Some of the main stories doing the rounds today seem to focus on Jordan Pickford’s apparent decline on the basis of his 45% pass completion rate and unproven claim that he is not commanding the box like he did in the one season he’s played for Everton.
Let’s take a look at the story behind that poor pass completion number and compare it to some of Pickford’s peers who are comfortable with the ball at their feet.
Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson’s pass completion rate is 83.3%, while Alisson at Liverpool is at 82.1%. Pickford looks quite poor compared to those numbers, certainly. Even his World Cup numbers of 66.4% are still way off those. However, digging deeper at the length of the passes he’s being asked to make highlights why the numbers are worse.
(All stats courtesy of WhoScored)
It’s quite easy to see that Pickford’s long ball accuracy is not great, but with a small sample size of just five games this season, it’s not time to go full panic stations. Also, teams will not press high against City or Liverpool as they will the Blues. If you look at his high long balls per game number compared to Ederson and Alisson, it’s easy to see why he’s forced to play tough short passes or has to kick long and the accuracy naturally drops.
Could he improve in that area? Certainly. But again, describing him as being ‘in decline’ is a bit excessive.
Let’s look at another piece of criticism leveled at the goalie.
The Blues have conceded nine goals in the five games Pickford has been between the sticks this season, let’s take a quick look at where he was for all of them.
- Wolves 1-1: Ruben Neves’ freekick was spectacular, but Pickford’s naivete doomed him there, as he took a quick step in the wrong direction that took him too far away, and he could only get a weak touch on the ball.
- Wolves 2-2: Raul Jimenez’ header was pin-point near the post and there was almost nothing the goalie could do.
- Southampton 1-2: Danny Ings was in point-blank range and once again precious little Pickford could do in that zonal marking system breakdown. Flick-ons at the near post like that mean even if he came out for that he’d have no chance.
- AFC Bournemouth 1-2: Joshua King’s penalty was precise, nothing there for Pickford.
- AFC Bournemouth 2-2: Rebound off the post and Nathan Ake was unmarked. Pickford had gone max effort on the previous dive and had no time to recover.
- Huddersfield Town 1-0: Again a flick-on at the near post meaning Pickford had no chance as Philip Billing headed home.
- West Ham United 1-0: Two-on-one against him, and Marco Arnautovic’s precise pass meant Andriy Yarmolenko scored the easiest goal he’ll get in the Premier League.
- West Ham United 2-0: Poor pass out from Pickford to Lucas Digne meant Yarmolenko dispossessed the defender easily, and his finish was top drawer, absolutely nothing the goalie could do.
- West Ham United 3-1: Pinpoint cross to the penalty spot where Arnautovic slid to make contact and score, again at point-blank range little Pickford could do.
There’s only two real instances where we would say Pickford was at fault. Neither of them was because he failed to command the area. If anything, multiple defenders and people close to the team and player will attest that he is very vocal for his age. Impetuously rushing off his line is likely to leave the team in even direr straits than it is now.
Everton still have a number of problems in this squad, but Jordan Pickford is not one of them.