Pickford deserves to be England's first choice, suggests Southgate

By Sports Desk March 27, 2022

Gareth Southgate insists Jordan Pickford has "always played well" for England and backed the Everton goalkeeper to continue as the Three Lions' number one.

Pickford's place in Southgate's side has been called into question throughout his time as first choice, though the form of Aaron Ramsdale for Arsenal this season has resulted in increased examination of who deserves to play between the posts.

Everton's form has not helped, with the Toffees struggling in 17th place in the Premier League and having conceded the joint fifth-highest number of goals in the competition this season (47).

Pickford, meanwhile, has conceded 44 of those goals, from 25 appearances. Even if he has been a relatively consistent performer in a disappointingly inconsistent Everton side, only three Premier League goalkeepers have conceded more so far this season, though the 28-year-old has been kept busy, with his 85 saves ranking as the sixth-highest.

His save percentage of 65.9 is the seventh-lowest of goalkeepers to have featured at least 10 times in the top flight, and is way down compared to Ramsdale's impressive 76.3 per cent.

Pickford has, however, slightly overperformed his expected goals on target conceded (xGOT), by 0.6, though Ramsdale again comes out top in this metric, with a goals prevented figure of 3.3.

 

Yet on the international stage, Pickford is still Southgate's undisputed number one. He made three saves as England came from behind to beat Switzerland 2-1 in a friendly at Wembley on Saturday, including a stunning stop from Fabian Frei when the visitors were 1-0 up.

"He's always played well for us and he has a good focus with us," Southgate told a news conference.

"He has a very good relationship with [goalkeeper coach] Martyn Margetson, who I think does an excellent job with him. So, he knows the structure around him. He knows clearly how we want him to play.

"There is competition for everybody's position and that's what we want. We don't want people just sitting, thinking confidently that there's no competition that doesn't help a team.

"I think the form of the other goalkeepers is important. But he showed again, big saves at important moments."

Pickford has kept 20 clean sheets from 43 England appearances, conceding 32 times and not making a single error that has resulted in a goal.

Indeed, at Euro 2020, he kept five clean sheets – more than any other goalkeeper – while his save percentage (88.9) was also the best in the competition.

 

"I thought he was very calm with the ball," added Southgate. "That allowed us to relieve the pressure by going back and out of the press.

"Of course, he's got every club in the bag because he can go long, which is a problem for teams as well. So a very good performance from him, especially the saves in the first half."

The Premier League statistics this season do not back up claims of Pickford's reliable distribution, however, with his passing accuracy of 48.9 per cent ranking the third worst of goalkeepers with over 10 Premier League appearances.

That data could be skewed slightly by the fact that only Burnley's Nick Pope has attempted more long passes this season (581 compared to 544), with Everton have preferred a more direct approach under previous manager Rafael Benitez.

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