Jordan Pickford: A defence of our keeper

Kris Boner 27/12/2019 40comments  |  Jump to last

There recently has been a lot of negative commentary by the community of ToffeeWeb regarding our number one, Jordan Pickford. Criticism that he isn’t good enough, and that we would be better off with [insert name here]. This week it was Nick Pope of Burnley. Presumably due to us playing Burnley and Everton fans getting a good look at him in a game where he admittedly performed well, looking to aggressively catch plenty of crosses.

But I wonder if we as fans suffer from some form confirmation bias because we watch him every week and other keepers not as much. So when we see a keeper doing things we complain about Pickford not being good at it confirms that Pickford is a worse keeper than he actually is.

Jordan is joint sixth for clean sheets and we can all agree that we have been terrible defensively this season. Having faced the ninth most shots. Of those with more clean sheets only two have faced more shots. Foster and Dubravka. Neither of whom I hear great clamour from ToffeeWeb regulars to replace our current stopper.


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To counter the above statistics Jordan’s save percentage is around 63%, which puts him firmly which puts him at 18th (coincidentally less than 0.5% below Nick Pope who is 17th and the live forums choice to swap most recently).

In terms of mistakes leading to goals this season Jordan has made 1, tying with Pope, Ederson, Leno, Henderson and less than De Gea, Lloris and Patricio.

There are other variables to consider: high claims/punches, sweeper clearances and even the old evil Expected goals against Which we are underperforming by 5 goals currently. Jordan rates particularly low on claims/punches and sweeper clearances.

But how do these stats reflect on the goals we have conceded for the season thus far?

Of the 29 goals Jordan has conceded I have reviewed them and concluded the following (if you will excuse the very subjective nature of the review):

2 conceded against Aston Villa, both one-on-one chances after his defenders failed to track the runners. Strikers are favourites one-on-one and to state otherwise would be disingenuous.

2 conceded against Wolves. Defensive error by Digne lets Traore cross and an unlucky bounce off Coleman allows a tap in. It should be noted that Jordan makes a superb save at 1-1 to keep the game level. Second goal was from a missed defensive header and poor marking at the far post, striker heads in from 5 yards. First header is too far away for the keeper to come. Jordan is not at fault for either. The save Jordan makes makes certain of the victory he theoretically wins us 2 points.

3 conceded against Bournemouth. Again first header lost and back post marking poor for the second head, goalmouth scramble which we lose. Goal two is a missed clearance at first man from a free kick, deflection makes it very difficult. Goal three is another one-on-one from poor defending.

2 conceded against Sheffield Utd. Weak keeping leads to a missed punch, ball hits Mina of an OG from 1 yard. Possible appeals for a foul waved away but weak keeping. Goal two, oh look another one-on-one from poor defending being hit on the break.

3 conceded against City. First goal from a wonderful cross, headed in from point-blank. Poor defending at fault for the striker getting from free. Cross was excellent though. Goal two is beaten on his side for a free kick. Poor. Goal three Pickford makes a top save with his feet that unfortunately Sterling reacts quickest to to tap in.

1 conceded against Burnley. Appalling zonal defending allows a man to hammer home at the back post. Too far out for a catch and it would have been an unbelievable stop to save the shot.

3 conceded against Brighton. First goal direct from free kick, hit like a thunderbolt but Pickford absolutely should have saved it. Second goal is the penalty that should never have been. Third is an own goal Pickford had no chance of preventing.

1 conceded to Spurs. Mistake in midfield allows Tottenham through, Alli beating one man and placing his shot past Pickford. A good finish that the keeper would have done superbly to save.

1 conceded to Southampton. Winger beats the fullback too easily and squares leaving Pickford stranded. Nothing he could do to alleviate terrible defending. Does make a world class saved from a Wardprowse free kick later on in the game to keep us in it. Again Pickford makes a save that essentially nets us 2 more points, though more likely 3 as we score after the save.

2 conceded to Norwich. Poor defending allows Pukki to set up an untracked runner for another one-on-one. The second is an unfortunate clearance directly to a striker for another one-on-one chance. Pickford made some good saves early in this game but had little chance for either goal.

2 conceded to Leicester. Scuffed shot that happened to find Vardy at the back post. Awful luck, but keeper blameless. 2nd goal came on the counter, player beats the trap and then the last man to slot it in the corner, keeper with no protection and a difficult job to try and protect the whole goal.

5 conceded to Liverpool. 1st goal the keeper comes rushing out to try and make up for terrible defending and loses the one-on-one. 2nd goal is terrible tracking of the runner and the keeper can’t save from the one-on-one. 3rd goal, long ball over the defence, one-on-one, goal. 4th on the break, well placed into the corner under no pressure, not much the keeper could do about his absent defence. 5th was a powerful finish into the corner after they waltzed through us. Hard to blame Pickford when one-on-one or trying to save well placed shots that any keeper would do incredibly well to save.

1 conceded to Chelsea. First time snap shot that again is placed into the corner. Jordan looks like he is mid-hop when it’s hit as he probably was not expecting the shot. Great strike.

1 conceded to United. Shot goes underneath Mina‘a leg and into the corner three Everton players unable to close the United striker down quick enough, and the shot goes just being the keeper.

29 league goals conceded:

8 goals coming from one-on-one opportunities that are caused by the defence or from being hit on the break. None of these are Pickford‘s fault.

6 goals from shots that been hit directly into the corner under poor defensive pressure or from a break situation.

7 goals from other instances of poor defending/marking or losing the first header from set pieces.

4 goals that come about from bad luck or world class opposition - De Bruyne’s cross for the first goal of City, the brilliant save before Sterling’s goal, the scuffed shot that ends up at Vardy and an own goal at Brighton.

1 goal from a penalty that shouldn’t have been.

2 goals from free kicks that Pickford should have saved.

1 goal from a corner that Pickford failed to deal with.

With this analysis of each goal conceded and the stats presented at the beginning I believe that Pickford has directly been at fault for 3 of the 29 league goals we have conceded.

I believe our defence and tactically our football under Silva had been at fault for 25 other goals and poor refereeing the remaining goal.

If anyone can find me a keeper from the Premier who has been at fault for less than 3 goals this season who; isn’t at a team finished above us last season or currently playing for Leicester as they are nailed on to finish above us this season on current form then I will concede in my defence of Pickford.

Otherwise I’m open to criticisms of Jordan Pickford that reflect how we can improve upon him, or how other keepers in the league are better than him.

Noting that from his mistakes alone, they have only cost us 3 points in the Sheffield game as we were soundly beaten by City and robbed by VAR against Brighton. Conversely his saves by my reckoning have theoretically gained us 5 points (as explained above).

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Reader Comments (40)

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Andy McNabb
1 Posted 28/12/2019 at 08:23:39
Thanks for your analysis, Kris. I think that when the team as a collective unit fails to perform, the spotlight falls on the goalkeeper in a way that it seldom does on outfield players. Then it becomes all too easy to dismiss what we have and look elsewhere for a quick fix.

It cannot be disputed he has made mistakes but he would simply not be England's number one choice if he is as bad as he is portrayed by some.

Colin Glassar
2 Posted 28/12/2019 at 08:51:48
Pickford is a brilliant goalie. Yes, he’s slightly mad but most goalies are. He’s still a baby in GK years so, hopefully, he’ll just get better with age and experience.
Peter Warren
3 Posted 28/12/2019 at 08:54:19
The article simply highlights that Pickford is bang average premier league standard goalkeeper.

He is very good at penalties, very good at kicking it long and doesn’t make too many mistakes. The vast majority of saves he is simply expected to make but he is never a calm reassuring figure and not an imposing figure. His biggest flaws which a lot of our keepers tend to have had had over the years is his inability to read a ball over the top, staying on his line at corners and crosses and his constant choice to punch haphazardly shots and crosses away which ought to be routine catches

Eddie Dunn
4 Posted 28/12/2019 at 09:03:44
You can look at stats till you're blue in the face but it is other things that seperate good keepers(Pickford) from very good keepers.
Things like communication with the defence, timing of those long punts upfield, being reactive rather than proactive on those one-on-ones.
Reading of the game and knowing when to come off your line for a cross and when to dash out to sweep-up. Being aware of the attackers positions and ensuring that the parried save is sent to safe areas and not straight back into the path of oncoming strikers.
Some of these things can improve with experience but I would suggest that Pickford is relying on his reflexes too much. When his speed reduces he will have to use other methods or he will be less effective.
However, although the lad is not perfect he is way down the list of priorities in terms of improvements.
Whether he is bright enough to learn his trade long term and become a very good keeper,is debatable.
Derek Knox
5 Posted 28/12/2019 at 09:35:44
Never been one of the Pickford out brigade, but he is at times culpable of making schoolboy errors, and amateur defensive blunders. Then so has De Gea, and other high profile keepers.

Although in his defence, because he is the last line of defence, errors in front of him, and there have been plenty of those, can make him look like he is to blame.

If you trust the men in front of you, you don't expect them to blunder and put you on the spot. There is not enough communication between the defensive unit in general, but I dare say that will improve under Carlo and Duncan.

Keith Harrison
6 Posted 28/12/2019 at 09:54:12
Bloody hell. I've really opened a hornets nest here with my post yesterday. Just had a horses head in the post.

I never advocated shooting him, just my opinion that we could do with an improvement in the keeper dept.

Ho ho ho.

Martin Mason
7 Posted 28/12/2019 at 09:54:52
Excellent analysis on the best keeper in the UK.
Derek Thomas
8 Posted 28/12/2019 at 09:57:46

I've been thinking about a keeper up grade recently, so I had a look at the so called top 10...12 actually...keepers and they are all with Champions League, I was going to say royalty, I settled for regulars and later knockout stage regulars at that.

Unless Ancelotti knows a cracker in Napoli Res. or another of his many Ex's. It's over to you Mr Brands - find a modern day Southall at Bury...or where ever.

Ian Bennett
9 Posted 28/12/2019 at 10:09:30
I tend to agree that he will perform stronger with better players. He will make mistakes, and at young age for keepers that is inevitable - Even the best like De Gea make errors.

I'd far rather keep him and find a good left sided centre back. One with pace, who can lead and can pass. Here's hoping.

Iain Johnston
10 Posted 28/12/2019 at 10:11:45
As some say it's not all about stats, it's about talking, anticipation etc.

Take McCarthy at Soton, he's had less clean sheets than Gunn but the team concede a lot less goals.

How about foster at Watford, they've had as many clean sheets in the EPL as we have had and the likes of Kepa & De Gea have had less but you'd rate these two higher due to all round game.

Yes Pope has the highest clean sheet stat but you'd expect that in a team which gives up 70% possession and for the most part circle the wagons around him.

For me the best EPL keeper is Schmeichel. 7 clean sheets ranks top along with Pope but this is also in a team which plays flowing, open, attacking football.

Age wise, at 25 Pickford is easily the youngest of the better keepers in our league. At 21 Ramsdale at Bournemouth is one to watch.

Derek Knox
11 Posted 28/12/2019 at 10:18:08
Derek T, never mind a modern day Southall from Bury, although he wouldn't have the agility Neville could still do a job, nothing would get past him.

Have you seen him recently, I'm not exactly a Jack Sprat myself, but Nev's like the Gable End of a Shopping Mall or a Precinct! 😋💙

Sorry Nev, if you are reading this, no offence meant!

Simon Bradley
12 Posted 28/12/2019 at 11:39:32
My opinion.

He's certainly not perfect but a. he's very good b. another Top 4-6 team would almost certainly take him off our hands, and most importantly c. there are many other positions in the current team (possibly 10 of them) that need improving more than the keeper does.

Phil Sammon
13 Posted 28/12/2019 at 11:49:22
My biggest criticism of Pickford is his kicking. Ironically it was the thing that most excited me when he signed.

He doesn’t seem to understand that there is a time and a place for those low, drilled flat kicks. When you have nobody up front you are far better off getting some height on the ball to give your strikers more time to get into position.

It is also very unsettling just looking at the way he kicks the ball when he’s dealing with a back pass. Most keepers will calmly put their foot through the ball with minimal follow-through. Pickford swings his boot at the ball like he’s trying to win a ‘longest drive’ competition. Both feet leave the floor. It’s out of control and totally unnecessary.

All that said, if he played for Liverpool I seriously think he would be getting assists every week. As soon as he gets the ball he is looking for a killer pass. He can deliver it and the likes of Mane and Salah would be off and running as soon as Pickford had the ball. Hopefully that’s something we can look at doing once Ancelotti has his feet under the table.

Sam Barrett
14 Posted 28/12/2019 at 11:53:50
The answer to this problem was in front of our eyes at Goodison on Boxing Day.

Nick Pope, far and away a better keeper than Pickford.

Des Farren
15 Posted 28/12/2019 at 12:11:14
Lies, damned lies, and Pickford.

I prefer the evidence of my own eyes.

Stan Schofield
16 Posted 28/12/2019 at 12:16:04
Using the evidence of my own eyes, Pickford is one if the best keepers in the Prem. We're lucky to have him.
Andy Crooks
17 Posted 28/12/2019 at 12:24:48
Kris, your admirable article does not take into account his effect on the defence. I have seen, with the evidence of my own eyes, defenders take a more difficult route, rather than pass back to him.
I think he will become a top goalkeeper but he needs to work.

Dave Abrahams
18 Posted 28/12/2019 at 12:24:58
Pickford brings back bad memories to me of Paul Gerard every time I see him, like Gerard he thinks he needs a passport to come out of his six yard area. He’s not as bad as Gerard, let’s be honest, who could be, but he gets on my nerves, as Gerard did, when corners, free kicks and crosses are coming in, and he is rooted to the line. One example was the Watford game last season when one of their players ran at least twenty five yards into the Everton box and scored a header from around the six yard line with Pickford stood on the line. Colman gave him plenty over that, I was in the stands giving him loads more, along with quite a few more, and it takes something awful to get the very sedate Upper Bullens fans upset.
John Pickles
19 Posted 28/12/2019 at 12:26:55
A nicely researched, interesting article Kris.
Phil Sammon
20 Posted 28/12/2019 at 12:27:30
Sam 14

Aside from claiming three floaty corners I don’t know what Pope did that was so great. He had a couple of awful kicks under no pressure too. Pickford has his faults but he’s way better than Pope.

Dave Abrahams
21 Posted 28/12/2019 at 12:28:55
Stan (16), your seeing Pickford through the eyes of TV camera’s, he’s very photogenic, looks a lot better than he actually is !!!
Kris Boner
22 Posted 28/12/2019 at 12:28:56
Thanks to Lyndon and Michael for posting this.

Keith I’m not often enough of a poster to see all of the critics of Pickford, or Davies, or DCL to have aimed an article at particular people instead it was general feeling amongst the ToffeeWeb population that the general attitude was turning against Pickford, who I rate at top six quality, alongside probably 2/3 other keepers who wouldn’t necessarily improve us.

(For the record I rate Ederson, Allison, Leno and Schmeichel as the best four and stats back this)

I feel having spent plenty of time looking at very recently that stats are not an accurate reflection of Jordan’s ability due to the poor performance of our defence in general.

Indeed looking at so many goals conceded the running themes were as following Keane’s lack of mobility has been exploited many, many times. Digne has been beaten a noticeable amount times in one-on-ones. Our midfield has failed to track runners an alarming amount of times.

All of the Above have contributed to a significant proportion of our goals conceded. These things are all problems that can be managed or mitigated with a single signing and better tactics (the signing being a pacy centre-back with good reading of the game to replace Keane).

This is not to pass on the buck of bad player to Keane or whoever, rather the suitability of the player to the system. Pickford for me is suitable to our system and our forwards. Can he reliably launch the early ball for a counter attack to DCL, to knock down to our other forwards. Yes is my analysis. Is he a good enough keeper for a top six club, will he save the club points with his keeping? Yes he does make enough saves to justify his place. Is he going to win us a league probably not.

Neil Cremin
23 Posted 28/12/2019 at 14:40:51
I have never been a fan. He is a very good instinctive keeper but I do not think he has a football brain. I will let a far better football brain than those on TW coach the impulsiveness out of him or replace him over time.

To my knowledge he has never been dropped even when his performances merited it particularly following his antics at todays venue last year.
The focus on Pickford is no different than the focus on every other player in the squad whose performances have been torn apart on TW hence he cannot be exempt.
Coleman, Kenny, Keane, Holgate, Mina, Digne, Sneids, Davies, Siggy, Delph, Walcott, DCL, Tosun, Iwobi, Richarlison. Don’t think I have left anyone out who hasnt been vilified by TW commenters so Pickford should not get a free pass.

Richard Duff
24 Posted 28/12/2019 at 17:02:29
Jordan was really really good today. That's the standard we want every week.
Dave Evans
25 Posted 28/12/2019 at 17:50:27
Thanks for this Kris. I think Pickford will be one of the very best under Ancelotti.
Eddie Dunn
26 Posted 28/12/2019 at 18:13:33
Neil, the reason he has'nt been dropped is...Stek.
Mike Gaynes
27 Posted 28/12/2019 at 18:40:33
Excellent analysis, Kris. The effort to review all those goals is much appreciated.

Peter #3, care to reassess after today's performance?

Sam #14, if Pope is "far and away a better keeper than Pickford", why are his statistics virtually identical? Why did he spend so many years in the lower leagues? Why haven't bigger clubs been in for him at age 27? And why does he sit on the bench for England -- every game but one -- while Pickford plays?

Sorry, but I don't think Southgate, the Prem and the world of football at large are universally overlooking Pope's brilliance.

Meanwhile, Joao Virginia has had his loan to Reading cut short.

Peter Warren
28 Posted 28/12/2019 at 18:50:13
Mike 27# he was excellent today / particularly with crosses and his kicking was good too. He was without doubt a calming influence throughout the game. I would say it was his best performance by some way in a blue shirt.

Long may it continue but I need to see performances like today week in week out for me to reassess my judgment of him.

Don Alexander
29 Posted 28/12/2019 at 19:45:51
Jordan has never yet, England aside, been able to play with a team of quality players through even one single season. My guess is that when he does he'll resemble Jan Oblak of Atletico, in my opinion the best keeper in Europe despite not being a giant or competing for incoming crosses on an instinctive basis.

We've way more to worry about in the squad than Jordan Pickford.

Jerome Shields
30 Posted 28/12/2019 at 20:14:35
Pickford put in a good, disciplined performance today.
Bill Gienapp
31 Posted 28/12/2019 at 20:34:23
Pickford is a very good keeper and it would cost a fortune to bring in a clear-cut upgrade - look how much Liverpool had to spend on Alisson, or Chelsea on Kepa. The likes of Nick Pope and Ben Foster would, at best, be a lateral move - you'd just be trading one set of weaknesses for another.

As Don (29) says, we've got way bigger issues to focus on than the keeper position.

Chris Jenkins
32 Posted 28/12/2019 at 20:45:35
Excellent article Kris, fairly balanced and well researched
Phil Lewis
33 Posted 28/12/2019 at 22:48:51
I'm not convinced at all that Pickford is the complete package. Statistics don't always tell the whole story. To be fair to him, his handling when dealing with crosses and set pieces showed a marked improvement against Newcastle, but this area of his game undoubtedly lacks.
He is capable of pulling off breathtaking saves from difficult angles, but equally has you're heart in you're mouth when the opposition gets a corner! He simply doesn't command his box with enough confidence and authority for me. Often, I find myself questioning his ability to vocally marshal his defenders.
I believe that Kasper Schmeichel has these attributes and that is a huge part of Leicester's continued success with limited resources.
Neil Cremin
34 Posted 28/12/2019 at 23:17:12
To the best of my recollection Steks saved two penalties in the same game against City.
To me like for like.

I am not trying to find a replacement for Pickford. I just dont agree that he is as good as many people think’.

He is far from the complete article and I do think he is one of the problems in the side which Ancelotti needs to sort out.

Look at it this way, between Big Dunc and himself we Now have the makings of “one of the best CF in Europe”. Who would. Have thought that on TW a few weeks past.

Eddie Dunn
35 Posted 29/12/2019 at 14:29:01
Neil, sure, Stek saved those two pens. Tim Krull is amother keeper good on pens but the role requires a lot moere than that and Stek is a journeyman who is not pushing Jordan for his place. Most positions in our team at least do have some serious competition.
Eric Myles
36 Posted 29/12/2019 at 15:59:06
Pickford seems to be doing better this season than last when he was consistently parrying shots for the opposition to score from the rebound. Not to mention his woeful wall positioning that me mam could have scored through.

I just wish he'd learn to catch balls rather than parry them. Is it the modern goalkeeping methods or are my memories of Gary Sprake and Peter Bonetti making wonderful aerial catches just early onset dementia?

Neil Cremin
37 Posted 29/12/2019 at 21:05:59
Fair point, but that is a reflection on our managment team but I thought they had recruited Lossl and Virginia. Are any of them capable of pushing Pickford.
Jay Wood

38 Posted 31/12/2019 at 15:24:43
Jordan spoke after the Newcastle game how he allowed the home supporters to get to him in the corresponding fixture last season, but shut them out on Saturday.


And for those saying they prefer Burnley's Pope to Jordan, check out the sobering data included near the end of this detailed report on how PL teams and players are performing against expectancy levels.

Pope is in the bottom 3 of all PL keepers for conceding more goals than he should from shots on target - 6.51. Only Chelsea's Kepa (8.42) and Southampton's Gunn (7.38) have conceded more.

Maybe not as good as some claim.

Eric Myles
39 Posted 02/01/2020 at 04:51:33
Against City Pickford beaten twice at the near post, a criminal offence for a goalie, and fortunate only 1 goal conceded.

And parrying away an easily catchable shot? Again, lucky he got away with it.

Brian Wilkinson
40 Posted 02/01/2020 at 17:26:10
He stays rooted to his line most of the time instead of commanding his area which is a weakness he needs to work on.

When the opponents attack he is a good few yards off his line trying to narrow the angle, again this makes it easier for the attacker to curl it over his reach and into the top corner.

The above will have supporters baffled thinking hang on he stays on his line yet he is also off his line.

Well the difference is stay closer to your line to cut out shots outside the box curling over your head, but at the same time, when a ball is coming in from the sidelines, make it your ball.

The Watford game nearly led to a goal when it was his ball to come out and tidy up, instead he stayed on his line and allowed Watford possession with two Everton defenders telling him in no uncertain terms he should have been out to clear it.

These are the finer things Pickford needs to work on, but like others have said a top class goalkeeper who can get even better by ironing out the above little tweaks.

Be interesting to know how many goals conceded have come from it being out of reach due to Pickford being off his line at the wrong time.

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