Game Recognize Game -
An esoteric catchphrase of the urban male that carries the weighty implication that only someone who has their game tight can have the appropriate respect and admiration for someone else’s doubtlessly tight game. (Urban Dictionary)
So when Oliver Kahn comes out and says that he is a fan of Jordan Pickford, the young Englishman’s detractors should pay attention, as should his managers at Everton and England, Marco Silva and Gareth Southgate respectively.
For those of who you thought Manuel Neuer is the best German keeper of all time, this might comes as a rude shock to you that he is only the latest in a proud lineage of very good Die Mannschaft goalies: Oliver Kahn, Jens Lehmann, Bodo Illgner, Andreas Kopke, Toni Schumacher, Harald Schumacher, Sepp Maier and all the way back to Bert Trautmann.
Kahn has 85 international caps and came agonizingly close to winning every major trophy available to a player - only Ronaldo (the original, one-name guy) denied him the 2002 World Cup, a tournament that he even won the Golden Ball at.
After the end of the recent World Cup, the now 49-year-old who covered the tournament as an analyst gave his verdict on Pickford’s performances in an interview with Goal.com -
“The young Englishman, Jordan Pickford plays is the closest to a goalkeeper, like I described him after the final.
“In addition to his strong reflexes, I especially noticed his excellent distribution. In the semi-final against Croatia he played fewer passes than his counterpart Danijel Subasic, who was more than twice as often involved by his teammates and used as a back-up defender.
”Pickford can use both feet and despite his lack of experience, for a long time he has been the first safe #1 in the England goal. He also proves with his 1.85 metre height that the size of a goalkeeper only plays a minor role.”
He went on to add that not enough teams in world football are utilizing goalkeepers like Pickford - Neuer at Bayern Munich, Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Barcelona and Ederson at Manchester City come to mind when thinking of ‘sweeper keepers’. Not ironically, all three teams have been or are currently managed by Pep Guardiola who is the foremost devotee of Total Football as taught by Johan Cruyff.
Kahn continued to say that more and more teams need to take advantage of talented goalies instead of using them as stay-at-home keepers between the sticks.
“But also for Pickford, as happens with so many goalkeepers, he is not used in the best way! The improved footwork of goalkeepers over the last 25 years has almost no influence on the game, unless they are also used accordingly as a goalkeeper and still get more involved in their team’s possession.
”In my view, the involvement of the player who is currently least integrated into the game plan, but could be the most obvious and logical option to make a variety of game situations superior and create a clear advantage. Here I see the greatest potential.”
Everton under Sam Allardyce went more for the conventional Route 1 ball out of the back, but with new manager Silva looking to keep the ball on the ground Pickford will have the opportunity to utilize his distribution skills as an additional defender if you will. Getting him involved in the passing game helps break out of the high press in a more accurate manner by creating an overload than just hoofing the ball forward only to see it coming right back.
While there remains the risk of getting caught out when goalkeepers play the ball with their feet, the added passing dimension is one that every manager should take into consideration.