David Moyes has admitted that his “compassion” for Joe Hart’s position as England No1 made it difficult to leave the West Ham United loanee out of their 1-0 win against Chelsea on Saturday.
Hart had been ineligible to play against Manchester City, his parent club, six days previously and saw his replacement Adrian – whose only previous appearances this season had been in the League Cup – perform well. The Spaniard kept his place for Chelsea’s visit and was again beyond reproach. It was the latest setback in a chastening 15 months for Hart, who will be at serious risk of losing his World Cup place if his fortunes do not improve.
“I always have compassion for the players, and I have to think of their situation as well,” Moyes said when asked whether Hart’s situation with the national team had entered his reasoning. “That’s why it wasn’t an easy decision – it wasn’t easy because of that. But ultimately it’s West Ham I have to think about getting a result for. I need to win as well.”
Moyes looks certain to stick with Adrian for Arsenal’s visit to the London Stadium on Wednesday. “[He kept a] clean sheet, didn’t make any mistakes today, so I’d have to say on that I would think so,” he said, adding standard caveats about the couple of days’ training that lie in between. He said Hart “will play a lot of games this season, I’ve got no doubt about that” and emphasised that his importance to the squad extends to his wider role in the dressing room.
That will be cold comfort to Hart, who turns 31 in April and saw a season-long move to West Ham as a chance to re-establish himself in the Premier League after being jettisoned by Pep Guardiola at City. Things have not gone to plan and Hart, whose form for a struggling side has been patchy, faces the kind of battle he could not have expected four months ago.
“I thought he was very good,” Moyes said of Hart’s reaction to not being picked. “He wasn’t happy, you know – I told him the reason why and that’s it. But that happens all round the country. Part of a manager’s job is relaying messages to your players on how you think they’re performing. I said to them when I came in: ‘I’m going to tell you what I think, I’m not kidding anyone on, if I think you’re doing fine I’ll tell you and if you’re not I’ll tell you as well’.”
Perhaps Hart can take solace from the tough love Moyes has already dished out to Marko Arnautovic, another underperforming summer arrival who was restored to the starting lineup against Chelsea and responded with an all-action performance that was capped with a fine winning goal.
“I think his all-round work has been really good,” was Moyes’s verdict on his appetite to track back and chase lost causes. “I’ve just said to them: ‘If you don’t do it, I won’t select you because at the moment we need it’. Football isn’t all about running but I think what the people here want to see is that the players are putting in effort and energy. I think the energy that Marko’s shown has given the crowd a lift – and I think they’re reacting to seeing that if Marko Arnautovic can do it then, well, they all can do it.”
It was a level of vigour that Moyes’s opposite number, Antonio Conte, would have welcomed from his own players. Chelsea looked leggy – “a bit tired”, Conte agreed – against opponents for whom fitness had been a major concern before Moyes arrived in November. He bemoaned the fact he will essentially have “20 minutes” to prepare them for the assignment at Huddersfield on Tuesday; the implication is that reinforcements are needed but whether everyone in the corridors of power is singing from the same hymn sheet remains to be seen.
“I think it is right to keep it secret if we have a conversation with the club,” he said of any discussions with Roman Abramovich about the January transfer window. “Now, it is very important for us to be focused on the league, to go game by game and try to find the right energy to play every three days.”