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Pickford in the spotlight as inconsistent Everton return to action against Chelsea

The goalkeeper’s erratic display contributed to the Toffees’ flimsy collapse against Newcastle last weekend

Chelsea FC v Everton FC - Premier League

Just when you think a corner has been turned, Everton go and come up with a new and inventive way to be humiliated.

Last weekend’s 3-2 collapse against Newcastle was merely the latest in a long line of embarrassing defeats over the past few years that have left the supporters weary and dispirited.

What made this collapse so frustrating was the fact is had come off the back of two promising performances against Cardiff and Liverpool.

A glimmer of optimism had begun the emerge amongst the supporters, who felt that a strong end to the season could provide a solid platform to build on.

Newcastle United v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Now, all that has gone out of the window, with Marco Silva’s game management again brought into question as the team wilted despite leading for much of the game.

His decision to go to three at the back looks fatally flawed, as it seemed to invite the flow of pressure rather than stem it.

Everton are correct to state that Newcastle’s third should not have been allowed, but that should not distract from flimsy performance in the final quarter of the match.

The players, of course, have to take their share of the blame too. The fact we have seen this from Everton under different managers over recent years suggests the issue goes well beyond the man in the dugout.

Jordan Pickford is the main culprit on this occasion. The England international allowed himself to get too wound up by the Newcastle supporters, culminating in some fatal lapses in concentration at crucial moments.

Newcastle United v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

It isn’t the first time this season that Pickford’s judgement has come into question. Fortunately at 25 he is young enough to improve and learn from his mistakes. And boy do we need him to, there’s enough problems with the team without needing a new goalkeeper as well.

As a result, it is obvious a major clear-out of the squad is needed in the summer. That is what might save Silva his job too as any manager would seemingly struggle with such an under-performing set of players.

To make sure of that though Silva needs to learn from some of his mistakes and at least offer us something to get excited about between now and May.

The opposition

It has been an eventful few weeks for Chelsea to say the least.

Their 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City led to calls for Maurizio Sarri to be sacked just nine months into the job (sound familiar?).

They were much improved against the same opponent in the Carabao Cup final a few weeks later, but the performance was overshadowed by goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga’s stunning act of open defiance, as he refused Sarri’s orders to be substituted in the closing stages of extra-time.

It was an extraordinary moment, with Sarri left completely undermined and publicly humiliated.

Chelsea v Manchester City - Carabao Cup Final Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

The young Spaniard proceeded to make a hash of trying to save Sergio Aguero’s penalty in the shootout which didn’t help his cause and he was dropped for their next game against Tottenham.

However, he soon returned to the starting XI and Chelsea haven’t lost since, though they needed a stoppage-time equaliser from Eden Hazard to earn a point against Wolves last weekend.

The Blues are currently sixth in the Premier League but can move level on points with fourth-placed Arsenal with a win. The Gunners are not in action due to the FA Cup quarter-finals also taking place this weekend.

Team news

Yerry Mina looks set to start alongside Michael Keane with Kurt Zouma ineligible against his parent club and Phil Jagielka doubtful with a minor injury.

Seamus Coleman is available to return after he was a late withdrawal at Newcastle due to illness.

Final word

Everton’s shocking record against the ‘big six’ is well known, though they at least gained a credible point in the last meeting between the sides at Stamford Bridge.

However, the Toffees haven’t scored against Chelsea in any of their last five matches against them and have not won a home game for over two months.

As a result, forgive me for not feeling hugely optimistic going into this game. Though one thing you can seemingly guarantee from Everton these days is inconsistency, so who knows what will happen.