Carlo Ancelotti’s decision to start Robin Olsen and bench Jordan Pickford at Leicester City on Wednesday night proved a huge risk for Everton that nearly backfired badly.
The England goalkeeper was dropped for the 2-0 win at the King Power Stadium with AS Roma loanee Olsen entering the fold for only his second Everton appearance since joining on a season-long deal.
The Swedish international was beaten twice in his debut at Newcastle United last month, but was given the chance to establish himself in the East Midlands with Ancelotti keen to manage his players’ workload through the hectic festive schedule.
Ancelotti noted following the Newcastle defeat that he had chosen to rotate his options in goal as he is used to alternating between his ‘keepers, having decided to rely on different players while in charge of Real Madrid and SSC Napoli.
The Italian confirmed after the Leicester match that Pickford’s omission was once again a purely tactical decision, and that the England international will return between the sticks when Everton host Arsenal at Goodison Park this weekend.
“Just to rotate the players and keep him involved. He’s a serious professional, good goalkeeper with experience and that’s it. Saturday will be Jordan in goal,” Ancelotti said.
Ancelotti may be keen to dip between Olsen and Pickford when fixtures begin to mount up, but the decision to ditch the England international at Leicester almost proved costly for the Toffees on a night they closed to within a point of the fourth-placed Foxes.
Olsen began well at the King Power Stadium to pull off an impressive stop to deny his Roma teammate Cengiz Under a first Premier League goal, but let the high quickly turn into a low when a lack of cohesion with the Everton backline opened the door for Jamie Vardy to attack.
A bit more quality from Vardy again could have seen Olsen beaten, only for the Foxes hitman to head straight at the goalkeeper after meeting a delightful cross from James Justin.
Olsen’s limited game time thus far this season ensured there would be moments against Leicester where he and the Toffees defenders were not on the same wavelength, an aspect Ancelotti should have sought to avoid including in his plans in a match of significant importance.
Defeat at the King Power Stadium would have seen Everton slip behind West Ham United in the race for European football, but are instead firmly in the mix at the one-third stage of the season.
Ancelotti must now think carefully about benching Pickford in any future Premier League fixtures, as Olsen has yet been convincing of his ability to deputise for the £100,000-per-week Sunderland product when it matters most.
AND in other news, Everton enter a four-way battle to sign a gritty 21-goal marksman in January.