“I don’t know why he finds it funny,” Gary Neville shouted at Jordan Pickford as he almost cost his team a goal last Saturday.
The Everton man, in rather typical fashion, came out of his goal and tussled with Bernardo Silva before Manchester City came close to adding a fourth.
It was something that summed up Pickford. He has a bubbling and vibrant personality but he’s often left wanting.
Arguably he was at fault for one of City’s strikes. Stepping to his left, he opened the gap up for Riyad Mahrez to rifle in a free-kick that should have been a straightforward save.
But things are never simple with the England goalkeeper. In fact, they rarely ever are with English stoppers.
Think back to Scott Carson’s calamitous mistake in qualifying for Euro 2008 or to Joe Hart being swatted away to Torino and then Burnley.
Even Jack Butland is now having a tough time of it at Stoke too, making an error against Nottingham Forest.
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However, even though he’s England’s number one, Pickford is still pedestrian. He’s too error-prone and that might well put his future in Gareth Southgate’s plans in doubt.
After all, the Three Lions still have a plethora of option available to them with Nick Pope and Tom Heaton being called up for the latest internationals.
The Toffees stopper is also among those Southgate has called up, but he could well have some promising players starting to appear over his shoulders.
Dean Henderson has now received Premier League experience with Sheffield United, and he is certainly one to watch out for, while Aaron Ramsdale is in similar shoes at Bournemouth.
It may be sometime before they start to break into the frame but Pickford should still be on edge. His place shouldn’t be safe and that’s largely down to an emerging Premier League syndrome, something that’s been plaguing goalkeepers on English shores in recent times.
A classic case that’s comparable to the 25-year-old is Simon Mignolet, that isn’t just because they’ve plied their trade in Merseyside, but because they’ve had similar paths.
Having both been at Sunderland during times of trouble, they were reduced to saving a greater percentage of shots than they ever have for Liverpool and Everton.
During 2016/17, Pickford had to make a colossal 135 saves in just 29 appearances, per WhoScored. If you compare that to his first term at Goodison Park, he played nine more games but only had to make 120 stops.
Last season that figure stood at just 92 efforts denied.
Throughout the 2012/13 campaign, Mignolet was forced into producing a monumental 149 stops as he was an ever-present figure in the Black Cats side.
Upon his move to Anfield, the Belgian made 105 saves in 38 matches during his first season. He then made even fewer the year after, just 89 in 36 outings, via WhoScored.
That says a lot about the amount of defending a team like Sunderland has to do compared to one competing in the top six to eight teams in the division.
Goalkeepers are sure to average more than your normal outfield player but it still doesn’t make for very pleasant reading.
The fact is that these two individuals looked like superb shot-stoppers when playing for Sunderland. Indeed they were pleasing on the eye and kept their team in the game but when having less to do, they crumble under the pressure.
The weight of playing for a side like Liverpool and even Everton is far larger. There are expectations and mistakes are often put under the microscope more often. This is because they’re having less to do.
They’ll make fewer saves and as a result, when they do make an error it’ll be scrutinised intensely. It’s also a case of focusing when you’re less involved in the play.
This is typical of Pickford, who displayed against Man City that his focus and attitude wasn’t up to scratch.
But the former Sunderland men aren’t the only ones to suffer from this syndrome.
Another player you can throw into the metaphorical hat is Michel Vorm. The 35-year-old looked capable at Swansea but was out of his depth in a Spurs team that had fewer defensive duties.
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This also works the other way too, specifically for goalkeepers going from a club where they have little to do, to playing for one where they’re likely to be tested more often.
Lukasz Fabianski is a prime example. He was suspect at Arsenal but has since been a revelation at West Ham, winning their Player of the Year for 2018/19.
At the Gunners, he was someone that Arsene Wenger admitted mistakes affected him. But because they did less defending, he wasn’t able to prove his worth on a sufficient enough level in terms of shot-stopping. Is it ever really a surprise he didn’t make it in north London? Probably not.
The problems he had there haven’t been an issue at Swansea and West Ham but it shows that confidence is key. The more saves you make, the comfier you feel between the posts.
This appears to be something Pickford is suffering from – rarely does he seem comfortable and he looks a shadow of the person that arrived as a youngster from the north-east. Making save after save was confidence-boosting but he isn’t tested enough regularly at Everton.
The same happened for Mignolet at Liverpool and it could well be damning for Pickford’s international career.
Only time will tell whether it does have an impact, but he is unlikely to improve unless he gains a greater sense of focus, just as he did at the Stadium of Light.
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