Everton maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a 2-2 draw at home to Stanley Park neighbours Liverpool on Saturday, but perhaps most impressive of all is that Carlo Ancelotti’s side were able to claim a point despite Jordan Pickford.
Yet at the same time, Pickford can also be heralded for Ancelotti’s side having claimed a point at home to a side the Toffees remain winless against in a decade, after producing a performance typical of who the 26-year-old has come to be over the past 18-months.
One second Pickford is brilliant and pulling out world-class saves, but the next he’s making a horrific blunder that makes you question why manager’s continually favour the former Sunderland man who has now started each of Everton’s last 119 Premier League fixtures.
The Toffees also continue to sit at the top of the table knowing they cannot be met for at least another week, and yet, for the wrecking ball between the sticks in Pickford, they came ever so close to seeing an early red card derail Ancelotti’s work over the opening weeks.
It has almost become what you now expect of Pickford, a panicky shot-stopper determined to get to the ball and make an impact on proceedings but without the thought of mind to realise when some scenarios are best left for other players to resolve.
No better example of this came when Pickford opted to dart from his line in the hope of blocking Virgil van Dijk from shooting at goal on Saturday, only to clatter into the Netherlands defender and raise fears over a serious knee injury that could have dire consequences on the Reds’ title hopes.
The incident could easily have led to referee Michael Oliver pointing to the spot or reaching to his back pocket for the red card, as well, but Pickford’s blushes were saved when Van Dijk was ruled to have been offside when the ball was initially played to him.
Pickford was able to put the clattering incident behind him and turn a corner with his performance to deny Trent Alexander-Arnold in sublime fashion, when the defender’s free-kick seemed destined for the top corner. His fast reflexes later denied Joel Matip, too, as the £23.4m-rated man was able to claw the Cameroon international’s header away.
The errant side of Pickford’s game is a brush continually now used to tarnish his reputation and raise questions over his continued place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad. Yet Three Lions icon Peter Shilton finds it mystifying that questions are even raised given the shot-stoppers efforts on the international stage.
“I’m a bit mystified, because I think he’s done well for England,” Shilton told talkSPORT earlier this month.
“Every game I’ve seen him play, he’s made vital saves. In the last game, he only had one save to make but it was at the right time and it was a terrific save.”
But Pickford’s place in Southgate’s squad became a topic of debate earlier this month after an error-strewn disaster against Brighton & Hove Albion, having gifted Neal Maupay possession yards from the goal line to equalise.
The 26-year-old regained his composure to help England beat the world’s top-ranked side Belgium, yet Pickford was far from perfect in a mostly quiet affair between the sticks by flapping at the occasional cross and was at it again against Denmark.
Rather than leaving Kyle Walker to contain Thomas Delaney, Pickford was panicky, rushing off his line and playing a key role in the incident which saw the Three Lions concede a penalty. And with goalkeepers, one crucial error can cost a side more heavily than others.
Luckily for Everton, that turned out not to be the case this Saturday against Liverpool, but Ancelotti’s side came ever so close to paying the price for Pickford’s panicky nature when the 26-year-old crunched into Van Dijk.
Ancelotti would have hoped not to see Pickford cause a controversial incident, though, and putting himself in those positions raises doubt over whether or not the ‘keeper is truly learning from his errors.
Pickford spoke publicly in December 2019 on how he needed to block out Newcastle United supporters whenever he faces the Toon for his Sunderland past, having bitten the bait earlier that year when his panicky nature took hold.
The jibes from supporters made Pickford feel a need to make an impact, but the impact he created should have resulted in a red card when he clattered into Salomon Rondon and conceded a penalty, which he would save before conceding three second-half goals.
“I was in my own world out there, I knew that last time I was here I let it all affect me,” Pickford said, via quotes by the Chronicle. “That was a big learning curve for me and it’s always been a tough place to play, especially for someone with my background.”
It appeared like Pickford was back in his own world this weekend when he clattered into Van Dijk in front of an empty Goodison Park, raising greater worry that he is not taking on board the ‘learning curve’ needed to see fans love him more than they will hate.