’t just short passes to his centre-backs or to Callum McGregor. Hart is hitting 3.4 long balls per 90 [WhoScored?], and is more than happy mixing up play when he needs to.

That’s across competitions, by the way. His approach doesn’t change depending on the opposition.

Fine, it’s not as if Joe Hart has suddenly become Andrea Pirlo overnight. But any concerns we might’ve had about his ability to fit into Postecoglou’s game were, as it turns out, not backed up by evidence.

So, he’s a leader, he’s great with supporters, has vast experience and can play a bit.

That’s pretty good for £1m.

Read more: “I’ve had conversations with the board”; Callum McGregor tells 67 Hail Hail why he signed Celtic deal