Fortunes are beginning to change for Everton, as after such a vibrant start under Rafa Benitez, are now back at square one.
They have tasted back-to-back defeats, with a midweek penalty shoot-out loss to Championship side QPR in the Carabao Cup the nadir of the Spaniard’s reign so far.
For the most part, Benitez has done a good job since returning to Merseyside. He may have entered the club amid controversy over his appointment but Everton’s downfall over the last seven days is not entirely his fault.
That’s because the Toffees have been without a number of their key players. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is out with a quadriceps problem while Richarlison is also absent after a knee injury sustained against Burnley.
Seamus Coleman is set to miss another two weeks but there has been some positive news regarding Jordan Pickford.
It was thought that the goalkeeper would spend the next fortnight on the sidelines alongside his clubmates, but Benitez has revealed that the England international is ahead of schedule in his progress.
The 61-year-old said: “Pickford is okay, he has been training. Lucas [Digne] has been training. The others (Richarlison, DCL, Coleman) is the same situation.”
Although they’ll still be without some important outfield players, the return of Pickford will be a huge boost to their chances of beating Norwich this weekend.
The 27-year-old is undoubtedly an error-prone goalkeeper but he has improved significantly in recent months, starring at the European Championship.
The ‘keeper’s form helped England reach the final as he narrowly broke a record stretching back to the successful 1966 World Cup. Everton’s number 1 surpassed Gordon Banks’ landmark of 720 minutes without conceding a goal for the Three Lions.
He has only kept one shutout since returning to Goodison Park but they evidently missed him against Aston Villa last week when Asmir Begovic let in three goals. His penalty-saving abilities would also have been beneficial when they lost to QPR in the Carabao Cup a few nights ago.
Pickford hasn’t always been the most reliable figure but he is a key cog at Everton and a senior figure in the dressing room. Benitez must be delighted to have him back in contention to face Norwich.