When Jordan Pickford turned out for England in the 2018 World Cup quarter-final against Sweden, there was no way he could know that a couple of seasons later the opposition counterpart, Robin Olsen, would join him at Everton on loan.
Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti is blessed to have two regular international goalies at Goodison Park. All keepers are judged on the saves they pull off and clean sheets they keep, and criticised for the mistakes they make like Pickford against Leicester City.
“The view of Jordan was not so good because there were a lot of legs there so he had difficulties to catch that ball, and unfortunately they scored…”— FourFourTwo (@FourFourTwo) January 28, 2021
Carlo Ancelotti refused to blame Jordan Pickford after his mistake handed Leicester a point
➡️ https://t.co/20VQTfA9zd pic.twitter.com/c7g5Gb2NUh
His early performances at Everton earned Pickford three Player of the Season awards. Since then, however, his level has dipped and the Toffees’ defending has become stickier. From a 37 percent clean sheet rate in the Premier League during his second season at Goodison after switching from Sunderland, Pickford dropped down to fewer than a quarter shutouts for the last campaign. He has just three in his first 17 league starts this term.
Everton do have to defend as a team, but Pickford has just two clean sheets in his 18 appearances since the opening weekend of the campaign to the end of January across all competitions. While an initial £25,000,000 rising to £30,000,000 is hardly the highest price tag paid for a goalie, critics wonder when Toffees chief Farhad Moshiri will get a return on his investment.
Since joining the club, Pickford and Everton have finished a Premier League season no higher than eighth. Ironically enough, that is the spot they occupy in the table at the halfway stage of the campaign. It does represent progress on last term’s twelfth place, though.
With so much football on today, thanks to the growing popularity of live streaming and adjusted schedules, results and individual performances receive detailed analysis. When predicted results don’t come off, there is an inquest and keepers often get a hard time.
The stats are not just an indictment of Pickford, however, but the Toffees defence as a whole. Many of those playing in front of Pickford – centre-backs Yerry Mina and Michael Keane, for instance – cost similar fees.
Cash has already been splashed on trying to improve Everton defensively. It has yet to bear fruit on a consistent basis, but there are mitigating circumstances in that Toffees club captain and Republic of Ireland right-back Seamus Coleman has not always been fit.
Olsen has not had the same opportunities to show Ancelotti that he can make a difference, but notably kept clean sheets on two of his last four Everton appearances. His loan spell from Roma would surely have been about ensuring he keeps his place not just in the Sweden squad but in their starting XI.
After the opening weekend win over Spurs, Pickford’s other shutouts to date came against shot-shy Chelsea at home and then against Sheffield United. The latter have struggled all season and been bottom of the Premier League for much of the campaign.
As a recent Goodison defeat against out of form Newcastle United showed, Pickford is still performing well. Only a fingertips save with the score goalless prevented Callum Wilson from taking home the match ball.
The Toffees must defend better as a unit, having conceded from a set-piece and later getting caught on the counter-attack. Pickford is not necessarily part of the problem, but Olsen can certainly exert pressure on his place protecting the posts.
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