England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made another mistake so should he still be No.1? Roy Keane insists he does not need to see the stats but what do they say about his record?
Monday 2 March 2020 18:44, UK
Jordan Pickford’s double save in stoppage time was impressive enough. A parry to keep out Bruno Fernandes' shot high to his left followed by an outstretched foot to keep out Odion Ighalo too. Had Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s goal been allowed to stand shortly afterwards, the Everton goalkeeper would have played his part in a win over Manchester United.
Instead, thoughts will still linger on his disappointing attempt to keep out Fernandes' long-range shot in the first half. It was not as damning as David de Gea's early kick that ricocheted off Calvert-Lewin and into his own net but in its own way it will have been just as troubling for the watching England manager Gareth Southgate.
Pickford's mistake was no freak error. It was all too familiar.
Roy Keane, watching the game from the studio for Sky Sports, did not feel the late saves made amends for the mistake that had seen Pickford surrender Everton's lead in the first place.
"We give credit where it is due but keepers do that every day of the week," Keane told Sky Sports. "They make the save and get across the goals. Excellent save. But if he doesn't make the mistake in the first half, you end up winning matches. I am not going to come away praising the goalkeeper for drawing. It's about winning football matches, surely."
Keane's verdict was emphatic.
"The bottom line with Pickford, I don't need to see the stats," said the seven-time Premier League winner. "I know he's not a good goalkeeper. He's not up to it."
But what do the statistics reveal? According to Opta, there is no player in the Premier League who has made more errors leading to goals than Pickford in the past two seasons. This was his seventh such mistake with three of them coming in the current campaign.
Not everyone has played as many games as Pickford in that time. It could also be he has been unfortunate his errors have been punished whereas others have got away with their mistakes. But further examination suggests this is not the case.
Examining all errors leading to a shot on goal and comparing the statistics per 90 minutes, they reveal Pickford makes a mistake more regularly than his England rivals.
It has not helped Pickford's reputation either that his biggest blunders have come in big games. This was a key match against Manchester United but two more of his mistakes have come at Anfield - most notably that inexplicable failure to tip the ball over the bar last season that led to Divock Origi's winner with the final kick of the contest.
The majority of his mistakes have come against the so-called big six.
Southgate, of course, will be uncomfortable at the thought his England goalkeeper is more prone to errors when the pressure is on, but he is still likely to be comforted by the conviction Pickford's personality appears suited to the spotlight. Southgate will remember the World Cup in Russia. The shootout in Portugal last summer too.
Perhaps the high-profile mistakes mask the fact his agility saves his team on a regular basis? Maybe, as is the case with Tottenham's Hugo Lloris, Pickford's shot-stopping ability makes up for his other deficiencies.
Unfortunately, the underlying numbers suggest not.
Opta's expected-goals model is able to estimate the number of goals a goalkeeper would be expected to concede given the type of shot, the location of the shot and the direction in which it is struck. The evidence suggests Pickford's record is significantly inferior to some of the goalkeepers who are pushing for his England place.
While Nick Pope and Dean Henderson have prevented more goals than expected over the course of their fledgling Premier League careers so far, Pickford is costing Everton goals.
Will Southgate be prepared to make the change based on the evidence? It is an awkward decision that mirrors the one he elected to make when installing Pickford in the first place.
Back then, Joe Hart was the man who had to be dispensed with because his form had dipped alarmingly. Southgate concluded that including the former Manchester City goalkeeper as a back-up option at the World Cup was unhelpful given his previous status.
Comment below to the join debate, but please respect our House Rules. If you wish to report any comment, simply click on the down arrow next to the offending comment and click 'Report'
So where does that leave Pickford? He has 24 caps now and was one of England's heroes at that World Cup. Could he really be expected to assume the role of third-choice goalkeeper behind Pope and Henderson - two men with two caps between them right now.
"I don't think any manager wants to change his goalkeeper this close to a major tournament," Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports. "He has been really good for England but since the World Cup, and certainly this season, he has been nowhere near his best form and it will be a worry going forward for the England manager and the Everton manager."
Nick Pope (Burnley)
Pope is the form goalkeeper having kept four clean sheets in his last five games including the shut-out against Newcastle on Saturday. That was his eleventh clean sheet of the campaign, the most by any Premier League goalkeeper this season, and came in front of the watching Southgate at St James' Park.
No goalkeeper has caught more crosses than the 27-year-old. No goalkeeper has swept up behind his defence more times. Pope has made far fewer errors than Pickford in his Premier League career too with the only concern likely to focus on his kicking.
Dean Henderson (Sheffield United)
Henderson has been a revelation for Sheffield United this season with his sole error against Liverpool being more than made up for by his subsequent heroics in a newly-promoted team that has conceded fewer goals than everyone except the league leaders.
Given De Gea's poor form for Henderson's parent club, Henderson could even be in line for the Manchester United job as well as the England one if things continue.
"I wouldn't be surprised," said Keane. "That's the manager's job. You're constantly making decisions. They have got Henderson out on loan and I'm sure Ole is thinking it over."